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A must-stop for many travelers, the picture-book hilltop town of Cordes-sur-Ciel appears to hover in midair when mists steal up from the Cérou Valley below, hence the name—sur-ciel means "in the sky/heaven." It was established in 1222 by Count Raymond VII of Toulouse as a redoubt after the Occitan wars waged against the region's Cathars; and its conical hill is riddled with caves that served as
granaries during times of siege. Today you may find Cordes-sur-Ciel besieged by summertime tourists, who come to admire well-preserved buildings (like the 14th-century St. Michel church) and to peruse plentiful shops and markets. The town is particularly busy during the annual Fêtes Médiévales du Grand Fauconnier (www.grandfauconnier.com) in mid-July—a three-day blowout, replete with an artisanal fair and costumed Bal Médiéval.
Toulouse-Lautrec's native Albi is a busy, beautifully preserved provincial market town. In its heyday Albi was a major center for the Cathars...
Béziers—centerpiece of the Canal du Midi and the Languedoc's capital du vin (crowds flock in for tastings during the October wine harvest...