I’m very happy to be back on Scotiana after a short trip to the south of France and very eager to tell you about it. Iain and Margaret had very kindly invited us to meet them in Carcassonne where they were spending a week’s holiday and we first went there to meet them before going on southward up to Collioure and Port Vendres, following the ‘Mackintosh Trail’ in Roussillon or at least trying to follow it for it’s a long trail … We wanted to pay homage to the great Scottish artists who had probably spent there the most happy years of their life and to discover the landscapes that had so greatly inspired Charles Rennie Mackintosh in his last paintings.
Crichton’s book is briskly paced, like a superior film-script. He very vividly retraces in meticulous detail, and with photographs to match, both the Mackintoshes’ travels in the region, and what it is like to travel there now, so his book is also very much a guide to Roussillon. It is written both in English and French, and celebrates the inauguration of the Chemin de Mackintosh in Port-Vendres in June 2004, with useful maps for ramblers of a ‘possible itinerary’ on the ‘Mackintosh Trail’, starting at Port-Vendres, and including places like Collioure and Mont-Louis, all places Mackintosh would have known.
( Review: ‘Charles Rennie Mackintosh in France’ – Mario Relich Scottish Affairs, no. 62, winter 2008)
The weather was not always nice in Roussillon but we came back from our journey with unforgettable memories and a number of photos to share with you. Of course the book we had chosen to guide us along our first ‘pilgrimage’ in Roussillon is Monsieur Mackintosh. There is no better guide In my next post about the Mackintosh Trail I will try to give an idea of the extraordinary work the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Association has been doing in Roussillon to. The CRMA was created and is still presided by Robin Crichton, the author of the book Monsieur Mackintosh.
Here we came at last! As you can see, we had chosen the good track …
But first of all I would like to thank Iain and Margaret for their very friendly welcome in Carcassonne, a place of outstanding beauty, rich in history and full of mystery. We’ll never forget the image of Iain waving to us with his hand in the narrow street when we arrived (one hour late) at n° 12-14 rue de la Barbacane, in front of the ‘petit coin de paradis’ Margaret had found at the very foot of the ramparts of the medieval city, only regretting to have to part with them so soon.
We’ve spent unforgettable moments there in Carcassonne and also in Montolieu, a very picturesque little book town built on a rocky peak which Margaret had discovered near Carcassonne, a Wigtown French counterpart
The village referred to as “Village of Books” contains about 20 bookshops and a book market takes place there on the third Sunday of every month. We lingered a long time in the very picturesque streets of the village, admiring the gorge of the Alzeau and of the Dure (Margaret and I standing back at some distance because of the impressive height)…
We stopped in front of a number of very inviting bookshops but as it was getting late and our time was limited, we asked Margaret and Iain whether they would choose one library to visit. Their choice of the librairie ‘Rose des Vents’ proved to be a most excellent choice.
The shelves of this small bookshop are overflowing with books all more interesting than others and in a great variety of fields. We stayed there a long time browsing through the books and choosing a couple of them but our best memory of La Rose des Vents is by far the cheerful welcome we received there. The charming bookseller is not only a book lover, she is also a great lover of her village, a love she has transmitted to her little boy. They both know every nook and cranny of it as well as its history. She went out of her shop (and it was cold and wintry outside) to make us discover some of the architectural gems which can be seen on the façades of the nearby old houses. I will try to get in touch with this kind and erudite lady.
Before going back to the Mackintosh Trail, I would also thank Iain for his last ‘Letter from Scotland’ : ‘The Astonishing Flight of Rudolf Hess..‘. Did you read it? There are names you hardly dare to mention for the dark associations they conjure up into our collective memory but the story of what happened in Scotland on that 10 May 1941 when the plane of one of the closest relations of Hitler crashed in a quiet place of the countryside brings to light many intriguing and still unresolved historical questions. We always look forward to receiving Iain and Margaret’s Letters from Scotland. Indeed we are great fans. Our friends are second to none to make us discover Scotland out of the beaten tracks, making us know and love their country better and better …
After leaving Iain and Margaret who were to go back to Scotland the following day, we took the direction of Prades where we had booked a room at ‘Castell Rose‘, a magnificent pink marble house which was situated on our road to the Mackintosh Trail, in the Pyrénées Orientales. On the above map you can see the places we visited during our first Mackintosh pilgrimage. We first took the A 61 motorway going eastward in the direction of Narbonne, then southward towards Perpignan before turning westward on N 116 trunkroad.
We arrived at Castell Rose rather late in the evening for we had stopped at a number of places linked with the Mackintoshes but we were very warmly received by Evelyne and Alex, the charming couple who owns the place. How lucky they are to live here!
Our room had a view on the mythical and snow-capped Mont Canigou. What a day !
The Mackintoshes would have caught their first glimpse of the Canigou – the magic mountain where dragons dwell and which can be seen from every part of Roussillon. Wherever you are, it seems as if the mountain follows you around. It is always there, the symbol of Catalonia, the home of the old gods, on whose summit every year on the Feast of St John a fire is lit, before being carried to the Catalan towns in both north and south.
(Robin Crichton – Monsieur Mackintosh)
So there we were, in that magical environment, looking forward with much anticipation to the next days of our journey on the Mackintosh Trail. This page is only the beginning of our adventures, so don’t miss the next episode which will lead us to Ille-sur-Têt…
A bientôt. Mairiuna