Saturday, 24 January 2015

Limoux: like a place that never was

A good slice of my third 'Moss Reid' mystery Ghost Flight takes place in the Languedoc region of the south of France.

Unfortunately these fictitious events take place at exactly the opposite end of the year of the real-life Carnaval de Limoux.

Pity, because it's the longest-running, most incomprehensible carnival in the world.

The festival has been going on in the village of Limoux since the 1500s and would have contributed some wild and vivid scenes to the story, to put it mildly.

Limoux is a commune about 30 kilometres south of Carcassonne. The annual carnival, also called the Fècos in Occitan (the name of a dance) is a two-month-long affair - this year it runs from 11 January to 22 March.

It features the locals (Limouxins) and tourists, many in ornate masks and fancy dress, dancing in a fantasmagorical procession from one bar to the next around the heart of the town. Can you picture the scene already?

Everything takes place under flaming torches, accompanied by brass bands with a king of the carnival, such as the stuffed figure of a fireman, who is destined to be burned.

See? What more do you want?

Animated puppets and bubbly wine

And there's more. Limoux also has three rather exceptional museums, again with piles of visual and narrative possibilities:
  • Le Musée Petiet has 19th-century art from the impressionists to the pointillist Achilles Laugé
  • La Musée du Piano is a piano museum with over a hundred instruments
  • La Musée des Automates is dedicated to - wait for it - large-scale animated puppets. It's probably the biggest museum of automata in Europe
Finally, if all that isn't enough, the town is also famous for its bubbly white wine, Blanquette de Limoux.

This is basically the forerunner of the more well-known Champagne - Dom Perignon basically nicked the recipe for his crowd up north - and is generally a good deal cheaper, and much more pleasant in my humble opinion.

Ah well, file under "Rather Grand Locations We Nearly Used".