Easter Sunday here was very quiet. With our usual cyclers’ appetites, not quite assuaged by the typical breakfast of yoghurt, baguette, croissant and coffee, we searched in vain for a restaurant or patisserie opened on Easter Sunday. (The one restaurant opened, in the Hotel du Commerce, was full for lunch so we booked a table for dinner.) We did find a boulangerie, where we bought a couple of baguettes (one for tomorrow, just in case), then searched for the supermarket, only to find it had closed at 12:30. Fortunately, we found a kebab house opened and were able to get good falafel sandwiches, which we ate sitting on a bench in the sunshine, looking out towards the Pyrenees (which so far, have been covered in cloud.)
Saint-Gaudens is a strange place. The city is at an altitude of 405 m on a ledge overlooking the valley of the Garonne, facing the Pyrenees. Consequently, many of the old buildings, including our hotel, have high balconies to take advantage of the view. Unfortunately, that view is dominated by an enormous pulp mill, built in the 1950’s (but without the distinctive odour that we associate with pulp mills in Canada)!
The city was originally called Mas-Saint-Pierre, before taking the name of the young shepherd, Gaudens, beheaded by the Visigoths at the end of the 5th century for refusing to renounce his faith. The wonderful Romanesque Collegiate Church of St Peter and St Gaudens contains a tapestry, showing the story of the martyrdom of Saint Gaudens, as well as in an exquisite small stained glass window. The church cloisters had been sold as a national asset in 1810! They have since been rebuilt, with original pieces and plaster casts. The smaller tower or chevet has a sculpture of a sheep on the outside.
After FaceTime chats with little ones in BC and Paris, we had a very nice meal at the Hotel du Commerce.