Tag Archive for: chalabre

Walking in the south of France

The Pig Walk from the door of our holiday cottage

The Pig Walk from the door of our holiday cottage

The Pig Walk is one of the first hikes we did from our holiday cottage in the south of France and remains one of my favourites. The path from the Voie Verte, the greenway, towards Lake Montbel is steep, however, all the hard work is done in the first hour, you can then enjoy lovely, open views across wildflower meadows to the near Pyrenees. The pigs live in the woods, you can smell and hear them before you see them. Today there were 4 or 5 weaners, happily snuffling around the forest floor, previously we have met huge sows with their newborn litters.

Explore Lake Montbel on the Pig Walk

Explore Lake Montbel on the Pig Walk

You can descend to the edge of Lake Montbel and spend another happy half day exploring its perimeter and taking a dip, or, take a left turn through an ancient, seldom trod forest to Chalabre for a well earned treat from the boulangerie or a cold beer. From Chalabre it’s an easy stroll home or take the steep hill – lovely views – via the tiny Chappelle du Calvaire.


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

Review of our holiday home in the south of France

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!”

Medieval Mirepoix, the best market in the region

Tour de France in Languedoc

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.

Tour de France, Chalabre, July 2012

Tour de France – official route

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.

Wildflowers southern France

Surrounded by wildflower meadows, our holiday rental in southern France, what a treat…

A few steps from the back door

A few steps from the back door

A joyous time of year for exploring the natural beauty of Languedoc and the Midi, nature in all her glory as the warm spring rushes towards the baking heat of summer.

Surrounded by wildflower meadows

Surrounded by wildflower meadows

From the back door of our holiday cottage, a short, steep climb along the GR7 is rewarded with striking views of the snow-capped Pyrenees. We take this path as often as we can, through woods and wildflower meadows, stupendous at this time of year, sounds of the cuckoo and woodpecker keeping us company. Returning along the Voie Verte, from Chalabre, a tiny red squirrel darted from under our feet and up the nearest tree. We have seen red squirrels before in this exact spot.

A few steps from our holiday rental

A few steps from our holiday rental

Cycling Languedoc

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.

Easy cycling in the foothills of the Pyrenees

Walking in the hills around Chalabre

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?

Walking the GR7

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.

Another hot November day

The work will never get done but is just too lovely to be indoors. Set off for the Col du Bac this morning, another walk from our back door into the hills. A steep climb from Chez Maison Bleue is soon rewarded with spectacular views of the valleys and mountains.

From the back door

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.

Well signed routes

Stumbled across this once fine maison, just waiting on some other mad English couple. 

I was beautiful once

 Macabre remains of a previous resident meant I didn’t linger.

Poor thing