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During Your Stay

The Cafe de la Poste

Wander a half block to the main promenade where colourful locals, expats and tourists gather for a morning cafe and a croissant (from the boulangerie across the street)or an afternoon glass of wine or pastis and discuss the events of the day.

Biking

The biking throughout the Minervois Valley is top notch.The motorists are respectful, the country roads joining the towns and villages are paved and smooth and the countryside is breathtaking, the hills provide challenges and the flats provide smiles when the wind is at your back.

“Mellow Velos Paraza” will drop off quality bikes to your door if you don’t bring your own. Call 33 4 68 43 38 21 for information and prices.

Market day in Olonzac

The market starts at 7:30 and goes to around noon every Tuesday.it is best to go early to avoid the crowds and to get the best selection of fresh, local vegetables and fruit, cheeses, spices, olives, flowers, and most things from the earth. There are also several specialty vendors that make take-home meals like paella and roasted chicken.

Cathar Country

You are in the heart of Cathar country.Cathars were the most successful heretics of the middle ages, believing themselves to be the heirs of the true Christian heritage and completely rejecting the Catholic Church.

the Catholic Church alarmed by the support the Cathars received from the nobility in Languedoc and popularity amongst the peasants and artisans, founded the Inquisition and launched the Albigensian Crusade which succeeded in exterminating virtually all traces of Catharism and was the first European act of genocide.

There are many Cathar fortresses in the area, one of my favourite being Minerve,which is surrounded by two deep gorges, and is certainly worth a bike ride or a trip by car of 12 kilometres.

Hiking Trails

Spend a day hiking through the hills and garrigue (scrubland and woodlands).There is so much flora and fauna to discover by way of marked hiking trails or just head out on your own.Smell the thyme, sage, rosemary, pick some chestnuts or taste a cluster of grapes on the vine.You might even spot a wild boar and the little piglets.(very unlikely, only seen a few from a distance), but the bird population is many and diverse.

Neighbouring Wineries

The plethora of small ma and pa wineries that exist in the area are staggering.What I am referring to are small boutique wineries where the husband and wife and kids run the operation, give their life to the grape and are involved in all aspects of growing, cultivating, pruning, harvesting, wine making, bottling, labeling, marketing and distributing.

Some of the people I have been fortunate enough to meet and have a relationship with are Isabelle from Sainte Eulalie above La Liviniere,Guy at La Combe Blanche in La Liviniere and Patricia at Clos Centeilles.I highly recommend a visit to Clos Centeiiles ,above the town of Siran,just follow the little road that winds up the hill for 2,5 kilometres, past the medieval “Church of our Lady of Centeilles”to meet a welcoming Patricia and her whiskered black lab.

if you find a wine that you have fallen in love with and can’t live without please let me know and I might be able to bring it home to Calgary for you.

Collioure

If you want to go to the sea but not go for the beach,I suggest the charming village of Collioure.The journey takes about an hour and a half and is part of the fun as the winding coastal roads high above the sea provide breathtaking views. Once you arrive there is much to see -the old fortress, the Chateau Royal de Coullioure and the church, the Notre Dane des Anges.I enjoyed getting lost amongst the narrow streets of Moré and be sure to visit the many galleries displaying Fauvist art.The Fauves(“wild beasts”)valued individual expression, above all the emotional response to nature.Painters included Henri Matisse,Andre Derain and George Braque who hung out in this picturesque village in the early 1900’s,

The beaches are rocky not sandy so maybe just go to one of the restaurants on the beach, stare out at the Chateau Royale and enjoy a lunch of seafood and local wines.It is a wonderful way yo enjoy the day but remember you have a bit of a drive to get back home

Narbonne

Narbonne was once a Roman conquest, it is the oldest settlement in Gaul,then Visigoth,and was a prominent religious centre and an important trading town during the middle ages.

Today it is a lively, fashionable city of over 50,000 people. You can enjoy a coffee break at one of the cafe terraces in the lively Place de L’Hotel de Ville or walk the promenade along the Canal de la Robine where you will find many wonderful restaurants, or visit the gothic cathedral or the many museums.

It is a “little bit of Paris” in the south of France and is close to the sandy beaches of Narbonne Plage or Grissan,on France’s secret riviera.

Canal de Midi

One of the greatest construction feats of the 17th century was built during the reign of Louis XIV. The canal connects the Garonne to Sete, joining the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and it would save vessels and goods from sailing around the Iberian Peninsula which could take a month to complete. Today the canal is used primarily by tourists, sailing on chartered boats, restaurant boats and hotel barges. Homps, a mere 4 kilometres away is situated on the Canal where many boaters stop to spend the night in many of the fabulous restaurants on both banks of the canal.

Another great town on the canal close by is Le Somail where visiting La Librairie Ancienne du Somail is a must. There are also many wonderful bike routes out of Olonzac that follow the canal de Midi.

Carcassonne

I travelled to Carcassonne the other day for the first time in a few years.The last time was to visit the medieval fortified city that sits high up on the hill.It really is a must to see and I would suggest you take a guided tour to learn the history and experience sites you might not otherwise do.The city, which is also a World Heritage site, was under siege by the Papal army in 1209.And of course after all this knowledge gathering you will able to dine in one of the many fine restaurants within the walls of the castle.

So on my visit the other day, where we came to rescue our architect friends who had taken possession of their antique poster but had discovered afterwards it was too big to fit in their car, we discovered the other city,Carcassonne Center,with all it’s stylish shops, museums,galleries,cafes,restaurants and bars.

Market day, certainly one of the best in the Languedoc is on Tuesday,Thursday and Saturday at the Place Carnot.You can easily spend a casual day walking the streets in this part of the city.

Chateau Castigno and Assignan

About a half hour drive and you find the village of Assignan where a Belgium couple have done a lavish renovation of the village.If purple, pinks and reds are your colors you will especially like this make over.The shutters and crepe and patio furniture all have this color scheme, the streets are pristine with art installations of metal with black and white portraits or colourful paintings scattered throughout the town and there are many choices for a restaurant or cafe. We decided on La Table for a three plus hour gastronomic adventure.The restaurant was offering a 4 course surprise menu{we left everything up to them)and dish after scrumptious dish appeared along with a perfect pairing of wine.I highly recommend this place for of course it’s food, wine and service but also for it’s ambience.Throughout the evening your eyes would fall upon some fascinating piece you hadn’t noticed before.

Two hours down the road nestled in a vineyard sits the cave of Chateau Castigno and I don’t believe you will have ever seen a winery like this before.Shaped like a bottle on it’s side and covered in cork bark, this extraordinary architectural gem has a tasting room overlooking the valley that sits 50 and vats and barrels coloured in you guessed it, purple and pink tones.You pay a small amount for the tour and tasting, but here again it is well worth it to discover not only the winery but the wine produced, the traditional blends of syrah,grenache and carignan.