A Week in France (part 2 – Carcassonne – The Cité)

You can’t visit Carcassonne without going to see The Cité, the medieval citadel restored at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately the day we selected was cold, dark and dreary with a gale blowing, so my photos don’t do it justice. (The featured image was taken on a different day).

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Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse in The Cité

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In the basilica Craig invited me to sit next to him for a few moments and Tony, sitting behind him, whispered, ‘are they here?’ Craig confirmed that they were, as he had seen two of them. Before I could ask who they were talking about, four men appeared in the semi darkness in front of the altar and began to sing. Goose bumps rose on my arms and tears ran down my cheeks, not because I am a religious person, but because it was so hauntingly beautiful. It occurred to me that I should be recording them, but I was so captivated I just couldn’t tear my eyes from the group and they only sang one other piece before drifting into the darkness as mysteriously as they appeared.

The men are Russian, from the ensemble, Doros and various members busk at the basilica throughout the day for a couple of months. I found one of the men selling their two CDs, one of religious music and the other of Russian folk music. I bought the religious one, hoping that the first number they sang would be on the CD, as I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of countertenor and oktavist or Basso Profundo (I’d never actually knew the word oktavist until I just looked up the name for someone who sings below bass!).

When I played my CD at home I discovered that the song I particularly liked wasn’t on it, so I searched the Internet to see where I could find their collection, but nothing at Amazon and nothing on iTunes – nothing at all – anywhere! It appears you can only buy their CDs from the basilica (and presumably anywhere else they are singing), however, I did find several videos on YouTube, from people who had visited the basilica and various other venues. I’ve copied the links to some of them here and hopefully you will be as enthralled as I was.

by Gordon Burns uploaded to YouTube on 20 September 2010

by SUMMIT Mountain published to YouTube 11 Sept 2014

Towards the very end of the next video you will catch a glimpse of a bare breast, so if it is likely to offend you, please do stop the video before it reaches 6.29. Otherwise it is well worth watching and gives you a great tour of the Cité on a glorious day.

by ChippycreekFilms uploaded to YouTube 24 January 2012

On our outward journey Tony had driven us to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and left the car there, but I only stayed with them in France for a week, as another friend was arriving the day I left. This meant I had to make my own way back from the airport. The flight from Carcassonne took two hours, but my 50 mile journey by bus, two trains and a taxi from Liverpool took more than three hours!

When I got home I thought I should try and write some thank-you notes in French to Tony and Craig’s friends who had so graciously invited us for meals. (I could have consulted two of my granddaughters, but they were just about to start their exams and one of my sons could have helped, but he was in the Middle East at the time). Knowing that you can’t trust Google Translate to mean what you intend I also looked at other translation sites on the Internet and between those and my English/French dictionary, I set about the drafts. I diligently cross-referenced everything and after three days I felt reasonably confident so wrote and posted the cards, with fingers crossed that I hadn’t inadvertently said something like, ‘your mother is a whore!’



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Born in Liverpool at the end of WW2, but raised in Skelmersdale. I first studied art in Southport from 1960-63 and worked in graphic design till I married. In December 1969 I moved to Zambia with my husband and two young children. There I taught art in the local girls school, illustrated for the National Correspondence College and did all sorts of other artwork, paid and unpaid. In 1978 I divorced and remarried in the summer of 1980. In 1985 I became ill and the following year cancer was diagnosed. There was no treatment available in Zambia and so I had to go to the UK. After recovering from a radium needle implant I went back to Zambia, but 18 months later the cancer recurred and it was off to the UK again for radical surgery. This time I realised I must stay in the UK where treatment was available, so I never returned to Zambia nor my husband. A few months later I applied for a degree course, but two years later the disease metastasised and I spent most of my final year in and out of hospital. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m still plodding on and it is now 24 years since my last cancer treatment. Because of my experience of cancer and surviving against the odds, I try and help others cope with their devastating diagnosis and prognosis.

6 thoughts on “A Week in France (part 2 – Carcassonne – The Cité)”

  1. I am so pleased you had such a good trip and enjoyed the music. I am often amazed at the quality of busking. My late brother sang counter-tenor although he had a much wider range of course. You don’t need Google Translate to make a hash of things. I tried to order 4 slices of ham in Cantonese once and apparently told the girl to hurry up and die. Its a tone thing. I’m sure your French was fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Apparently the French friends were quite touched that I had made the effort, so I can’t have done too badly! I admire your courage in speaking Cantonese as I know the wrong tone can completely change the meaning. I haven’t progressed much further than ‘jo san’ or ‘nei ho ma’! (probably misspelled!) Hope the girl didn’t slap you around the face with the ham!


  3. So beautiful. When I first went to Geneva we lived near the Russian Church – I had never experienced anything like that before and was spellbound. The harmony of the a capella singing, combined with the whole atmosphere of the church was overwhelming. These men have that same effect.


    1. So glad you enjoyed Doros too. I felt exactly as you described above and the acoustics added to the drama. I’ve listened constantly to their CD since I got back and have also borrowed two from Craig and Tony!


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