Destinations Europe France

Languedoc-Roussillon: Blast from the Past

Cité de Carcassonne

Languedoc-Roussillon is the southernmost region of France. Part 5 in my blast from the past series is my trip to this region in September 2012. For two weeks I stayed in Languedoc-Roussillon region in the small village of Paraza. A village which has a population of only 586! The village itself sits on the Canal du Midi – a 17th century canal which took 14 years to construct linking the Atlantic with the Mediterranean.

House in Paraza

The house that I stayed in was the village pub in the 1920s apparently. The house even had a balcony overlooking the Canal itself where you could watch boats passing by very slowly (There is a speed limit of 5mph on the canal).

House in Paraza village in Languedoc-Roussillon

House in Paraza village in Languedoc-Roussillon

 

Balcony view - a few beers where consumed here

Balcony view – a few beers where consumed here

 

Arena de Nimes

The Arena de Nimes is a Roman amphitheatre, built around 70 AD and located in the city of Nimes (which is where the word denim comes from). The arena has a current capacity of 24,000 people and has even hosted concerts by Dire Straits, Rammstein, Metallica and Depeche Mode. It is the best preserved amphitheatre in the world and is definitely worth a visit to Nimes to see!

 

Arènes de Nîmes

Arènes de Nîmes

 

Arènes de Nîmes

Arènes de Nîmes

 

Outside the arena

Outside the arena

 

Carcassone

The medieval Cité de Carcassonne is a citadel lying south east of Carcassone city. It was founded in approximately 270 AD and features two 3km long walls incorporating 52 towers. The fortifications have been renovated many times but when the province of Langeudoc-Roussillon became a part of France, they were abandoned. In 1849, the fortifications were to be demolished but local protests reversed this decision and they were to be restored instead. The restoration work was led by the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, whose work was criticised for not being true to the original citadel. I think he took artistic licence a little too far and made some things up based on what he would have liked it to look.

 

Cité de Carcassonne

Cité de Carcassonne

 

On top of the castle walls

On top of the castle walls

 

Walking around the exterior wall

Walking around the exterior wall

 

Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is 240km long with 86 locks, some of which require flooding due to different water levels on different sides. You can take a boat trip along the canal from many of the towns and villages nearby and many of the locks feature popup market stalls selling local goods and produce.

 

Canal du Midi boat trip

Canal du Midi boat trip

 

Narrow bridges on the canal

Narrow bridges on the canal

 

Occitan cross on boat

Occitan cross on boat

 

Market stall at one of the locks

Market stall at one of the locks

 

Cathar Castles

The Cathars were people who followed Catharism, principally in areas in Northern Italy and Southern France in the 12th to the 14th centuries. To say that they were persecuted by the Catholic Church would be an understatement! The 20 year long Cathar Crusade was started by Pope Innocent III to remove Cathars from the Languedoc area. In July 1209, the city of Beziers was sieged and all Catholics were asked to leave and the Cathars surrender. Both refused and the entire population, including several thousand refugees, were massacred. The city was also burned to the ground.

The Languedoc area has many ruins of castles, two of the most famous being the Château de Quéribus and Peyrepertuse (pierced stone). These form part of the “Five sons of Carcassone”, castles which were strategically built to protect the French border against the Spanish.

Quéribus is high and isolated. It stands on top of the highest peak for miles around. In 1951 restoration work on the turret began, and between 1998-2002 a complete restoration of the castle was undertaken: the castle is now accessible to visitors.

Peyrepertuse has 100,000 visitors a year and is over 800m above the surrounding vineyards and the village of Duilhac. You get to the ruins via a zigzag mountainous road and then walking for about 20 minutes to the main entrance. I wouldn’t call the ruins dangerous but you certainly need to take care and pay attention especially when it is windy as some sections are fully exposed to the elements with a 50 metre sheer drop.

 

Château de Peyrepertuse

Château de Peyrepertuse

 

Château de Peyrepertuse

Château de Peyrepertuse

 

The ruins from a distance

The ruins from a distance

 

Château de Quéribus

Château de Quéribus

 

 

Approaching the castle remains

Approaching the castle remains

 

Château de Quéribus from a distance

Château de Quéribus from a distance

 

The highlight of this trip for me was definitely the castles, even if i was the designated driver for the day! There is something about old ruins that I love. These castles, while popular, are no where near as touristic as places like Carcassonne. I had a fantastic time. Yet it’s hard to believe this was 5 years ago (it feels a lot more recent)! Perhaps a return to the region is needed?

 

Languedoc-Roussillon Further Reading:

Chateau de Queribus

Chateau de Peyrepertuse

Arena de Nimes

Great Languedoc tourism site with lots of information on villages, beaches etc..

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    BonBon
    December 30, 2017 at 16:07

    Charming little towns are always so appealing. Thaks for sharing… book marking this piece.

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      January 2, 2018 at 19:05

      You are welcome and thank you

  • Reply
    Samantha
    December 28, 2017 at 02:39

    These castles look pretty majestic! You definitely need a repeat (especially if it’s been 5 years!). Perhaps you’ll see it from a different perspective next time?

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:21

      You could be right, maybe next year perhaps…?

  • Reply
    Amy
    December 27, 2017 at 19:46

    I love the canals. There’s so much appeal to seeing the country side that way. Thanks for a glimpse into a ton if never heard of!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:21

      You’re welcome Amy. Thanks for coming by.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    December 27, 2017 at 15:19

    This looks like such a charming village! I haven’t spent much time in France (outside of Paris) but the French countryside has certainly got an appeal all of its own 🙂 I’d love to see the Cathar castles – it’s so tragic what happened to them, but at least we still have a little bit left of them.

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:20

      It was a great village. Only one shop in the entire place. I think the French countryside and areas like this are what France is really all about.

  • Reply
    Jack
    December 26, 2017 at 17:05

    Been there a few years ago, such a lovely region with a lot of historical charm and a lot less affluent than the Côte d’Azur, thanks for sharing!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:19

      Thanks Jack. I agree with you completely here!

  • Reply
    Nic
    December 26, 2017 at 14:36

    Such a charming and historic place. I had heard of the Nimes arena before only because Metallica played there a few years back and make a dvd!! But I had no idea there was so much other amazing stuff around that region!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:18

      Haha yeah I have also heard Rammstein played there as well. Personally I think this is the best region in France!

  • Reply
    Erica
    December 24, 2017 at 10:42

    What a lovely village! I don’t know much about the Cathars, but you’ve definitely peaked my curiosity to do a little weekend Wikipedia. And that arena looks incredible, I’d love to see a show there!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:17

      Check out the arenas website, there are a surprising number of events and concerts there

  • Reply
    Julien
    December 23, 2017 at 17:09

    It’s always nice to read about my own country on other blogs! I am glad you had a good time there, you are so lucky to have visited the Cathare castles, I have been to Nîmes and Carcassonne but didn’t make it to the castles. I should get a train ticket to there someday!

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:16

      Thanks Julien, it was a great trip. And yes you should!

  • Reply
    Dominic
    December 23, 2017 at 16:27

    Aside from the standard big cities and souther coast, I have yet to explore a lot of France. The Languedoc-Roussillon region looks like a nice place to include on a road trip through France.

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:13

      I think it is a great region and you explore busy places as well as quieter places as well

  • Reply
    Marya
    December 23, 2017 at 15:42

    magnificent pictures you’ve got there.. and i was amazed when you mentioned about how the village you stayed in only has 500++ situation. coming from a big, crowded city in indonesia, it sounds surreal for me. 😛

    i am particularly interested to visit the amphitheatre in nimes. i’ve never been to colloseum or europe in particular, but i’ve been to the one in efes, turkey. from what i see i your picture, this one in nimes looks less touristy so probably it’s worth to visit. 😉

    • Damien
      Reply
      Damien
      December 29, 2017 at 17:15

      Thank you very much! Yes I can imagine that it would be. I think I prefer quieter, more peaceful and calm places in general actually. If you like Roman things then there are quite a few things to see in the area with a lot less tourists than in Rome.

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