Aude is a département in south-central France, which makes up one fifth of the Languedoc province. Located between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, this area is one of attractive, ever-changing landscapes. It has so much to offer and would be a fantastic location for a property.
Each area of Aude has its own particular, interesting and unique natural landscape. Providing a beautiful natural barrier between land and sea, this area is home to pink flamingos and white stilts, which can be found wading and
Introducing Aude and Languedoc-Roussillon
foraging for food. Further inland, this Eastern part of Aude changes dramatically to shrub and scrub land, with equally rich flora and fauna. The villa is located near to forests and mountains. The ‘Black Mountain Country’ in the north and west of Aude there is a largely wooded landscape, where forests of oak, beech, poplar and ash abound, and there are rare peat lands. The Corbières area in central Aude, is a stunning mixture of dissected plateaux, steep hills, hidden valleys, woodland and vineyards.
One of the most famous places in Aude is Carcassonne, situated only 55km away and home to the famous medieval walled city (La Cité), which dates back as far as the fifth century. The fortress here is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is spectacularly dramatic. A day trip is defintely worth it and is recommended! At Narbonne, you can view a series of first century Roman remains, including underground tunnels and Roman storage rooms. There is a rich history here, and there are many castles and fortresses to be found dotted around the countryside, often on dramatic rocky peaks. Good examples are those at Quéribus and Lastours, which are absolutely breath-taking. Aude has strong religious traditions, and is often referred to as ‘Cathar Country’, after the religious movement which flourished here in the 12th and 13th centuries. There are many abbeys, including Sainte-Hilaire, Sainte-Marie Lagrasse and Fontfroide. Fontfroide, a former Cisterian monastery, is now a working farm, bookstore and restaurant, and producer of wine of AOC Corbières quality.
In fact, this region is home to some fine wines, and Vineyards can be seen throughout the region. Viticulture is the main economic activity of Aude. The East is home to Corbières and la Clape; in the centre Minervois and Côtes de Malpeyre wines are made. In the south, Blanquette de Limoux is produced. This sparkling white wine is said to have been the forerunner of champagne and is very popular in the département. If you are more of a fan of liqueur, then local Cartagène may take your fancy. It is most pleasant with foie gras and Roquefort.
For gourmet-lovers an Aude property has much to offer. There is even a festival dedicated to food! “Toques et Clochers” takes place over the weekend of Palm Sunday celebrates the gastronomy of the area around Limoux. Local delicacies include fricassee of pork and cassoulet (white beans and sausage). In the area around the coast, make sure you sample borrida d’anguilles (eel stew), which is delicious! Gruissan and Leucate are famous for oysters and local olive oil can be found at markets. Incidentally, when you’re in Carcassonne, make sure you stop by the market in Place Carnot, which is held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. You are bound to find something just wonderful to cook in your new Aude property. After all, what is better than local, fresh produce?
The climate varies across Aude. In the East, the weather there is typically Mediterranean. In the mountainous areas of the north and south of Aude, the climate is slightly cooler, with some quite low temperatures in winter. In the west there is slightly more precipitation. The villa is situated rougly in the center of Aude, so it has a climate influence from mainly the East, due to the area being sheltered by the mountains to the West.
This striking rural region is certainly unique, and as you can see we are situated in a varied and beautiful part of Aude. We are sure you’ll find something just perfect for you to visit. Time to crack open the Blanquette de Limoux?
Everyone has heard of Andorra, because of its skiing and tax free status, and it is worth a visit just for the shopping, where else in Europe can you buy a litre of Whiskey for a fiver. However, if you make the effort to escape the commercialism, you’ll find this little country is full of surprises, and very unique. Andorra is home to folk dances like the contrapas and marratxa which survive in the parish of Sant Julià de Lòria. Also if you like Jazz, the Escaldes-Engordany International Jazz festival is worth a visit, its an important event in Andorra’s cultural life. Of course we can't forget to mention Andorra's numerous and well equipped skiing resorts! Andorra is really worth exploring !!!
Ax-les-Thermes is three ski areas centred around the ancient thermal spa town of Ax near Andorra. There is skiing for all abilities at Ax-les-Thermes and the heights of the resort are between 1400 and 2400m of altitude. There is 75 kms of terrain to explore with 35 groomed trails. Ax-les-Thermes is serviced by 17 lifts (1 gondola, 4 chair lifts and 12 surface lifts).
Ax Les Thermes
The origins of Carcassonne date back to about 3500 BC, and has been an important trading settlement since the 6th Century BC, and fortified by the Romans around 100 BC. The main part of the lower courses on the northern ramparts date from this time. The fortified city itself consists essentially of a concentric design with two outer walls with towers. The castle itself possesses its own drawbridge and ditch leading to a central keep. The walls consist of 53 towers built over quite a long period. One of these towers housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th Century and is still known as "The Inquisition Tower". Today there is a museum "Musée de la Torture", which shows some of the original torture equipment employed by the Church.
What is there not to like about like about this picture perfect, iconic seaside town, that combines History, Art, Food and beaches? Located 25Km from the Spanish border on the 'Vermeille Coast. Originally two villages, separated by the river Douy, it was used by the Phoenicians and Greeks, as a trading post, and later occupied by the Romans, Barbarians, Arabs, and the Spanish, before becoming French in 1659 in the Treaty of the Pyrenees. The current Castle was built by the Knights Templer in the 12th Century, but there are records of a castle at "Castrum Caucoliberi" as early as 673, during the Visigoth ascendancy.
In the year 813 a priory was created here, called Eclesia Sanctae Mariae de Asparazanus. Located on a tight bend of the Aude in the period when the Haute Aude was being opened and developed, Espéraza grew in the time of the Visigots (5th century) and the Carolingiens (6th century). Over a thousand years after those days of growth, in 1878, the railway arrived in Espéraza and the felt hat industry boomed. The inhabitants of the region had returned from Silésie (Poland) at the end of the 18th century, where they had been captive, bringing back with them the expertise of wool felt, and hence hats. At its height the industry employed about 3000 people in 14 factories, and was the second largest producer of hats in the world.
It's so easy to overlook the village on the hill above you, but if you where ever curious to see and experience rural France, just step out of the main gate turn right and a quick 5 minute walk up the hill, will take you into a different world. The origins of Ginoles are definitely very old and certainly pre-date the Gallo-Roman era. There are references in ancient texts to Castrum Ginolis, and its thermal springs. The presence of these natural hot springs almost certainly attracted people to this region, which in turn brought agriculture. Due to the sunny climate, since Roman times the cultivation of Olive’s was an important activity, and many retaining walls called 'terraces' were built on the mountainsides and are still visible especially when one is the village. Ginoles is also known for its orchards. In the nearby locality named “Prat Fa” it is said
Gorges de Galamas
Located between the towns of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet and Cubieres-sur Cinobles, the gorge is one of the most spectacular natural sights, in the region. The gorge is classed as a “protected natural site”. Created over ten’s of thousands of years by the L’Adly river by eroding the limestone, the river is fed by numerous hot springs along its length. Its really worth exploring the gorge by foot, rather than driving, simply because the drive is quite challenging. Since the 7th Century the natural grotto’s have been a refuge for hermits. They built their cells and lived in prayer and abstinence, and then died. The monks placed the site under the protection of St. Anthony. The chapel, originally a single cave was built following the "miracle" of
1782 in which many villagers of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet were saved from an outbreak of “sweating sickness” (a kind of gangrene where you sweat a lot) through the protection of St Anthony.
The Great Aude Lakes
If you fancy a swim, but don’t want to drive all the way to the seaside, its worth exploring, one of the three near by lakes, the closest being the lake at Puivert, more correctly known as Lac du Fontclaire, is only 15 minute drive. Not far from Couiza, just off the D613, you come to the village of Arques, about 25 minutes drive from the Villa, where there is another swimming lake. The Lac d’Arques. This is a small and very pretty artificial lake, with lots of idyllic picnic spots with tables and benches, or if you fancy messing around on the water, you can hire boats and pedalos, as well as having a dip. A short distance up from Puivert, there is Lac du Montbel, this is the largest of the lakes covering an area of 570 hectares. The beaches are on the Montbel side, on the Leran side numerous activities can be undertaken including Windsurfing, Canoeing, and the hire of peddle
Limoux is a cultural hotbed, and ideal for a day out. Throughout the year, a vast range of musical, theatrical and dance performances are put on, attracting both locals and visitors. The local market is held on Fridays is a highly social and important occasion, where you can buy local crafts and locally grown produce, fresh from the orchards, vineyards and farms in the area The food market is in the area in front of the post office and in the covered market behind the post office. Clothing and household items are on Place de la Republique, in the town center Don't miss the little goat cheese cart near the corner of Marronnier and rue Jean Jaures.
This place should logically not exist, but it does! An enclave of Spain, totally surrounded by France. In 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees ceded the comarques of Roussillon, Conflent, Capcir, Vallespir & northern Cerdanya ("Cerdagne") to the French crown. Llívia did not become part of the French kingdom as the treaty stipulated that only villages were to be ceded to France, and Llívia was considered a city and not a village It’s a grain of Spanish sand within France but more importantly it also houses The Esteve Pharmacy, founded at the beginning of the 15th century, it is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe.
For those interested in geology, something a little different, or if you are unlucky enough to catch a rainy day then a visit to one of the many cave’s that honeycomb this part of France making it one of richest area of subterranean systems in France. The Grotte de Niaux is one of the few caves with painted walls that is still open to the public. Located a short distance from the Village of Niaux, it contains lots of prehistoric paintings of outstanding quality dating back to between 11500 and 10500 years. Also nearby is the famous Grotte de Lombrives, which is the largest cave in Europe having a length of 24 miles !
Because of the caves size, tours are of various duration, lasting between 1 and 7 hours. The visit combines history with mythology and geology. According to legend the cave contains the tomb of Hercules' lover Pyrène, but it will be the awesome geology that impress you. Finally for something totally different, why not visit the underground river of Labouiche, and take a leisurely 1.5 hour boat ride. Located near Foix, it is a very unique experience, and well worth the trip.
The region around of Montsegur, the Lasset Valley is dotted with numerous prehistoric sites, and has some of the oldest traces of human inhabitants since the dawn of time. For example The cave of Chavet-Pont-D'Arc, (not open to the public) discovered in 1994 contains the world's oldest known cave paintings-dating back an astonishing 30,000 years! The region is also densely laced with deep and complex cave formations and underground rivers sources. There are two parts to Montsgur, the village, and the famous castle, both being well worth a visit.
Puilaurens Castle is one of the most impressive in the Cathar region, and is only a short drive away, and can be reached by car, or there is a footpath from Axat, if you are feeling energetic. On the limit between the counties of Aude and Pyrenees-Orientales, Puilaurens was for a long time the southern-most fortified castle in the kingdom of France. At 700 metres altitude, the castle overlooks the village of Lapradelle, surrounded by a fir forests. The first mention of the castle of Puilaurens dates from 985 A.D. At that time the castle depended on the abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa. before it was acquired by the King of Aragon in 1162. As Aragonese property it was outside the territory ravaged by the Crusaders during the Cathar wars. Like the castle at Queribus it continued to be a refuge for the Cathar even after the massacre at Montsegure up until
1250. Those who took refuge there included high nobles, such as Guillaume dePeyrepertuse.
The origins of Rennes-les-Bains go back to antiquity. and bathers have enjoyed the natural hot spring waters for thousands of years. It was popular as far back as roman times, being used as a spa by the nearby roman colony of what is now Narbonne. Rennes les Bains actually has both hot and cold springs, and two wells that were dug in the 19th century. Because of the unusual geological characteristics of the rock the water in the river Sals is naturally salty (hence the name of the river), which is very unusual for an inland river. This picturesque town, which lies along the valley bottom with tall houses hugging the waters edge, some of them having balconies situated over the river..is still well known for its Spa. This has been
updated since the Roman times, but still offers a wide variety of ways to pamper yourself ranging from massage to mud packs, to Jacuzzis. Or you can just relax and enjoy the thermal waters of the pool.
Rennes le Château - Da Vinci Code
This small French hilltop village is known internationally, and receives tens of thousands of visitors per year, for being at the centre of various conspiracy theories, and for being the location of an alleged buried treasure discovered by its 19th-century priest Bérenger Saunière The modern reputation of Rennes-le- Château rises mainly from claims and stories dating from the mid-1950s. These stories influenced the authors of the worldwide bestseller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail in 1982, and that work in turn influenced Dan Brown when he wrote The Da Vinci Code.
If you are a Skiing or Winter Sports enthusiast, then you are going to be really spoilt for choice with 13 Ski resorts with 2 hours drive of the Villa, all offering a wide range of activities, and all having a unique charm. So whatever your winter passion is, be it Skiing, Snow Boarding, Sledging or Nordic Trekking, and whether you are just starting out as a beginner or have many seasons under your belt, you’ll find a resort that suits you perfectly: Camurac - 34Km 1500m-1800, Mijanès Donezan - 36KM 1530m-1730m, Le Chioula - 44KM 1240m–1650m, Puyvalador - 50Km 1700m–2400m, Ascou - 52Km 1500m-2000m, Formigueres - 54Km 1500m–2400m, Les Monts d’Olmes - 57Km 1500m–2000m, Les Angles - 59Km 1600m-2400m, Ax 3 Domaines - 62Km
1400m–2400m, Capcir - 66Km 1500m–1900m, Espace Cambre d’Aze - 70Km 1600m–2400m, Font-Romeu Pyrenees 2000 - 76Km 1700m–2213m and Beille - 82Km 1800m–2000m.
Train du Pays Cathare
If you are a train enthusiast, or the main car driver, this trip is a must for you. The 60 Km journey from Axat to Rivesaltes passes through some of the most spectacular scenery, which if you are driving, you will not be able to fully appreciate. A trip on the “Red Train” can also be combined with a day out in Collioure. Originally built at the very start of the 20th Century to connect Carcassonne with Perpignan, the line was closed in the 1990’s, after the section between Quillian and St Martin Lys, was declared unsafe. In 1993 it was purchased by 3 rail enthusiasts who vowed to breath life back into this spectacular stretch of line.
Located just outside of Quillian, about 5km from the villa on the D117 towards Axat. This old nineteenth century renovated forge, as well as being a stopover for walkers along the Cathar trail, is an activity centre. Built on a slope, it opens on a large wooded park on the edge of theAude, and provides a wide range of both river and mountain based fun activities. These rangefrom the exhilarating such as White Water Rafting, to the more relaxing like Archery, thereare expert instructors, and the centre cateran ideal place to try something new.
For a truly different and spectacular experience, why not take a boat ride along Europe’s longest underground navigable river. Discovered in 1908, and opened to the public in 1938, this 1.5km, 75 minute subterranean tour in the bowls of the earth is truly awe inspiring. Passing through narrow tunnels, and church sized caverns, carved over millennium by nature, you’ll experience strange and stunningly beautiful rock formations along with underground waterfalls, all in a totally unique environment. This really is a rare opportunity to see and experience in relative comfort, sights that are denied to the vast majority of people.
The Underground River of Laboiche
The farming village is in the region of the Cathar castles, situated on spectacular rocky outcrops. Regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, Cathars sought refuge in these castles in the 13th century when Pope Innocent III launched a full scale crusade against them.
The village lies next to the Pic de Bugarach, a rocky peak which, at 1230 metres, is the highest point of the Corbières range of hills. The peak is dwarfed however by the nearby Pyrenees and offers splendid views of the range.
Made of limestone with galleries of caves beneath it, the
peak is a geological oddity, since its top layers are millions of years older than its bottom ones, making it an "upside down mountain".The peak of Bugarach has been shrouded in mystery, with various claims that it houses aliens in cavities beneath the rock.The internet abounds with tales of the late President François Mitterrand being curiously heliported onto the peak, of mysterious digs conducted by the Nazis and later Mossad, the Israeli secret services. There is talk of the area, near to the Cathar castles, holding the Holy Grail or the treasure of the Templars. A visit to Bugarach is said to have inspired Steven Spielberg in his film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind – although the actual mountain he used is Devil's Tower in Wyoming.
A trip to Mirepoix, is like stepping back into medieval France. First cited in the 10th century in a charter granted to the inhabitants by the Count of Foix, and is thought to be of Celtic origins. The town has had a turbulent history, it started life on the other side of the River Hers. During the crusade against the Cathares in 1209, Simon de Montfort took the feudal château. and dispossessed the family, who had strong links with the Cathares. Subsequently giving the town to Guy de Levis who became the Marchécal de Mirepoix.
Sandstone rocks of the organ-pipes. Orgues Ille sur Tet
Ille-sur-Tet is a busy town in the Pyrénées-Orientales department to the west of Perpignan. Ille-sur-Tet has had a turbulent history because of its position near the border with Spain. As the town developed three different rings of ramparts became necessary to contain and protect the growing population and various gateways, walls and towers of these original fortifications can still be seen.
The main reason why people come to the town is to visit the wonderful rock formations just a few kilometers away. The 'orgues' as they are called form a kind of natural ampitheatre made of tall pillars of rock which have been eroded into wonderful 'organ-pipe like' shapes that stand up to 12 meters
high. There is a short walk from the carpark to the entrance then a walk leads you around the small park allowing you to get some excellent views over the different formations. Each new view offers another beautiful scene. Its almost impossible to stop taking photos!
The Languedoc region, covering the Mediterranean coastal plain west of the Rhone, produces a lot of fairly ordinary red wine, much of it marketed as VDQS or Vin de Pays. Languedoc is the largest French wine producing area in terms of volume. There are seven Appellations controlées in the area, the best-known of which is Corbières, and possibly the best average quality of which is Fitou. AOC wines account for some 10% of the region's production, but the proportion is increasing as Languedoc producers concentrate more on quality, rather than quantity, and strive to reposition their wines higher up the market. Thanks to the long hours of summer sun, grapes ripen well and quickly in this region, which means that Languedoc wines are rich and full bodied, and often have high
alcohol content. The wines of Roussillon are very similar, this area being particularly noted for its fortified wines such as Banyuls. Rather different from the rest are the sparkling wines produced in Limoux, near Carcassonne. "Blanquette de Limoux" is reputedly the oldest sparkling wine in France; and according to the story, it was a Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon, who introduced the Limoux method of producing good sparkling wine, to the monks in Champagne who were looking for ways to improve the quality of their rather nondescript dry white wines. Regarding Dom Pérignon, the myth is almost certainly untrue; but it is well documented that Limoux was already producing sparkling wines in the 1540s, half a century before the technique took hold in Champagne.
© 2015 Nick Cartwright