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Non-hair-raising driving routes for Cathar country

Non-hair-raising driving routes for Cathar country

Old Apr 24th, 2011, 12:44 PM
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Non-hair-raising driving routes for Cathar country

I'm having some trouble figuring out the easiest drives for the area. My goal is to see Cathar sites like Peyrepetuse, Montsegur, Montaillou, etc., and I hear the roads can be challenging (blind bends, 1 lane, switchbacks). I've got 3 or 4 days total and will be based outside Carcassonne, and I'll have the car the whole time too, so feel free to suggest a daily itinerary (half-day or full-day, doesn't matter, though I probably would prefer 3 half-days unless I will have to backtrack to the same area again the next day)
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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 01:58 PM
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Hi Van,

You're going into the mountains; expect switchbacks, blind bends, single lane roads.

OTOH, You will be in a reasonably small car.

Drive carefully. Stay to the right. Honk going around tight curves. Don't take pictures while the car is moving.

Enjoy your visit.

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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 02:48 PM
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Use http://maps.google.com to plan some routes... then use the Streetview function to zoom in ... you'll be able to take a virtual drive along many of the roads.

Simply drag the little yellow stick person onto a blue highlighted road and there you go...

I have driven in this area and higher in the Pyrenees... I really didn't find any roads to be concerned about.
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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 03:00 PM
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Having visited most of the Cathar sites this past September, I really can't remember any hair-raising drives. The one exception might be the short drive through the Gorge de Galamus and even that can be avoided.

www.viamichelin.com has all the information you'll need regarding steep roads and curves as well as suggested routes, but I wouldn't worry too much.
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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 05:05 PM
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argh. I thought I answered this post! We have done these drives twice and they really are not hair-raising.

Peyrepertuse is one of the coolest of any destination we've ever done in France. Get the audio guide in English...it is kind of corny, but really will make you smile and the hike up to the top is well worth the effort.
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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 06:41 PM
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"Don't take pictures while the car is moving." (Y)

Paris - genius idea to streetview it! I'll have to try it out later to see if they've got the road to Peyrepetuse on it. So you didn't find that it was a problem, eh? That's good to know.

historytraveler and uh-oh, thanks for your recent experiences too!

I may be becoming a victim of too much reading of blogs and posters who have scared me off the roads to Peyrepetuse and Quillan. Kind of like reading shark attack stats before heading to Hawaii (yes, I've done that too)

While we're on the topic, one day I will drive up to Albi and wanted to continue to Cordes-sur-Ciel - wonder if anyone has done it recently (recall that StCirq didn't think it was much fun, but because of the parking or the drive?)
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Old Apr 24th, 2011, 07:44 PM
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The ride to Cordes-sure-Ciel is fine. My only issue with that town is driving up to the top during the day when there are lots of tourists walking on the one narrow cobblestone switchback lane that takes you up there. Keep in mind I am always driving a stick-shift and you have to be VERY comfortable doing that in those circumstances (it's constant give and take with the accelerator, clutch, and sometimes the handbrake). My only other gripe was the hotel we stayed at gave us a kindergartener's hand-drawn map of how to get to their parking lot and we ended up almost upending one of those pop-up metal entry barriers. Also, if you park in the town below and take the bus up to the top you have to deal with really odd parking ticket machines that needed info about the origin of your car (country, département, etc.), which threw us for a loop until a local person explained it to us. I would hope that system has been abandoned.

But driving in general in the region is easy - and I'm a late-50s woman who's usually driving in that part of the world alone or with another female friend.
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Old Apr 25th, 2011, 07:36 AM
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Hi StCirq, thanks for the details. Do you recommend parking at the bottom or the top then?
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Old Apr 25th, 2011, 08:31 AM
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The only reason to drive to the top is if you're staying in a hotel there. The public parking lots are all at the bottom as far as I know.
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Old Apr 25th, 2011, 08:45 AM
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If you've driven the Sea-to-Sky or the Fraser Canyon road
you're good to go on any of the routes in S. France.

In C-s-C we parked on the n. side half-way up the hill. It
was a free lot IIRC.
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Old Apr 25th, 2011, 05:39 PM
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Thanks Immimi, the sea-to-sky comparison works for me. Do you remember what exit you got off to park on the north side, or is it one exit and then you just drove around to the north face? (gotta love free parking!)

And do you think that doing a round trip from Carcassonne to Albi and Cordes is advisable, or better to stay overnight? Any other recommended stops along the way?
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Old Apr 25th, 2011, 07:28 PM
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IMHO, Carcassonne is best seen from the piege at 100K/hr.
Sorry, I can't remember the exit number we took. You won't
have a problem - it's a small hilltop village so only so
many exits leading to it.

I guess your route would depend on the direction you're
coming from, no?

The whole area is peppered with places for 'recommended
stops' and that's why is advisable to take a slow pace to
enjoy the towns/villages.
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Old Apr 26th, 2011, 07:29 AM
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Carcassonne is kind of Disney-esque, but for a first timer, it still is pretty cool. But once you seen it, you don't find yourself wanting to go back, while seeing Peyrepertuse after that -- and maybe Queribus as well -- Wow. Quillan is a nice sized town. Lots of caves for wine tasting. Actually, the little city we enjoyed most in the area was Perpignan. But the small towns in between are worth exploring. It might be fun to do an overnight in Cucugnan or Duilhac, which are in the middle of Minervoix wine region and you can see Perypertuse and/or Queribus from then. As immimi says, the whole place is peppered with places you may want to stop at. We spent 3 nights in the region the first time we visited, and then a whole month just last year.
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Old Apr 26th, 2011, 09:05 AM
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That's funny -- I loved Carcassonne and pegged it for a return; of course the last time I was there it was more than twenty years ago, so it may have changed.

I chose it for a base bec it seems equidistant to the Cathar regions south and then Albi etc north, and then also not far to Perpignan where I'll probably pick up the train south. I'm not interested in wine etc, so my focus is solely history, architecture and art.

I rather not move around every night to a new place, although I have previously considered Mirepoix (?) I'll check out Quillan.

Thanks to all for your continuing support!
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Old Apr 26th, 2011, 09:47 AM
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"the little city we enjoyed most in the area was Perpignan"
The "little city" of Perpignan has over 105,000 inhabitants and is the third largest Languedoc Roussillon city after Montpellier and Nîmes. Quillan has 3,500.
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