I am having a little trouble with some of Irmines quotes here, so I am asking this as a question?
Hi Bill - Some thoughts on a couple of your questions; nothing very illuminating, I'm afraid, just a few comments.
1. according to to the text the excursion began on June 24, within the text it says at "6:15 am: the heavy mass of the train rattled and shook, station followed station... At what time had they actually left to begin the excursion, could it have been June 24, and they arrived at Couiza on the 25th.?
No, it can only be a mistake in the transcription, either accidental or deliberate. The text later describes walking up the hill to RLC from Couiza, and arriving there at around 0930 hrs, after a walk of about an hour, therefore departing that town at around 0830 hrs. Allow a bit of tarrying about time from when they arrived, for example, joining up with the mayor, who accompanied them on their visit, and you'd be looking at an arrival at Couzia railway station at, say, 0745-ish. That sounds about right for a train journey from Carcassonne in those days.
4. The tower of recent construction, if stairs did not exist would there not be a ladder for construction purposes? climbing such a ladder would not be allowed today, but 1905?
I think that's quite plausible. They started work on that tower in, I think, 1903, but work went quite slowly due to money issues. But by the summer of 1905, given it was fully completed in 1906, it's not at all inconceivable that the tower could have been "topped out" (built to full height) by then, but unfinished inside, perhaps. You generally finish constructing the building envelope, before you start work on its interior spaces, so it's not at all unreasonable to assume that the outer structure itself would have been complete by then, and equipped with a ladder for the builders.
As an aside, I'm actually not at all sure that climbing such a ladder wouldn't be allowed today, in France at any rate, where they seem to have a refreshingly laissez-faire attitude to 'elf and safety.
But in 1905, it certainly wouldn't have been a problem. Your argument makes a lot of sense to me.
5. Couiza is not visible from the tower... I have used the hell out of "google earth", both from the tower and from Couiza, and it looks to me like they are visible from each other. Am I wrong, who has been there?
As per what Pilrig said, with regards to looking at Couiza from that part of the village. I wasn't so sure about Coustaussa, which you can certainly (I think, from memory) see from the orangery at the other end of the belevedere, but maybe not from the Tour. I'll go with what Pilrig said on that, too.
Anyway, I wonder if the writer isn't just using a bit of poetic licence here, or even if his memory is confused, assuming he wasn't all that well aquainted with the locale. He may be accidentally conflating in his mind two separate views, or else slightly disingenuously rolling up all of his commentary on the spectacular view from the village into one piece of narrative. Or it could just be lazy writing. Reading through the piece, the party goes twice to the chateau, once on arrival, and then again for a luncheon. Perhaps the writer also looked at a view from one of the chateau towers, from where I presume one would have a very good view of both Couiza and Coustaussa.
A couple of other thoughts.
I was interested that the writer sought fit to mention the neighbouring hill of Casteillas, which tends to be little mentioned.
If he thought the chateau looked "delapidated" (from the English translation) in 1905, one rather dreads to think what it must be like in there now, sumptuously beautiful though it looks from the outside.
Also, I was a little confused by what walking route they would have taken from Couiza (and at a very good pace, by the sounds of it, given that it's all uphill) and the mention of "ancient surrounding walls or fortifications, of which only a few sections still remained" (again, that's from the English translation). I'd assumed that they would have gone by the most direct route, up to the outer elevation of the belevedere, where there is still a footpath. I've only been halfway along it - from RLC - and don't recall much in the way of old walling, if any, though it is quite overgrown round there. There are sections of walling on the south side, though personally I see these as more likely terracing for agricultural purposes, rather than fortifications. Anyway, a small point, but it slightly intrigued me.
I haven't read that piece for years, and it was nice to do so again, though there do seem to be some anomalies, as has been mentioned. They certainly packed a lot into their day, and it sounds like fun - a real "excursion", in the proper sense of the word.