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.
Tag Archive for: chalabre
Tammie was our guest in our 18th century holiday cottage in Languedoc during October / November …“I booked 3 weeks in the gite near Chalabre and stayed another week. This has been a true home away from home (but with maid service!). Nick & Carolyn are so gracious, friendly yet respectful of your space. Interesting and informative too about the area and where to go. I love this area, an excellent base for exploring Cathar country. I shall return. The bathtub rocks too!”
A busy, exciting month in Languedoc when the Tour de France passed through Chalabre, only 3km from our B&B and holiday cottage in the south of France. This meant we and our guests from Wisconsin could avoid the traffic congestion and simply walk to take up our positions by the roadside. We offer cyclist friendly accommodation and so often welcome those who wish to sample the cycling terrain of Languedoc for themselves, including a family from Thunder Bay, Ontario who according to comments in our guest book, “…had a wonderful time, Everything has been beyond anything we could imagine. The gite was beautifully renovated, everything was perfect, beds, breakfast, wine, herbs, champagne, scooter, toys and books for the girls, it was just lovely.” And from Brooke, aged 8, “..I love the Bedrooms! The Scooter and Love the Restaurant next door!! Oh and the crossaint!!” How lovely, though please be assured we did give her more than 1 crossaint during her holidays.
The stages of the Tour de France 2012 have been published. Stage 14, the high mountain stage Limoux to Foix passes even closer to our holiday cottage and B&B in Sonnac sur l’Hers than previously thought – through Chalabre, only 3km from Chez Maison Bleue. So a walk or a cycle ride for us to be part of this tremendous sporting spectacle as it passes through the foothills of the Pyrenees.
The hills around Sonnac sur l’Hers in the south of France offer a myriad of opportunities for all levels of fitness, after 6 years we are still discovering new routes. From the back door of our holiday cottage, a steep but short climb up the GR7 is rewarded with striking views of the Pyrenees in all their splendour. We walk this route regularly but this morning, instead of turning towards Chalabre, we walked further into the hills to Col de Bac, through forests and meadows of wild flowers, the cuckoo and the woodpecker keeping us company. Returning along the old railway track, a tiny red squirrel darted out from under our feet and up the nearest tree. We have seen red squirrels before in this exact spot, what a treat. April – June are lovely months to visit Languedoc, nature in all her glory as the warm spring rushes towards the baking heat of summer.
A network of tracks and quiet roads lead from Sonnac sur l’Hers. Today, in glorious sunshine, we set off at 4pm to cycle to Chalabre, our nearest town, in time for the boulangerie to open for its tea-time shift. However, Chalabre is only 3km, not nearly far enough on such a beautiful early March afternoon, when the sun is skimming the hillside turning everything a pink hue. We continued as far as Rivel, another astonishingly beautiful bastide village, so typical of our region of Languedoc. Returning on the road, the plateau is open and wild, tamed by the warm wind tangling your hair. The mighty Pyrenees keeping vigil, the buzzards circling on the warm thermals, another landscape, another world.
Winter has arrived in our part of the south of France at last, we were having lunch on the square a week ago. Snow chains needed to reach Monts d’Olmes, our nearest ski station which is good news for the Pyrenees ski resorts of course. We braved the snow drifts in the hills around Sonnac sur l’Hers and set off for the boulangerie in Chalabre, the requirement for du pain being of greatest importance. Nick thinks these footprints belong to a hare, they are quite huge and reflect the habit hares have of placing their 2 front feet almost together and bringing their back legs to the fore – unless anyone can tell me differently?
Our usual walk out the back door onto the GR7 and into the hills surrounding Sonnac sur l’Hers. Definitely not the heat of summer but far too hot with jumper and coat. Took the lower route into Chalabre rather than the higher path via Chappelle de Calvaire. Bakers closed – well it was Wednesday. A treat on the way back when two red squirrels launched themselves from the trees onto the track in front of us. I am from Cumbria, one of the last English regions where the reds survive, so very happy to see them here too. Unsure of their fate in the rest of France. Does anyone know?
The foothills of the Pyrenees are rich in nature; birds of prey are a common site, usually in the newly ploughed fields this time of year rather than soaring in the warm air thermals of summer. Nick was once attacked by a buzzard, walking in the higher peaks of the Ariege; he sees menace whilst I see only majesty.
The river was high, no fish spotted. There must be boar in the forests as the hunt still meets every Saturday in Sonnac sur l’Hers and lots of gunshot; is wise to stick to the path on these days. Until I was used to seeing the men gather for the hunt I felt just a bit intimidated by the sight of them in camouflage, huge guns slung across shoulders, dogs snapping at heels. However, everyone is extremely polite - and of course you would expect nothing less in rural France.
It is often very warm during the afternoons, even this time of year. Today I chased the sun around the square, ending up on the steps of the ancient church beside the gite, before it slipped behind the hills. Not a bad place to read your Wilbur Smith novel on a January afternoon, but brace yourself every hour and half hour when the church bells ring out.
It took me around 4hrs to the Col and back, returning via Chalabre. The GR7 signs (red and white stripes) make for easy navigation. Roam as far as you wish among the hills surrounding Sonnac Sur L’Hers; if you like to wander where not many others do, then this region is the one for you.
Stumbled across this once fine maison, just waiting on some other mad English couple.
Macabre remains of a previous resident meant I didn’t linger.
The purest blue cornflowers, dancing in the gently evening breeze of the Aude, and dozens of co-ordinating, miniscule butterflies on the wing. A palette of red poppies, purple orchids (not sure how rare they might be) and yellow cowslips. A steep but short climb from the house is rewarded with sweeping views of the valley and the not too distant, mighty Pyrenees.
Perched on a hill above Chalabre, the Chappelle de Calvaire or the Church of the Calvery is visible, about half an hour from this spot, or a steep walk from Chalabre marked by ancient stations of the cross. We often take this walk into Chalabre and stop for lunch or at least a fancy cake from the boulangerie, you’ve earned it. An easier, flat walk back to the house along the cycle track gathering figs, blackberries and apples as you go, depending on the season.