Ashleigh and I met Ellen in Aix en Provence. She was a member of our Smithsonian travel group. Prior to departure, the Smithsonian sends out a list made up of your fellow travelers and their respective points of origin, so I already knew that Ellen and I lived relatively close to one another in the States. On our first night in Aix, all of us shared a little more personal information about ourselves. For instance, Ashleigh and I shared that we were mother and daughter traveling companions, and Ellen shared that she was one of those brave souls who was traveling independently. Add in the fact, that Ellen already knew how to speak French, but had chosen to improve her French language skills while “Living in France” for three weeks, made her someone we wanted to know better. Ashleigh captured her nicely in this photo. Allow me to introduce you to our new pal, Ellen.
It was Ellen who got Ashleigh and me keen on the idea of going to Aigues-Mortes, a place we had never heard of before. Four ancient walls surround the city that was started by King Louis IX in 1240 and finished by his son in 1302. Aigues-Mortes, located on the flat marshes in southern France, has played many roles over the centuries, but it is most famous for being a prison in which Templars were kept in the 14th century and Protestant Huguenots in the 15th century. It is presently an almost intact medieval fortification…pretty much, it looks the same as it did in the Middle Ages. We all wanted to see it. So, with Ashleigh behind the wheel of a rental car, we were off to discover the walls, towers and ramparts of Aigues-Mortes avec Ellen. We were not disappointed.
For the cost of about eight euros, a visitor can walk around the entire town of Aigues-Mortes by using the ramparts.
Eight euros is a small price to pay for the drama of walking ancient ramparts, and although Aigues-Mortes has been made safe, the old walls are not hazard-free; visitors are urged to take care in order to avoid unwanted drama. It was not difficult for me to imagine men in mail, carrying swords and cross bows, running up stone steps and along narrow walkways.
Ashleigh and Ellen were fearless and walked the ramparts and stairs like soldiers returning to a familiar duty station.
I, on the other hand, was a bit nervous, but happy, as captured by Ellen’s photo.
Being imprisoned here was a painful experience. Many people were placed here because they had attended Protestant religious services….or just because they were suspected of having attended. Marie Durand was arrested and imprisoned in Aigues-Mortes for thirty-eight years before being released in 1768.
These could have been Marie’s views of the world beyond prison.
In spite of the unfortunate uses of Aigues-Mortes, the stone skills of the builders cannot be denied…like this vaulted ceiling with a center medallion and…
..the fabulous towers.
The views of the town from the ramparts are lovely.
The town is lively and full of shops. There is a central town square with a commanding fountain with King Louis IX atop.
A beautiful church, the Notre Dame des Sablons, is located near the square and has been there as early as 1260. I loved this church because modern stained glass windows have been installed, blending the old with the new….quite beautiful.
What a great experience! A new and unexpected place….a new and unexpected personal connection.
Love, The Unseasoned Traveler