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|The Castles of Bruniquel, France|
|Written by Abigail King|
|Thursday, 04 June 2009 04:48|
A family feud, French-style, results in not one but two castles in Bruniquel, about an hour north of Toulouse.
Southwest France has no shortage of petite, medieval towns, but Bruniquel differs from the rest. It still has cobbled streets, velvet roses, and sky-blue shutters, but a dual personality lurks behind the postcard views. Instead of classical French food, Le Ti Coin Kreol serves up samosas on artificial banana leaves. Instead of souvenir boutiques, children clamber over stone walls. And instead of silence, Grand Prix commentary drifts out from behind the manicured window boxes.
Bruniquel even has two castles on the exact same site, the result of a family feud between medieval viscounts. Between 1485 and 1510 Viscount Maffre built the New Castle, forged a separate doorway and set-up a dividing wall between the family's estates. Things only got worse during the French Wars of Religion: Protestant Viscount one side; Catholic the other. Both castles decayed until Bruniquel's 500 inhabitants bought the land and began restoration in 1987.
Today, the castles house what could best be described as an eclectic collection of artefacts. Between the dust and smeared Plexiglas windows, the museum shelters seashells, bizarre posters and a faded exhibition on nearby caves. The highlight, however, is the Renaissance-style walkway that overlooks the Aveyron valley. From here, things feel tranquil and safe. It's only when viewing Bruniquel from the road, hundreds of metres below, that the precipitous position of the castles becomes clear.
For Bruniquel, like the other bastides around here, has survived as a fortified town, weathering political and religious storms for over a thousand years. Today it accommodates foreigners, but unlike some of its neighbours, tourism seems a secondary concern. As the photocopied castle guide explains, Bruniquel is "being restored by the inhabitants in love with their charming old town."
Bruniquel is about a one hour drive from Toulouse, with few viable public transport options. The roads are narrow and winding and satnav is highly recommended.
Image of Bruniquel ruins by ceridwenn at Flickr.
Abigail King is a freelance writer who loves to travel and find new ways to enjoy life. She has circled the globe twice (so far), camped in the snows of Kilimanjaro and Patagonia and tracked down tigers, turtles and panda bears. After a hot shower, she embraces the city life of New York, Rio, Paris and Tokyo.