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A taste of the sweet life

Along the Languedoc Roussillon Coast

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A very popular route in the Languedeoc-Rousillon is either from the cote d'azur on the way to Barcelona, or up the coastline instead, from Barcelona to Beziers and beyond.  While motoring this route via motorcycle or automobile here are a few suggested stops along the way:

If you are on your way down the coastline, Bezier's Neuf ecluses is a site to see on the Canal du Midi running along the edge of the city.  Further along the main road is Capestang.  A bit off the coast, this village lies on the Canal as well, with a great church at its center. Le Someil is a quaint little hamlet with several restaurants, art galleries and lovely walks all surrounding the Canal du Midi where many artists paint or draw the stone bridge.

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 Azille is a medieval village a bit further from the sea and again not far from the canal  Azille was fortified in the 14th century, still maintaining much of its history within its center where you can take a self-guided tour, as well as stop for a glass of wine at one of several tasting rooms or bars.

 

 

Back towards the sea sits Narbonne where you can see reminents of the old Roman road near the massive cathedral.  In Gruissan, a port village, head for the “vieux village” (or old town) and “le plage des Chalets” with its stilted houses & nearby salt flats.

Just south of Perpignan along the coast is Collioure the very famous village known for the artists who stayed on their way south. You can finish the coastal visit with tapas & beer in a quaint little alcove of Spain, called Portbou. Enjoy!

Carcassonne Concert in the Park

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This blog post is going to be a bit different than what I normally do, but the girls insisted I tell my little french language antidote to all of my readers as well - enjoy !

Let me start first by telling you about the amazing free concert we girls went to in the park near Carcassonne's train station - Pink Martini, a band from Portland Oregon, played some great music for us all to enjoy in a very intimate setting so that we all felt part of the family while moving to the music and singing along with many of their eclectic set during the warm, sultry summer evening - thanks Pink Martini for the good time !

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Leaving the city after the show, driving along the Canal du Midi quayside, a back way in and out of Carcassonne center, I had to mention to the girls about the signs that are posted on this particular road : "Attention Nids des Poule en Formation".  Now my french has gotten pretty good in the last 13 years, so for the most part I figure things out and can come up with a good explanation to street signs, as least.

I had been noticing these signs for a few years and couldn't figure out why they were so worried about some sort of 'chicken nests in formation' (literal translation), unless these particular chickens were possibly on the verge of extinction!  I always looked up to see if I could see these special poultry, but alas I never saw one!

I finally decided to ask a french friend about these rare birds and thier nests...and to my amazement, they were no birds involved - in fact, I should have been looking down to be careful of the forming potholes in the road and to be careful as they might appear when I least expected them.

We all had a good laugh on the drive home to end this spectacular evening among friends - thanks to you girls as well !

 

Cathar Castles - Carcassonne

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The abundance of Cathar history in the Aude region is amazing, with many castles, sites & ruins strategically placed on mountain tops, cliff sides and in hidden valleys. As we are on the ‘road to penitence’, as they say, it just seems all the more appropriate that you visit at least a few while in the South of France.

Let's begin this series of about Cathar castles & ruins with the ever-popular, Carcassonne:

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This medieval Cité was restored in 1853 after have been destroyed several times during history; the 1209 siege being the war against the Cathars, which swept it clean. Being a World Heritage Site you will be astounded by the many towers, turrets, walls within walls, ramparts and drawbridge of this fairy-tale city, which occupies a hill adjacent to the modern city of Carcassonne. You will find within the narrow maze of twisting cobble-stone streets the Château Comtal, which lays claim to the Cathar heritage, sitting within the city’s still intact walls. It is truly a place of amazing charm, even though it is clearly a tourists’ stop. Entry is free to visit the interior of the ancient city & the Comtal castle, within the walls. It is also easily accessible from several large openings & gates with abundant parking at the main entrance, and only 32 kilometers from Azille.

For more information on the South of France, sign-up for our free booklet with plenty of hints, tips and information on vacationing here - see you soon!

Cathar Castles - Minerve

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Minerve, a once fortified village perched on two cliffs with one road in, is a curvy 15 minutes into the Black Mountains from several charming villages below like Azille, Homps or Olonzac.

This once-fortified village is a dramatic sight to see with only one ruined finger of masonry left from its original state that sits on a plateau in the limestone gorge.

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It was the site of a 10-week siege, by Simon de Montfort, who subsequently massacred its 180 Cathar inhabitants in the 13th century. The village was protected by a double curtain wall and overhanging natural ledges, above the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position.

Near the village the river even disappears underground in a large, natural tunnel below, a nice hike to finish the day’s visit. Access to the village is from a walking path down from the modern parking lot, or by walking across a high bridge that spans from the village to one side of the gorge. Arriving at Minerve is most impressive from the South end, near the village of La Caunette.

Cathar Castles - Lastours

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Chateaux de Lastours, another nearby Cathar site in the Minervois, is a cluster of 4 ruined fortresses in the Black Mountains.  The historical sight is protected by two deep valleys and is an unusual arrangement of ruins being spread out among the rocky hills.

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This fortification belonged to the Lords of Cabaret, giving the name to the northernmost tower. The smaller tower, Le Regine, which was built much later upon the same rocky outcrop nearest Cabaret, dates at sometime after 1260. The southernmost tower, Quertinheux, is slightly isolated and seems to be an advanced lookout of sorts. Surdespine, or Thornflower, is on the highest ground of the four, however the least preserved. All four of the towers can be visited by hiking up from the village of Lastours below, following the footpath from one chateau to the next with views of the surrounding valleys along the way. Getting to the town of Lastours is an easy trip starting from one of several villages at the base of the Black Mountains like Caunes-Minervois or Carcassonne.

Stay tuned for the next Cathar sight in this series - more reasons to visit us in the Minervois!