Part of the original city walls.
There had been a house built into it,
but the owner had left it to the town
so that the walls could be revealed.
Twelve Anglophones traipsed after Jean-Marc, the Argelès-sur-mer historian, as he highlighted the villages history going back to a mention in a monk's will from 1,000.
The name for the village came from the word for clay, which was converted into bricks, a major industry for the 300 residents in the Middle Ages.
There were tales of pirates and battles between brothers to rule the area. From one of the original towers, the defenders of the village constructed a catapult. Engineering talent was not one of their strong suits and the stone balls fell on their own troops below.
Walking in Argelès, I am always aware of the people who lived here before me. The Ave Maria in Latin is carved in the stone plaque in the village church, also constructed in the 1300s. And there's a neighboring house which has the year of construction over its door, 14??, the last two numbers not all that clear.
This was the sixth time I've taken the tour, the fifth in English. Jean-Marc worries about his English, but over the years, I have seen how he has improved. Some of the facts, I'd forgotten. Some were new.
When Jean-Marc talked about the power plays and the need for money by those at the top, the need for trade is not that different from today. Instead of things like cars and electronics, trade was iron, cloth and wine.
"The wine wasn't very good after a short time." Jean-Marc made a face. All was not lost. The vinters learned to add spices and sugar to improve the taste. Innovation is not just a 20th and 21st phenomena.
As we were standing in front to the street that once was blocked by one of the three city gates, Jean-Marc explained the hygienic problems of windows and chamber pots. Only when tourists which began to visit the nearby beach in the late 19th century, did the village leaders remove the sewerage backed up wall and gate.
Matt, the owner of l'Hostalet, the hotel rode his bike by the group. "After your tour come to the hotel for coffee," he invited the group.
By now we were 14 people sitting around the table in the dining room in front of the marble fireplace.
1800 years can create a lot of history even in a small geographical area. But history alone could not explain the feelings of good will and impromptu warmth of the group of people not the generosity of the l'Hostalet.
Rick will have a dueling post at www.lovinglifeinEurope.blogspot.com