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Languedoc -Minervois

Valerie

100+ Posts
Hi! We'll be traveling to France in July and looking for insights on cool things to do, places to visit, nice day trips. We were there once a few years back for just a few days, but my cousin was there to show us around. This time we'll be using her house but she won't be coming to be our tour guide. We'll be near Olonzac. We went to Carcassone and Narbonne, and had lunch in Minerve but it poured so we didn't really see anything of the town. Ideas welcome! :)
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Hi Valerie! This may be an hour's drive or a touch more, but I suggest driving south to see the cave paintings at Niaux. I have info and photos on Slow Europe - France, Niaux. On the way stop in Mirepoix (spelling corrected - thanks Roz), a beautiful little town.

There are only a few places in France where you see real 20,000 year old cave paintings and this one is very good. Others are Pech Merle in the Lot and Font de Gaume in the Dordogne. Book ahead, and book an English tour (if you need to). Bring a sweater! And good walking shoes.

A few months ago I would have recommended the mosaic floors at Loupian Roman Villa (photos and notes on Slow Europe), but after seeing that place in Sicily (too lazy to read my trip report to find the name), why bother seeing Roman mosaic floors scattered across the Roman Empire when the best ones ever are there in Sicily. Still, you might want to look.

You are in Via Domitia-land! The oldest Roman road in Gaul that ran from Italy to Spain. Loupian Villa is near it. There is a piece of the road in the center of Narbonne. And a nice little bridge at St Thibery (photos and notes on Slow Europe).

Maybe others will have suggestions that are not just Roman Empire and prehistoric :)
 
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Roz

500+ Posts
Valerie, I agree with visiting Mirepoix, a lovely town. You are also not far from Lagrasse, one of the Plus Beaux Villages of France.

Are you familiar with the history of the Cathars? I didn't know about them before we first went to the Languedoc several years ago, and it's a fascinating although rather sad episode from the Middle Ages. You are more or less in Cathar country there, and there are a lot of ruined castles in the area. Peyreperteuse is very dramatic, but it may be a little farther than you want to drive (I think it would be about 1.5 hours). Here's a website about the Cathar castles, and here is a page from a trip report I wrote on Slow Trav about visiting the area, when we stayed south of Carcassonne.

We also have stayed in Marseillan on the Languedoc coast. I think that would be about an hour away from where you're staying. We were there in late October, after all the beachgoers had gone. I imagine it would be very different in summer, probably packed with crowds. If you like oysters, that is prime oyster country.

Here is a photo album from that trip. You might find some interesting destinations among those photos. For example, the Abbey of Valmagne is a beautiful place, now desanctified and a winery. They store wine barrels in the arches in the church. I also enjoyed our visit to the Fontfroide Abbey.

The Noilly Prat vermouth factory in Marseillan was a very interesting tour.
 

Dana

100+ Posts
We just came back from a few days visiting friends very near Olonzac. We went back to the Grotto de Niaux (it's around 2 hours from Olonzac) with its mysterious symbols and lovely black drawings in the Salle Noire (book ahead for the excellent daily English tour at 1.30—you should do it asap as it's in demand). We also visited the Hypocras distillery in nearby Tarascon-sur-Ariège then stopped at pretty Mirepoix for dinner at Les Remparts, which was excellent (local all women 'cuisine de femme').

Agree with Roz about the Fontfroide and Valmagne abbeys, Noilly Prat and the Cathar castles, and can also recommend Caune-Minervois with its pink marble quarries, church and two remarkable massive plane trees planted during the French Revolution. Our Languedoc-Roussillon book is only a little bit out of date if you need a guide...;)

DSC_0755.jpg
 

Valerie

100+ Posts
Thanks, great suggestions! So the Grotto is definitely on the list! And love the sound of the Abbey Valmagne winery. I ordered the Rough Guide book to the Languedoc but am not really too impressed with it, so will probably be ordering your book, too, Dana! We definitely want at least one sea day. I'm sure my cousin will have a list of suggestions as the trip draws near, but want to see what strikes our fancy. There are several hikes we want to do in the gorges around that area.

Roz, yes I got a primer on the Cathars when we were there last time. Fascinating, and I did note a few dramatic Cathar sites that I'm interested in seeing. I'm also thinking that renting a boat for a few hours on the Canal du Midi sounds like fun, too!

Grazie tutti. If you have restaurant ideas, throw them my way!
 

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