Saturday, 4 September 2010

The puppet festival and Vals

I recently went on a trip with the French family to see the puppet festival a Mirepoix. This turned out not to be exactly the streets teeming with puppet shows hinted at in the advertising. Nope, all the shows were “payant” and took place behind closed doors. Tickets could be bought for various prices. We tried to get tickets for a 5 euro show. There were 6 wooden ticket booths. They decided to close them all. People hung around to wait for the people manning the booths to honour them with their presence. Sold out, said the crone. What about this show? we asked. Sold out. We regrouped and looked at the booklet. We approached the booth but she decided she was closed. We waited for another one to open. “What show can we see this afternoon? We asked, trying a different tack. There’s one at 17:30 she said. How much is that? 12 euros each she said.
It was 14:15 at the time of asking, so we declined. Where are all the free shows that people could watch as on previous years? C asked.
There aren’t any, said crone 2.
We did eventually find 2 free shows tucked away at the end of a small park, so we spent an hour and 20 minutes watching those. You try sitting on paving slabs for an hour. It is not easy, comfortable or pleasant.
Heading homewards we detoured to a small village called Vals, following the signs for a fortified church.
We found a little village with a church towering above it. The church is on the Compostella pilgrimage route and is built into the rocky hillside.

steps up from main entrance door, through
passage hewn out of the rock. No I
didn't go up them on my knees.

Opening the wooden door, you head up stone steps through a passageway hewn out of the rock. Opening another door, you enter the church, which has a very strange layout.

The main body of the church has a ceiling which has frescos dating back to the 1200’s.

The site's piece de resistance. The restored ceiling fresco.

There are a couple of stained glass windows allowing light to enter.
There are pews squished in, herringbone style then a creaking, rickety wooden staircase up to a small gallery. At the back of the gallery is a small wooden door. Open that and you are outside on a parapet with views over the village and surrounding countryside.

View from the gallery

There is a burial ground to the back of the church and the site, being of archaeological interest has various lumps of masonry showing.

We did not have time for a really good look round outside but we headed to the free museum in the village, where drinks and postcards could be bought, and had some drinks and looked at the many artefacts which had been discovered on the site of the church. There were also information panels telling the history of the site and all about the restoration of the hand painted ceiling. I think that the site also had some Roman connection. Perhaps one day I will read up all about it.
Another of the countryside’s hidden gems waiting for you to discover.

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