The Amazing South-West France Area Near Our House
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The area of Languedoc is so called because in ancient times in the local dialect "oc meant "yes" so the area became known as langue d'oc (or language of yes) and the home of the Occitane people. It is also Cathar Castle and Knights Templar country. Of the books written about the areaís link to the Holy Grail: The Da Vinci Code, Holy Blood Holy Grail, The Expected One and Labyrinth are just a few of many. Mysterious, spooky Rennes le Chateau is 40 minutes from Montlaur (50 minutes if you take the tiny back road through the very remote Haute Corbieres Ė itís like stepping back in time) and Montsegur, Puilaurens, Queribus, Termes, Lastours and Peyrepertuse are all within an enchanting 1 hour drive. Whether you believe or not, itís fascinating history. And a little eerie. The independent thinking Occitanie people have a unique, beguiling, ancient culture and language. The music is wonderful!
To get an insight we recommend you do some reading about the people and area before your visit - and be prepared to never want to leave.
Wine is the principal crop in the area. Languedoc Rousillon produces more wine than any other area of France. Historically overshadowed by Bordeaux or the Rhone Valley it has now become recognised as consistently producing high quality wines. Montlaur produces excellent wines (Domaine Baillat, Domaine Fourtanier, Troubadours) but also check out excellent wines from Servies (the Cellier Delteil Syrah is superb) and Camplong d'Aude. A short drive takes you into the renowned Fitou area or the Minervois. Enjoy!
The area is blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year on average. So, during summer, nearly every day the sky is a stunning azure blue.
There are many beautiful villages nearby: Montlaur and the area is full of fascinating history and spectacular geography. Some of our favourites are:
Ribaute (6kms) has a wonderful swimming hole. Take a bottle of wine, some olives, saucisson and sit in the sun or swim in the refreshing water
Lagrasse (8kms) voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. It has a 12th century Abbey, lovely cafes and is a joy to walk around and another nice place to swim
Carcassonne (20kms) famous for La Cite - a magnificent 12th century castle and rightfully a popular place for the tourists. In summer check out the events - there are often world famous artists playing within the walls. Great food market on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Not to be missed is Le Feu d'artifice - the fireworks display on Bastille Day
The Tour de France travels through this area every year. It is full of pagentry and a must to see. There is usually a stage finish in the area and many vantage points to see this historic race.
The Minervois is a beautiful area with countless charming small villages. The Canal du Midi runs through it.
If you can time your visit to include Bastille Day then you will not regret it. The whole of France celebrates. Try to make it to the Feu d'Artifice - a famous fireworks display over Carcassonne castle. It's one of the best fireworks display in the world and follows Carcassonne's history.
Narbonne is a stylish town with a bustling pedestrian area, a great market and good restaurants.
The Canal du Midi runs from the Mediteranean through Beziers, the Minervois, Carcassonne and on to Toulouse. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and understandably so. Cycling along the tow paths under the plane trees from one charming village to another can't help but fill your soul with joy. Pick up a bottle of the ridiculously cheap quality wines from the Cave at Ventenac
The major towns in the area all have markets during the week. They're great places to visit - always a sensory delight with bustle and music mingling with the smells of fresh produce and coffee. Carcassonne's Saturday market and Lezignan's Wednesday market are treats. Discover the smaller towns with markets.
Pezenas is another beautiful town well known for its antique shops and the birth place of Moliere.
Cathar Castle ruins are scattered throughout the area - usually perched on impossibly craggy and steep outcrops. There are many to visit and all are awe-inspiring. Montsegur and nearby Rennes le Chateau are famous for their links to the Da Vinci Code
Collioure, about 1.5 hours away, is a gorgeous, colourful village, the anchovy capital of France and famous for its resident artists in the early 20th century. Great cafes and a safe place to swim.
Montpellier, an hour 20 minutes away, has great shopping, a lovely pedestrian area and a buzzing atmosphere.
Toulouse, just over an hour away, a city with great architecture, museums and a unique aerospace fun park suitable for all ages.
Barcelona is less than 3 hours away. The autoroute takes you right into the heart of this amazing city.
The Pyrenees are spectacular and beautiful. The "Le Train Jaune" is a famous steam train ride through stunning scenery. In winter take advantage of great skiing at any of the many fields including Font-Romeu and Andorra is less than 2 hours away. You can visit the site of prehistoric man at Tautaveland the dinosaur museum at Esperaza by taking the spectacular D117 route.