Archive for category: Days out

Cycling to Mirepoix

On a glorious April morning in southern France, we cycled to Mirepoix market through lush green landscapes unable to contain the Languedoc Springtime any longer. The cycling is easy for anyone of reasonable fitness, about an hour and a half along the mainly flat Voie Verte – greenway. Still plenty of snow on the higher Pyrenees, our guests took the cable car in Ax Les Thermes and had lunch on the mountain.

Snow topped French Pyrenees on a glorious April morning

Snow topped French Pyrenees on a glorious April morning

Beautiful, ancient towns & villages are on the doorstep of our bed and breakfast and holiday cottage in southern France, the Abbaye and ramparts of medieval Camon:

Medieval Camon hosts the Fete des Roses in May

Medieval Camon hosts the Fete des Roses in May

And broody Chateau de Lagarde looks down with disdain in its ruinous state, there are fireworks in summer and Repas Gourmands in the evenings celebrating local produce:

Broody Chateau de Lagarde

Broody Chateau de Lagarde

Then onto Mirepoix for the best farmer’s market in the region. Lunch in one of the many pavement cafes is a treat – and a must for sustaining the return journey.

Mirepoix market, a cycle ride on a glorious Spring morning

Mirepoix market, a cycle ride on a glorious Spring morning

 

Wild Swimming in southern France

If you feel like something more adventurous than a chlorine soaked pool next summer, then “wild” swimming close to our holiday home in southern France may appeal.

Wild and beautiful Lac Montbel

Wild and beautiful Lac Montbel

Lac Montbel (5kms) is a huge expanse of shimmering, emerald green waters, busy only in July and August, even then it’s possible to find secret places along its shores off the [beaten] track.

Lac Montbel, lots of wild, secret places for a private dip

Lac Montbel, lots of wild, secret places for a private dip

We have walked the perimeter (16kms) in just a few hours. There are a couple of cafes and picnic areas, however, better to find a bit of sandy shore all to yourself for a lunch (or supper?) of local bread, cheese and wine purchased that morning at Mirepoix market.

Puivert Chateau, listen to jazz by the lake in summer

Puivert Chateau, listen to jazz by the lake in summer

Lac Puivert is 11kms from our holiday home and is much smaller, the medieval Cathar chateau provides a magnificent backdrop. A gently sloping shore and calm waters make for safe swimming. Early or late in the day outside July and August you may have it to yourself. Night markets each Wednesday in summer sell food that you can enjoy on the trestle tables set out by the lake, or bring food for a barbeque. The Fete du Lac in July ends with spectacular fireworks, exploding across the lake.

Carcassonne Plage, combine with a visit to La Cité

Carcassonne Plage, combine with a visit to La Cité

Carcassone Plage is a bit further, perfect when combined with a day out to the medieval Cité. Only a few minutes from Carcassonne, the lake, its sandy beaches and palm trees are a great alternative to the coast. There is an adventure park in the forest, bits of rope were hanging scarily across the lake and lots of things seemed to be going on very high up (age 4+, March – October).

At the foot of wooded slopes, spend all day

At the foot of wooded slopes, spend all day

The mighty Hers flows past the village. 3kms drive or cycle along the road brings you to a rough track through the woods leading to a great spot by the river. A tiny pebble beach, shady meadows, a deep pool for a decent swim, and flat rocks where the kids love to scramble to catch those pesky crayfish, a perfect summer’s day.

 

Cathar Chateau de Peyrepertuse

Chateau de Peyrepertuse in the heart of Pays Cathare, Cathar country

Chateau de Peyrepertuse in the heart of Pays Cathare

In the wilds of the Corbière hills, on a limestone ridge 800m high, magnificent Peyrepertuse is the impregnable medieval fortress where 1000 years ago fleeing Cathars sought shelter from persecution by the Catholic church. Accessible to all with reasonable mobility, sturdy shoes and 6 euros, you can drive much of the way then take the shady, uneven path to the ramparts. The Mediterranean shimmers on the horizon and there are good views of neighbouring Queribus chateau.

Peyrepertuse, magnificent Cathar castle

Peyrepertuse, magnificent Cathar castle

Calm in the valley among the vines, there was a strong, warm wind blowing around the ramparts – don’t visit if the wind is strong in the valley. About an hour from our holiday home in southern France, take a diversion through the dramatic Gorges de Galamus and visit l’Ermitage, the hermit’s house, and Le Grotte de St Antoine (a mini Lourdes) on the way.

L'Ermitage, more accessible than it appears

L’Ermitage, more accessible than it appears

Medieval Camon

Camon, a Plus Beaux Villages de France, 5km from our holiday home in southern France, hosts the Fête des Roses each May (18th 2014). A spectacular display of colour and scent, the result many years ago of a gift from the Municipality to each householder of a climbing rose. The Abbaye dominates; spend a delightful morning exploring its ramparts, the church, and the narrow streets of the ancient village.

Fete des Roses, Camon, a Plus Beaux Villages de France, 5km from our holiday home

Fete des Roses, Camon, a Plus Beaux Villages de France, 5km from our holiday home

Medieval Camon, 5km from our holiday home in southern France

Medieval Camon, 5km from our holiday home in southern France

Whether self catering in our holiday cottage or a guest at our bed and breakfast, the restaurant at the Abbaye, Camon is a holiday treat.

 

Walk around Chalabre

House on the river, Chalabre

House on the river, Chalabre

Chalabre is the nearest town to our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast, an easy 3km ramble or cycle ride along the “Voie Vert”, the old railway line that is great for gentle exploration of the Aude and Ariege. Beautiful tree-lined avenues, medieval streets of huge, ancient houses and the confluence of 3 rivers make for a very satisfying afternoon’s exploration. And of course, the ubiquitous boulanger and pavement bars, all you need for a holiday in France.

Medieval town centre, Chalabre

Medieval town centre, Chalabre

Potter’s Fair, Mirepoix

The Potter’s Fair takes place each August among the medieval “couverts” of Mirepoix in the south of France. Mirepoix is 14kms from Chez Maison Bleue, our holiday home in Languedoc, a few minutes drive or around 1.5hrs cycle through lush landscapes – fields of sunflowers this time of year. The Fair is a colourful day out and offers some beautiful pieces, very reasonably priced, there are past purchases dotted all around the holiday cottage and B&B. We were there in the lunch hours so the stalls were deserted, the cafes and bars packed – the French philosophy of life is conducive to wellbeing.

Potter’s Fair, Mirepoix

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“Wild” swimming in Puivert lake

Château de Puivert provides a stunning backdrop to a day out at the lake, 8km from our holiday cottage and B&B in the south of France; borrow our mountain bikes or an easy drive along quiet roads. On a Saturday afternoon where the temperature tipped 31 degrees it was a popular spot for the kids having tremendous fun diving from the jetty. Go early to have the lake to yourself before returning to Chez Maison Bleue for a leisurely breakfast on the terrace. Puivert Château built in the 12th century is one of the Cathar castles, the open countryside more hospitable than the wild crags of many of the Cathar sites. The very lovely, typically French town, houses a small museum and of course in these parts, the ubiquitous medieval church.

Puivert Chateau, a most magnificent backdrop for swimming in the lake

 

 

 

Trip to Narbonne from Sonnac sur l’Hers

A birthday treat, 2 days away from the restoration of our B&B to the beautiful, Romanesque city of Narbonne and the Mediterranean beaches, only 1.5 hours from Sonnac sur l’Hers. The Archbishop’s Palace and Cathedral St Just dominate the landscape for miles around, the recently discovered Roman road, the Via Domitia visible in the square, built 117BC – bet they wish they could get the M6 to last as long. We found an exquisite French restaurant for dinner, I really liked the mismatched furniture; so much so that I might steal this idea for our dining room at Chez Maison Bleue. We had Narbonne Plage to ourselves, this is our nearest Mediterranean beach and means you can be swimming in the sea by mid morning, though no doubt will be a bit busier in August.

Narbonne Plage, only 1.5hrs from Sonnac sur l’Hers