Archive for month: October, 2013

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