Cathar Country in Southern France.

Dec 19th, 2009, 09:47 PM
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Cathar Country in Southern France.

I'm planning a trip that will take in at least 2 weeks around the region of the Cathar castles in Southern France. Possibly we will need 2 or 3 bases to cover it. Carcassone seems an obvious contender as one base, but we fancied at least one of the others being in a more coastal location. Are there any fodorites out there who could give an opinion on an interesting and pleasant place to stay in that region? Some we are thinking of are Montpelier. Sete, Beziers (not exactly coastal), Narbonne, and Perpignan. Thanks
twoflower is offline  
Dec 19th, 2009, 11:20 PM
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Narbonne and area would be an excellent choice, then Perpignan and Beziers.
Sete and Montpelllier are not really in Cathar country.
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 05:06 AM
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I agree with GY, Carcassone is worth a day and a night.

Narbonne is a nice town with a pleasant beach, Narbonne Plage.

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Enjoy your visit.
ira is online now  
Dec 20th, 2009, 10:31 AM
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I would definitely visit Carcassonne, but never stay there. It's not really Cathar country anyway. Neither is Montpellier, though it's a lively, sunny university town that is enjoyable to visit. You need to be farther west, as in Narbonne or nearby. I would also make sure to visit Collioure while in the area.
StCirq is online now  
Dec 20th, 2009, 01:03 PM
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I don't think I'd want to stay in Carcassonne either, however, I just passed through the city so it might be okay as a base and I don't really know. It seemed fairly large, depends what you want. It doees have a bus system for getting around, so that could be convenient. I don't know why St Cirq says it isn't Cathar country, as it's a fairly central Aude departement city and that is strongly Cathar country. Narbonne is in Aude, also, not that far to the east of Carcassonne. There are some Cathar castles on the Aude running south of Carcassonne, as you know, and them some good ones a bit farther east.

I guess Narbonne would have that area covered, sort of, but there is also Perpignan. I don't really know a good place to base other than Carcassonne internally. Maybe Limoux? Or Termes? Actually, I think Carcassonne and Perpignan would be the two places where you'd get a lot of Cathar country in between the two. Some info on Limoux

I just read a book about a small town in this area that is a fairly wellknown history of a village in that area in the 14th century, which was fascinating. It's by a French author, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie about Montaillou. It could only be done because the priest who was in charge of the inquisition there (against Catharism) wrote extensively and the documents were kept -- he later because a Pope (Jacques Fournier). This is translated into English as Montaillou, The Promised Land of Error if you are interested. ANyway, Montaillou was the last village that was a strong Cathar holdout and is a bit SW of Carcassonne. If you are really interested in Cathar history, you might pick it up. In fact, the center of that last inquisition against Cathars was in Carcassonne and Pamiers. In this book, they have maps of the Cathar population and it appears the villages with the most were Montaillou and Cubieres (which is about 20 mi SE of Carcassonne),at least around 1250-1300. So perhaps Carcassonne itself was not strongly Cathar (not by 1300 anyway) as it was the center of the inquisition and the DOminican court, but it's certainly in Cathar areas and would be a reasonable location to see Cathar castles.

I really liked Narbonne very much, so thumbs up on that one as a nice place -- I really liked Montpellier, also, but as others said, that isn't very convenient for Cathar country. Well, after all, this is just a base, so for the non-beach one, I guess Carcassonne or Limoux if you want a smaller village. Limoux is about 10,000 and Carcassonne about 50,000.
Christina is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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twoflower - I'm not sure how many are in your group, your age or your financial situation - but within the walls of Carcassonne there is one of the top ranked hostels in Europe. We stayed there with a group of 40 in March, 2008 and were very pleased. There are enough sites (fortifications, churches etc.) to view in the daytime to keep you busy for the day. The location gave us the opportunity to explore the castle at night when all the tourists had left. We wandered the parapets, pretended we were Robin Hood and his merry men etc. There are lots of nice hotels in the city of Carcassonne (about 2 km walk away) if that is what interests you.
teacherCanada is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 07:00 PM
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Notwithstanding the declared up front promo, the websites for GregY2's two properties are well worth a look IMO for their clarity and useful info and might serve as models for others.
farrermog is offline  
Dec 20th, 2009, 09:57 PM
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We rented a house near Narbonne and loved the area. We also spent a couple of days in Perpignan and thought it was a fascinating and attractive town, distinctly Catalan.
Gardyloo is online now  
Dec 21st, 2009, 02:21 AM
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Well thank you farrermog, I put quite a bit of thought into the websites so it is nice read positive comments. I've tried to make the sites easy to navigate and have them answer the sort of questions that my wife & I have when we look for accommodation. It often surprises us how hard it can be to get basic information from some sites. Greg
GregY2 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 05:14 AM
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Stayed in a small inn in Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet (Le Chatelet - it's a 'Logis' listed hotel, if memory serves) and from there hiked up to the castle ruins at Peyrepetuse. Saint Paul is very small, you wouldn't want to stay there very long - but it's very handy to the Gorges de Galamus - you could drive through the gorges en route to or from Carcassonne (about 90 minutes to 2 hours away, if memory serves). Enjoy your trip.
Sue_xx_yy is online now  
Dec 21st, 2009, 07:11 AM
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We based ourselves near Rivesalts to visit the Cathar strongholds. Montailou has nice mountain views but not else going for this tiny village. We like the Corbierres and the drive along the Canal du Midi and that Aude area has some of the prettiest scenery in Languedoc, interesting villages. Alot of the shops sell images of flying witches. I'm sorry I didn't buy one. We found the wines very palatable, our favorites from Corbieres and Minervois. Be sure to taste the Cassoulets. I also recommend Ladurie's book
cigalechanta is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Stu Dudley had a pretty nice write-up on the area that he'd probably share with you if you can get a hold of him.

We enjoyed a short stay in the charming town of Pezenas, not far from some of the 'Cathar Country' sites. Here is the Languedoc page of our trip report...

We stayed at the very homey Hotel de Vigniamont, which we enjoyed quite a bit:
mr_go is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 11:05 AM
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I just e-mailed your website link to my wife at work. I want to book your place now! What kind of flight connections into the region? Connections from the US via London? A whole new region we really knew nothing about and it looks fascinating. Hope to speak with you very soon!
Otzi is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 11:46 AM
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Otzi, I'm assuming you are talking to me, can you confirm please? If you'd like to talk about a booking, you'd be best to email me directly on [email protected]
There are several airports that we have used to get to Claira - Perpignan, Toulouse, Montpellier, and Girona (in Spain). Greg
GregY2 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 02:02 PM
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Many thanks everyone for what looks like great information. I'm revisiting this thread briefly while I'm at work, and will delve deeper into all the suggested links when I get back home. We are a mature-aged couple, although if we go with the idea of an apartment (as in Clair - thanks for that suggestion) there are friends we could ask to join us. The trip is in embryo stage at the moment, but we hope to be looking at Autumn 2010. Narbonne to Perpignan and thereabouts seem to be the popular choices. I should say that Cathar castles is "a" theme, but there are other things we may want to do (drive over the Millau viaduct, for one!). Again thanks, I'll study all these ideas and suggested links and let you know.
twoflower is offline  
Dec 21st, 2009, 11:12 PM
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Hi GregY2 - as indicated, I revisited this when I got home from work, and your first response to my original posting seems to have disappeared. Puzzling! I had a quick look at your link to the Clair accommodation earlier, but had hoped to revisit it when I had more time at home. Any thoughts on what could have happened? Is it just my computer misbehaving?
twoflower is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2009, 12:10 AM
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Hi Twoflower, my response may have been classified by Fodors as advertising and deleted. While I did say that we rented our house, my principal puprose was to offer you information about a region I know well and I specifically referred you to the information page 'Region" so I think it is a bit extreme by Fodors if that was the case. It may have been a bit more logical to retain the opinions and recommendations and just delete the link if they were concerned about the promotion. Otherwise, I don't know why it's gone. Just email me on [email protected] if you'd like more information. Greg
GregY2 is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2010, 04:57 PM
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Do drive over the Viaduct du Millau--worth the diversion no matter where you go.
I love Carcassonne esp. the Canal du Midi--but I confess I am most often there for shopping when I'm vacationing in the Aude & Ariege. 16km from Carcassonne is Caunes Minervois--lots of UK visitors and 2nd home owners, Rick Steves has taken groups here for overnight accommidations because it's close, and yet far enough to enjoy the surrounding countryside (and yes, it's Cathar also, and Minerve a short drive from Caunes is where one of the largest massacres occured. Great wines.
Myself, I stayed in Mirepoix my first (&2nd) trip and it was a fantasticly lucky choice. It's a great jumping off point for Montsegur (can't neglect that chateau no matter where else you go) and so many other places. Since Lonely Planet doesn't have a specific book for this area I'll recommend my favorite (at one point I had over a dozen guide books for the area) Rough Guide to Languedoc Roussillon--history, almost everything you need to know.
I started out renting a house and have continued to do so (in different locations) except when travelling from one area to another, then it's inexpensive hotels. If you read and speak French well enough, check out It's a national org. which oversees the rating and qualifications of individual property owners, and the prices are based on location, rating and time of year. Compared to a hotel, they can be such a bargain, and often reight in the center of town. Another option is to choose a town and do a search for 'nameoftown'+holiday let (the UK version of vacation rental). Also in French is With GdF you can often book on line (I love that) while other sites require separate financial arrangements.
I've visited Perpignan but it's a large city and I never quite enjoyed it.
Several things I wish I'd known before:
If you don't have a head for heights do not:
Ride the Petit Train Jaune
Drive through the Gorge de Galamus

I know this is a little late but I came late to this thread...hope you have a great time!
sfgirl42 is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2010, 06:58 PM
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tw0flower, or you the same poster I met a few years ago
on the lonely planet? I'm at hotmail
cigalechanta is offline  

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