Puivert Castle after the flood, taken by Elodie

Happy New Year

I hope it’s not too late to wish everyone a Happy New Year, Bonne Année, Feliz año nuevo! (I added the Spanish version because four out of our most recent bookings have been from families based in Spain, most notably, Barcelona, which is only about three and a half hours’ drive from Villa Magnolia).


The festive period in Puivert kicked off with the Fête de la Lumière on the 21st, which was a huge success, in spite of the choir’s performance being truncated by torrential rain and wind, which threatened to tear down the shelter erected by the bénévoles (volunteers) to protect the food and drink stall.

Christmas and New Year passed very convivially, with the BDQ Taproom and Chez Marius being key focus points for many. We had lovely guests in Villa Magnolia for the whole of the time and they enjoyed themselves very much, taking the opportunity to go walking and exploring some of the Cathar castles and other sights locally, before settling down in front of the log fire for a cosy evening!


But enough of that. As I type this, I look out at torrential rain that started over 48 hours ago, when the snow stopped. We were so excited about the snow, which was very welcome in the Pyrenean ski resorts, following an early-season drought below about 1,600 m. That was before Gloria arrived. No, Gloria is not a slightly louche relative who gets drunk and overstays her welcome. Storm Gloria is a Mediterranean tempest that has raged over south-western France and eastern Spain for the past few days, bringing destruction and regrettably, several deaths. Fortunately, a phenomenon on this scale happens very rarely and I understand the flooding it has brought to our little corner is the worst in living memory.

The Hamlets of Puivert

I have previously mentioned the “Camps” of Puivert: outlying hamlets, ranged around the village. There is some doubt as to why they were founded however the version I prefer is that, following the Great Flood of Puivert in 1279 (or1289!), the land around the lake became habitable and the baron gifted parcels of it to his trusted lieutenants who, on the promise of protecting him and the castle when necessary, built farming settlements on the plain. No doubt the baron was also entitled to his share of profits from the agricultural activities, so it was something of a win/win all round.

Nowadays, there are 12 such hamlets, most of which contain ”Camp” in their name, such as Campsadourny, Campsaure and Campgast. They house small, close-knit communities, all within about 20 minutes’ walk of the village centre. Their inhabitants are mainly engaged in agriculture or tourism, and a number of local families’ names, such as Sadourny, still reflect their origins.

The Camps themselves have largely been free from the flooding caused by Gloria, as a result of their elevated locations. A number of them have however been cut off by the rising waters of the river Blau and its numerous tributaries. The picture is rather worse in Chalabre and the other towns between Puivert and Carcassonne, particularly those the Aude flows through. There have been evacuations in Chalabre, Espéraza, Limoux and Carcassonne. In their usual spirit of community however, the locals have come together and offered free accommodation, food, heating, clothing etc. to those affected by the flooding.

Still, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and I am looking forward to getting up into the mountains for some skiing in fresh snow – perhaps tomorrow – when the roads should be passable again.

Camp Granada

While I have been tapping away at this, the skies have cleared and the sun has come out, which brings to mind the 1960s classic comedy song by Allan Sherman: Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (The Camp Granada Song). Ah, memories of my childhood, listening to Children’s Favourites; although I hasten to add, Camp Granada is not one of the Camps of Puivert!

Anyway, goodbye for now. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of January – particularly those embarking on skiing trips, or dealing with their accounts and tax returns…

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