As regular readers will know, we love the Pyrenees, and particularly the Ariège (just to the left of Andorra, as you look at the map, for the non-geographers among us).
When I was learning Catalan, I was told that the letter “I” before an “x” changes the “x” into the sound of “sh”, so I had been pronouncing this town’s name as “Sesh”, but Robert in the Auberge des Deux Rivières (see my post about that gorgeous hotel) told me with some glee that it is actually pronounced “Sex”. Although if you pronounce “ei” in French you usually get an “ay” sound, which would be more like “Sayx” ….. Well, who am I to argue…..
Be that as it may, this small town on the river Salat is so pretty that my sophisticated readers need to know about it, as long as they don’t tell anyone else because we don’t want it to fill up with anyone but ourselves.
It has the kind of old-fashioned shop fronts that you would expect to find represented as line drawings in a French text book from the 1950s – for example, there is this gorgeous old newspaper shop / tabac……..
And this hairdresser (calling itself an “atelier” or workshop!) is in such a pretty building that looks more like an art gallery than something as mundane as a coiffeur…..
Then there is the bridge over the pretty little river that comes tumbling down from the surrounding mountains and chuckles its way through town….
In order to reach Seix you have to drive up from the Toulouse direction – despite the fact that the road up into the mountains from Seix is called “route d’Espagne” you can’t actually find a proper road to take you to Spain, they all stop before the border. Mountain goats and refugees, and probably disoriented hikers, could probably clamber their way into the country next door, but it is not possible in a car.
Nevertheless, if you are lucky enough to come to this area by car, you absolutely must explore the area around Seix.
Just downriver there is the hamlet of Rogalle, which has which has a charming 11th century Romanesque church with Renaissance decoration and paintings.
If you are lucky, as we were, you will find the gentleman who looks after the church, Notre Dame de Vic d’Oust, and will open it up to show you round – the ceiling is largely made up of painted panels and there are the remains of frescos on every wall.
There is active fund-raising going on to restore the 17th and early 18th century paintings in the church, but in the meantime it is still a fascinating building.
It is for now in a variable state of repair, but in many ways that for me makes it more interesting because you can imagine generations of people worshipping here, bringing their celebrations and worries to the church as time flows by like the little river Salat beside which it now dozes.
Having explored Seix and Rogalle, you must take yourself in the direction of Oust and wind your way up the D32 then the D17 towards Ercé and you will find yourselves surrounded by the Granges de Cominac on a beautiful sunny, grassy plateau overlooking the Aulus mountains; back when these lands were all pasture for livestock, the canny farmers of Cominac built whole series of stone barns to store hay for their cattle or sheep, each one in a different meadow and each with their own distinctive gable.
In the summer they would make hay (presumably while the sun shone), so the food would be available in winter. These days keen hikers can wend their way from barn to barn, noting the different gable patterns much as trainspotters note the numbers of wheels on locomotives.
But the best thing for us about this area is that it contains the picnic bench with the best view of any we’ve ever found. Take a look at this (complete with picnic):
You can see one of the Granges de Cominac in the background. The item to the right of the table, that looks like an axe (maybe to repel intruders daring to try and picnic at MY bench?) is actually a device that you look through to see a particular feature which is described on the other side of it.
I will use this picture throughout the rest of the year to remind myself of summer and mountains and clean air.
How lucky we are to be able to discover such places. Have I mentioned that I love the Pyrenees?