If your lazy alter ego feels like resting the eyes, use the ears instead and listen to the podcast: When mommy says “eat your veggies” – eat them! Diced.
Lazy, warm morning foreshadowed heat. A day with no plan was ahead of us. We drove among the sunflower fields, this time with open windows, letting the scents of French summer circulate through the car’s interior and paint similes on our sleepy, dreamy faces.
Before us, the heatwave was undulating over the road surface creating a misty landscape filled with colors. I love it when that happens. It was an early announcement of a beautiful day ahead that was being sent to us straight from heavens.
Happy with same, we went on in search of somewhere where we could top up our energy levels. Not long after, Aldi appeared in front of us and we decided to have a picnic just in front of it on a little piece of a meadow.
Despite of Aldi being a German owned supermarket, it is required to sell certain amounts of local produce in order to be able to operate abroad. Same here. So, taking advantage of really low prices, we purchased some tasty treats for the rest of the day.
Hundreds of types of pate’s and cheeses, all as fresh and flavourful as the bread rolls and veggies. Peaches and plums literally just fell from the trees that morning, I bet. And pastries filled with fruits were melting on our tongues.
The grass was tall where we spread ourselves out together with the feast. Traffic was very light so nothing, but bees and wasps could bother us in their lazy attempts of trying to steal some of our goodies. We didn’t mind sharing.
In front of us, a city called Mirepoix. We saw a sign post on the way to the shop and we decided to pop over since we were already there.
It was getting real hot. Well fed, hydrated and with vitamin D3 levels topped up by the morning sun, we packed all the goodies and went in search of an adventure.
A wall with a gate appeared in front of us, suggesting it was a right spot to park the car. In fact what we have here is called La porte d’aval, literally the downstream door or the Lower Gate, which dates back to 1372.
I took a shy quick peek through the gate and saw a little street with a funny sort of groove in the middle, probably type of drainage. The street was visibly leading to some sort of a square.
The sign post by the gate suggested something “medieval”. We were all up for medieval! At that stage we had no idea what a gem of a town we came accross.
Have you ever watched movies with Gérard Depardieu, let’s say The man in the iron mask, or any of the film adaptations of the Dumas or de Balzac books?
Medieval cities of France surrounded by walls gave an impression of construction chaos. The irregular main streets were at most a few meters wide. Through their center ran sewage, which flowed garbage, impurities and dirty water. The streets stinked, and these smells penetrated into the interiors of houses. Buildings were built with use of wood, gypsum and clay. Stone was rarely used. On the ground floors there were usually shops and workshops. The living quarters were small and dark.
Crowds gathered on the streets of the cities during processions, torture and executions. A great event in the life of the city was the entry and visit of the king or other dignitaries. City dwellers at that time were primarily engaged in crafts. Guild organizations did not yet exist.
We walked down towards the square between the rows of medieval buildings. Timber beams and rafters supporting upper floors, crooked widows, roofs and wavy walls. It all made me feel as if any moment a woman dressed in a long medieval dress with a Jacobite-like lace traded accross her chest, would lean out of one of the windows and pour a bucket of slop or piss onto our heads. That’s what you were risking back in the times, isn’t it?
Close your eyes and think of a scene like that. Muddy beaten roads, no sewage systems, only narrow ditches along the buildings. Yes, that’s where the human and animal waste would flow too. Think of the long dresses of the women smearing all that while passing by. And it’s not like they would take a bath and do the laundry too often. There was even a common in the Middle Ages saying, that frequent washing shortens life.
Disgusting or not, urine has been considered a magic liquid since ancient times and I think it is a great moment to mention a few of its uses accross the centuries. Especially that Mirepoix was only down the road from the Roman routes and South of France inherited tons of Roman inventions.
The word “urine” comes from the Latin urina, meaning “to moisten, to flow.” The word “piss” is an onomatopoetic term for urine and has been used since before the 14th century.
This yellow liquid which our bodies reject, consists of 96% of water, 2.5% of nitrogen waste products, mainly urea, a compound which further breaks down into ammonia, 1.5% mineral salts, as well as some scarse quantities of substances such as i.e. bile dyes that give the smell color and taste.
Humankind has used this substance over the centuries in ways that may blow your mind if you have never indulged in a subject.
The Isagoge is an “Introduction” to Aristotle’s work called “Categories”, written by Porphyry in Sicilly between 268–270 AD. It is a philosophical work on universals and logic which also clearly mentions urine. Below, you can see a copy of this manuscript.
Letter “D” – initial, starting the sentence “De urinarum differencia negocium” (The matter of the differences of urines).
Ancient Greek physicians tried to cure insanity with donkey urine and boiling an egg in the patient’s urine and then burying it in an anthill was to cure fever like nothing else. No wonder a few centuries later urine was tried to cure the likes of AIDS.
Australian aborigins believed that the oceans are made from the urine of an angry god attempting to drown the world.
In ancient times Rome, there were huge urinals placed on the street corners where citizens could kindly offer their share. It was recommended that the collection of a full large clean vessel be done in around 24 hours and that the liquid is kept out of the sun or heat, which could alter its color.
Romans would deal in urine, extracted from both, humans and animals, paying taxes, called vectigal urinae introduced by Emperor Vespasian, to trade it. These taxes originated the still-used saying Pecunia non olet, “Money does not smell.”
Roman public urinals, which by the way in France are to this day called vespasiennes after the very same Emperor Vespasian, came with a fee. The cities made even more money selling the urine to tradesmen who bleached cloth with it.
Caustic properties of ammonia mean it becomes destructive when it comes in contact with certain substances. It is therefore a useful ingredient in cleaning products because it neutralizes grease and dirt. Diluted with water, urine would be used as a soak for dirty clothes. Launderers would then stomp on the wet linens the way vintners stomp on grapes. They would of course urinate on them too during the process. Every Little Helps!
The panacea for all oral ailments was to be a special rinse from human urine. The Romans did it not without reason. They assumed that if urine works perfectly as a bleach when washing tunics, its cleaning properties will also work in the case of teeth.
Yet in the 18th-century French physician, Pierre Fauchard (the father of modern dentistry), recommended urine to relieve a toothache.
The ancient rinse, however, was not obtained in a trivial way. Urine had to be of the highest quality, hence the Romans did not hesitate to import the best type of urine from the farthest corners of Europe. They were particularly fond of the urine of young Iberians, which contained, in their opinion, the most salutary ingredients. They used special tankers for transportation.
Ammonia compounds are components of modern toothpastes too. But don’t worry! Today, they are not obtained from urine, but created in the labs.
Ancient Roman spies used urine as invisible ink to write secret lines within their official documents. Ever heard of a saying: “read between the lines”? The messages appeared only when heated.
By the way, cat’s urine glows, did you know?
Women in ancient Rome drank turpentine (which can be poisonous, commonly used to dilute oil paints) because it made their urine smell like roses.
In ancient China, both men and women stood up to urinate. Chinese noblemen would urinate into hollow canes so the urine would flow far away from their bodies. At the same time, in Muslim countries, both men and women would sit or squat to pee as they believed standing up to urinate is something dogs do. In ancient Egypt and Ireland, women were those who stood to urinate whilst the men sat or squatted.
If you go to Morocco, even today, you will find the many extremely smelly dyers hidden on the rooftops with an undisturbed access to the sun. Ammonia’s caustic property also helps to remove hairs from animal skins, making leathers and animal pelts softer. This very same process is used there unchanged for centuries.
Ammonia was an important ingredient for the 16th century England’s textile industry. Yorkshire would receive cask upon cask of human urine to be converted into a strong mordant, a bonding agent that would fuse the dye to the cloth after being mixed with alum. This mixture would guarantee the brightest of fabrics.
And when mixed with the right elements, urine can turn into saltpetre, or potassium nitrate, a key ingredient in the production of gunpowder. During the Civil War, the southern army put ads in the newspapers asking Southern Ladies to save their urine for the wagons with barrels which would be sent “around to gather up the lotion.”
I can no longer, so to speak, hold my chemical water and must tell you that I can make urea without needing a kidney, whether of man or dog; the ammonium salt of cyanic acid is urea. – Wöhler
Despite of this discovery by German chemist Friedrich Wöhler at the beginning of the 19th century, of a substance identical to urea, achieved by mixing silver cyanate and ammonium chloride, people to this day believe in treating their bodies with a human urine based rinse.
Proponents of urinotherapy argue that human urine is a cure for all known diseases – from colds to cancer. The ammonia compounds contained in urine also have antibacterial and disinfecting properties.
Urine therapists suggest that urine should be sipped, not guzzled, and it should be a first flow of the day, caught in midstream, just like the one you give away for lab testing. A person doing urine therapy also needs to avoid salty foods and drink plenty of water.
In Germany, nearly 5 million people regularly indulge in drinking their urine. In China, over 3 million people. Jim Morrison, John Lennon as well as Gandhi were also advocates.
But perhaps we should not waste our waste as we tend to these days and let our bodies filter it once or, like in a case of Jameson Whiskey, triple distill it.
A few years ago, a group of students from Cape Town, copying the process of the sea corals growth, for the first time ever used human urine, from their male urinals, to grow eco-bricks. They smell of ammonnia only for 48 hours. You can grow a brick within 4 to 6 days or longer if you want it to be stronger.
So if I wanted to build a house by myself, all I’d have to do is buy some land and then pee. Or walk around the village and collect urine. Provided my house would not be overly fancy, I should be done quite cheaply and within no time. Ingenius! If you’d like to donate, please comment below 🙂 It takes about 100 goes to build one brick.
For centuries urine was being mixed with hay, grass, etc. by the farm owners to create organic fertalizer for their fields. Swedish students, collected 70 thousand litres of pure urine and dried it, to then create fertalizer pellets for crops. They believe that urine separation from the sewage can save our planet!
Now that I think of it, surely some of you kept aquariums at some stage in life. You remember then that you needed plants and water suppliment in order to neutralize the nitrate that was released by the fish poops. And have you heard about coral bleaching process that kills our coral reefs accross the globe and that it is caused by the water temperature changes? Mainly global warming. But corals absorb nitrate too. And what really happens with our urine after we flush, only God knows. Swedish might just be right in their thinking. Hmmm…
Perhaps US Air Forces could share their little sack patent with the rest of the world to allow for a clean collection process. Fighter jet pilots wear a baglike gadget called a “piddle-pack” to urinate while they fly, right? Can’t wait to see it! 😀
Although the U.S. Army Field Manual cautions against drinking urine in an emergency because urine contains salts, which may exacerbate dehydration. Instead, urine can be used to cool the body by soaking a cloth in it and placing it on the head.
Sharing the piddle-pack could also help the track drivers who do not want to pull over and instead urinate into bottles which then they toss on the side of the roads. In one month, Washington State cleaned up 1,000 of these types of bottles on a 100-mile stretch of a highway.
Thank God we no longer have to wear armour like those poor medieval knights, because when they spilled, they turned rusty.
Now it’s time to open your eyes. In front of you opens a square that is one of its kind. One of the finest surviving arcaded market squares – Les Couverts.
One of the streets surrounding it, is called Cr Colonel Petitpied. So, speaking of the pee, I naturally translated it as street of a Little Pied Colonel 🙂 But sadly, no, pied in French means foot, as such it is a Colonel Little Foot. Not bad either 🙂
Half timbered houses supported by wooden pillars encircle the square. Elderly locals catching the rays of sun sit around on the many benches. An old fasioned carousel for kids perched on a patch of green.
Maison des Consuls (council house), now a hotel, has rafter-ends carved with dozens of images of animals and monsters as well as some caricatures of medieval professions and social groups.
Plenty of lovely cafes welcomed tourists, now in a hurry to find a shaded spot and grab a bite to eat, ‘cos it was time for lunch.
We were full after our lovely picnic but nevertheless, we decided to chill under one of the arcades.
Coffee arrived quickly. People indulged in reading books and magazines. Nobody was overly talkative, which was so amazing. We were a good one hour into our dirty, lazy chilling when a man with a Spanish guitar sat literally 2 metres away and started to play quietly.
His lonely and calm flamenco resounded between the medieval walls and nobody complained. On the contrary, people seemed mesmerized. But, not in this comercial way, nobody moved over, nobody even turned around to look at the man. It was all just natural. As if he was a bird that just perched on an overhead branch to play his tune, because that was what he liked doing. Like that little nightingale from the story about the Chinese Emporor, he was free and shared his love of life with the world.
I could not resist and eventually did take a look at the stranger with a guitar who happenned to be a man in his early 40s. A very tanned brunette with a 2-day stubble around his jaw. All that darkness contrasted beautifully with his white lose linen pants and shirt. And his head was crowned with an elegant straw hat. I guess he was a local.
At that time I had no idea how art orientated Mirepoix was. Swing à Mirepoix on Easter is for the lovers of swing and Mirepoix Musique is an association whose goal is to promote classical music in town and the surrounding area. Throughout the year they organize concerts and other cultural events such as reading events.
I, unable to stop myself, made a few drawings not to stay behind, with all the artistic vibes floating around.
Mirepoix stands for a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables (diced onions, carrots, celery and herbs that are sauteed in butter or oil) used in various sauces. You can buy them here in Ireland in a supermarket pre-packed and called a soup mix, although these seem to be more like chopped with a machete.
According to the 1938 Larousse Gastronomique, a mirepoix may be prepared au gras (with meat) or au maigre (without meat). The latter is sometimes called a brunoise, though strictly speaking this term more accurately merely describes a culinary knife cut, a technique of dicing with a knife in which the food item is first julienned (cut into stripes) and then turned a quarter turn and diced, producing cubes of about 3 mm or less on each side. In France, a “brunoise” is smaller, 1 to 2 mm on each side of dice.
But that’s not what’s on the coat of arms of the ville.
Apparently the town’s name comes from the Occitan word Mirapeis, supposedly from mire peis, meaning see the fish).
Situated on the banks of the river Hers-Vif or L’Hers in the Ariège Department of Occitania in Southern France, it is closer to Spain and Andorra than it is to Paris.
The original settlement was once situated on the opposite bank of the river, however in 1289 it was flooded and one year later rebuilt where the land was naturally higher. Its medieval centre remains unchanged since those days. Majority of the houses date back to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
Mirepoix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Mirepoix) up until 1801 used to be a seat for the Roman Catholic bishops when the diocese was divided between Carcassonne and Toulouse. Its construction started in 1298 and lasted for 600 years. In 1858 and 1859 the Father of French conservation works, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc along with Prosper Merimee, undertook the renovation of the building. Right after nearby Cathedral of Girona in Spain, it has the second widest Gothic arch in Europe.
In 1776 Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, author of i.e. Parisian Pont de la Concorde, began his works on the Mirepoix’s bridge which is 206 meters long and has seven arches. Not too far from there, where another, smaller bridge crosses over the river, an 800 years old chêne vert, oak tree, can be found.
And on one of the nearby hills, ancient Château de Terride dating back to the year 960 is located.
And what I am after and if only for that, I will definitely come back to Mirepoix one day, is MiMa – an international festival of the art of marionettes held here every summer. Glove puppets, string puppets and marionettes portées (puppets carried by a handle on the back of the head), theatrical objects and actors concentrate around a leading theme and entertain not just the littliest of people.
Can’t wait to see you again Mirepoix!
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