Visiting Mirepoix – the French Hippie Capital
It happened a few years ago. The brother of my husband had talked about this small town, which apparently is a place of particular interest. We never heard of Mirepoix before and didn’t know what to expect.
We were travelling to the most southwestern part of France; where France and Spain kiss and their touch creates an interesting cultural and territorial mix, called the Basque Country.
Our trip took us from Marseille to San Sebastian and Mirepoix was on the way. The town is huddled among its larger counterparts Toulouse and Perpignan and it is one of the less known places in South of France. It was already a lunch time and for the French it means time to eat! So we stopped to visit around and eat something delicious. How we could know that this visit will leave us with mixed feelings!
What a Surprise!
We easily reached the city center and even easier found a place to park. The whole village looked like sleeping, although it didn’t feel deserted. Small street took us to the city center, which immediately made us to hush by surprise and unable to cover every detail at one glance.
The small town square which made us feel centuries back in time was so colorful and unusual that even if I knew in advance what I’m going to visit, I would still feel in awe. The façade’s colours reminded me of the medieval knight’s armor. The closed square that the buildings formed, did remind me how the settlements were built in those times. But those first impressions couldn’t prepare me for the other faces of Mirepoix – the Catholic and the hippie, woven into one.
We wandered around, staring at the people and looking at the small shop windows like people who had just fallen from the moon. Where are we? Why we haven’t heard of this place before?! I bet that many of you didn’t know about it either! Because of the unexpected discovery of just such places, I continue to travel with even greater passion and thirst for adventure.
Where NOT to Eat in Mirepoix!
Truth to be said, there was no a large selection of restaurants around. Maybe it was a weekend or just the hippies have taken over the business in Mirepoix. I cannot remember, but the hippies I remember very well – with each of their dreadlocks and baggy, torn resemblance of trousers.
*hippie – (especially in the 1960s) a person of unconventional appearance, typically having long hair and wearing beads, associated with a subculture involving a rejection of conventional values and the taking of hallucinogenic drugs.
While I was trying to swallow the jelly something that had to be some kind of curry, my eyes were wide-opening more and more and I’m sure that at the end they looked just like donuts. We decided to eat at “La Cardamone.” It was the most crowded place and we (quite naively) thought that it’s a sign that it is the best. For God’s sake, don’t repeat our mistake if you ever find yourself in Mirepoix!
On the tables in the shade formed by the building’s visor were sitting people of a different age, but very similar in appearance and behavior. Their long hair was caught in an unsuccessful attempt to be braided. Their absent sight and the cigarettes in their hands were telling me that they explore the drug’s blissful pleasure. I was that much shocked by this close encounter with another type (of people) that I didn’t think of photographing them.
Despite the bizarre inhabitants of this very old town (the location of the city center has not changed since the 13th century) and in spite of my profane ignorance, the location is good for families who travel with children.
This Lovely Picturesque Atmosphere of Mirepoix
After the so-called “lunch”, we continued our walk as we tried to peep in hidden corners of the square’s yards. The church, unfortunately closed this afternoon, was a breath of fresh air among the vast and gloomy Catholic cathedrals customary in France. It was quite a small building and didn’t occupy a central place in the square. In the courtyard, there was a small, very well arranged garden whose design was closer to the English style rather than to the lavish splendor of French gardens.
I couldn’t lose the feeling that I haven’t “grasped” this place. I couldn’t figure out this place! How is it possible in such a small town so many different elements to live together? Medieval traditions are represented by old architecture and Catholic faith. Hippie society occurred in the 60s and this is clearly one of the last places where the hippie movement still exists. And today’s reality is expressed by the small businesses’ peaceful life, the elderly people and young families with children walking around.
Need Longer to “Grasp” the Spirit of Mirepoix
One afternoon was too short to be able to answer this question. And if it wasn’t the concoction served in the hippie’s restaurant, I’d have gorgeous pink memories from that afternoon. The last thing I saw and sealed forever in my memory are the three old men sitting under the colorful facade. The windows were adorned with flowers and a bicycle was waiting quietly next. I felt like they sat there for centuries, since the time of the Knights. Only their clothes suggested that they were born in more recent times. Maybe they were some of those hippies who have indulged in free love and marched in pacifist demonstrations in the ’60s? Sadly, I will never know that; never asked about their stories.
Have you found yourself in a place that not only is totally unknown to the most tourists but also is so different and unconventional so that it is impossible to place to a common category?
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