May 7

Castle Hunting Near Carcasonne (Languedoc-Roussillon Region of France)


The Languedoc-Roussillon area in France has been important for many years as a strategic military and trade center due to its relationship to the nearby Aude River. As a result, other small cities emerged nearby to take advantage of the location and resources in Carcasonne. While in the area, we visited a handful of towns to see what they had to offer, and we were not disappointed. The weather was beautiful and the locations on our mini-tour of the area were equally stunning.

Gentle reader, I have to be honest about a few things, too. While everyone wants to visit Paris and the Office du Tourisme et des Congrès de Paris is also thrilled about having people visit, the real charm of France is in the smaller towns. Just as New York does not truly represent America, Paris does not truly represent France or Europe… both are a sort of distilled liqueur of the culture and lifestyle. But if you want an unhurried meal, my friend, then leave the big cities behind and see so much more!

While I can’t really remember the order in which we visited these places, we wandered around some beautiful little towns in Le Pays Cathare (The Cathare Country) in the south of France: Roquefère, Minervois (actually, I think it was Villaneuve-Minervois, because there are about a dozen little towns with Minervois in their names in the region!), Cabrespine (“The Back of the Goat”), and Siran. Each of these towns was unique and different, and definitely a rustic example of what it means to live in rural France.

See what I mean?

This was at a tourist information center right next to a beautiful stream.

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There always seemed to be a castle lurking in the distance.

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This was in the castle of Roquefère, built in the 12th, 17th, and 19th centuries. It’s private property, but amazing to see from the outside!

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Anyone care to build a castle directly on top of a massive stone outcropping? Well, this is what gives Roquefère its name: Iron Rock is a direct translation.

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We walked along some curvy streets and ended up next to this river in a little sitting area that was in full bloom!

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This millstone is older than my country…

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Minervois is an interesting town, and its stone foundations in a valley, along with a river running beside the town, make this a unique place to build a fortress. Now, it’s a unique town that is quite interesting to enjoy.

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This cross is the symbol of the region and can be seen everywhere. Known as the Cathar Cross, Occitan Cross, and the cross of Languedoc, this cross is a rallying symbol from medieval times for the people of the region.

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The river flows through a natural bridge-cave and is an unusual feature of Minervois.

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Cabrespine, Cathar, Cathare, Le Pays Cathare, Minervois, Occitania, river, Roquefère, Siran, tourism, visit

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  1. Beautiful region! Did you eat any local cassoulet? I miss it!

    On a personal note: my wife Claire will be in Alicante tomorrow (Friday). She is sailing on Holland America from Rome to Amsterdam. I will be in Brussels from Monday to Saturday of next week. One day, you and I will run into each other in the EU!… Take care.

    1. Oh, Alain, that would be so much fun! No, no cassoulet, but I did get a chance to go to a restaurant that served amazing galettes. Since we were only there for a few nights, our ability to choose gastronomic options were limited. However, I would love to go back and find a restaurant that serves cassoulet the way it should be served… but vegetarian! That may be something of a challenge! 🙂

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