Mirepoix is one of those places you rarely hear about if you are not a local. The heavily marketed Paris, Mount Michel and Loire Valley castles don’t leave it a chance. This is the good thing about the French hippie capital, it is not a tourist town. My visit to Mirepoix was accidental and short. But I enjoyed it especially because of that sense of discovery.
Where is Located Mirepoix?
If you want to visit Mirepoix, you need to go to the Basque Country. It is where France and Spain kiss and their touch creates an interesting cultural and territorial mix. Our trip was from Marseille to San Sebastian, and Mirepoix was on our way. The town is huddled among its larger counterparts Toulouse and Perpignan and is one of the less known places in South of France.
What a Surprise!
We easily reached the city centre and even easier found a place to park. The whole town looked like sleeping, although it didn’t feel deserted. Small street took us to the city centre, which immediately made us hush by surprise.
The small town square, that brought us centuries back, was so colourful that left us with a feeling of wonder. The buildings’ decorations resembled a medieval knight’s armour. The buildings formed a closed square. I guess that is how towns were built back then, for protection. But those first impressions couldn’t prepare me for meeting with 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 such places, I continue to travel with even greater passion and thirst for adventure.
Where NOT to Eat in Mirepoix!
There were not many restaurants to choose from around the little square. Maybe it was a weekend or just the hippies have taken over the business in Mirepoix. The hippies, indeed, I remember very well. With 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.
We decided to eat at “La Cardamone.” It was the most crowded place and we, quite naively, took this as a good sign. (Now, when I think, it was probably the only open restaurant around). While I was trying to swallow the jelly that was supposed to be a kind of curry, my eyes wandered wide-opened. I’m sure that at the end, they looked just like doughnuts.
On the tables, in the shade formed by the building, were sitting people of different age, but very similar in appearance and behaviour. 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 were totally in this place and time right now.
Despite the surprising inhabitants of this Medieval town (since the 13th century), the place is good for families who travel with children.
Visit Mirepoix for Its Lovely Quirky Atmosphere
After the so-called “lunch”, we continued our walk trying to peep into town square’s hidden corners. The church was unfortunately closed that afternoon. It was a breath of fresh air among the usually gloomy Catholic cathedrals customary in France. Mostly because in the courtyard there was a small, very well arranged garden whose design was closer to the English style rather than to the lavish splendour of the French gardens.
It is surprising how so many different elements live together in one place. Medieval traditions are represented by the old architecture and the Catholicism. The hippie community occurred in the 60s and this is clearly one of the last places where the hippie movement still exists. Today’s reality is expressed by the small businesses, the peaceful life of the elderly people, and the young families with children walking around.
Give It a Time, that Spirit of Mirepoix
One afternoon was too short to be able to understand Mirepoix and to answer the many questions I had. If you plan to visit Mirepoix, give it a time to educate and charm you. There is a lot of history in its hugs and a great quirky personality.
The last thing I saw and was sealed forever in my memory were the three elderly people sitting under the colourful 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. I never asked them about their stories.
Mirepoix is one of those places that amaze its visitors with a quirky mix of history and unusual lifestyles. A Medieval town and a hippie capital, it is a rare combination but one that curious travellers like you will enjoy.
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