Languedoc Roussillon Journals

The Ruined Cathar Castles of Languedoc

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A June 2003 trip to Languedoc Roussillon by artsnletters

Queribus castle Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France More Photos
Quote: Languedoc, in southwestern Mediterranean France, is a region of arid, dramatic scenery and tragic medieval history. I spent an unforgettable day hiking to the ruined hilltop Cathar castles for a look down at the rugged landscape and back through the ages.

The Ruined Cathar Castles of Languedoc

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Overview

Castle of Queribus Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
Languedoc-Roussillon, the southwestern corner of the Mediterranean coast of France, is one of the less visited regions of France. It's often seen from a train or bus window by travelers en route to Barcelona or the Riviera. I didn’t have much time to spend in the province, but after seeing photographs of some of the Cathar castles, I put Languedoc on my itinerary, tucking popular Carcassonne in almost as an afterthought. A short stop in the historic city of Narbonne to see its Roman and medieval sights rounded out my visit. The name Languedoc comes from the language of the medieval Occitans, where the word for "yes" was oc, langue d’oc, as opposed to the northern lang...Read More
Queribus castle Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
"Pluie aujourd’hui?" I’d asked the hotel desk clerk that morning as I glanced at the gray skies outside, indicating with my fingers the sprinkling of rain, itsy-bitsy-spider style. "Rain today?" Her shrug in reply indicated it was anyone’s guess. It was dry at the moment, but the dull gray clouds stretching from horizon to horizon looked ominous. I really wanted to see some of the Cathar castles. Once outposts guarding the hazy border between Languedoc and Aragon, and later France and Spain, these castles occupy a series of remote hilltops in the southwest corner of Languedoc. I only had a day in the region, so I decided I’d take my chances.Apparently not a mistake, since an hour lat...Read More
Forest path Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
As I neared the line of mountains in front of me, the outlines of the castle of Peyrepertuse materialized almost magically on top of what had previously appeared to be only a heavy crest of rock. Or, more accurately, I now could distinguish that a castle existed on the rocks, growing upward almost organically.A crest of rock – or is there a castle up there too?Closer still, the view from the ticket booth showed a massive prow of castle butting up against a leaden sky. I bought my ticket and started up the path just to the right of the booth. The narrow trail ...Read More

Part III, Peyrpertuse: The Storm Strikes

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Story/Tip

Imposing castle of Peyrepertuse Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
The trail had become a broad pathway and the walking was easy. The castle loomed larger and larger. Or, actually, the first castle: Peyrepertuse, meaning "pierced rock," is not one castle but three, strung along a long, narrow limestone ridge. This lowest castle is the oldest of the three, built sometime around 1050.Little puffs of dark green foliage spotted the stone wall next to the arched entryway into the castle. Inside, many of the walls have been rebuilt, and an immense arched room has been partially restored as well. There’s also a tall round keep, slightly atilt, in the center of the complex, and toward the back of the castle is a doorway into the Church of St. Mary of Peyrep...Read More

Short and Sweet in Sunny Narbonne

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Story/Tip

Cathédrale St-Just et St-Pasteur Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
Narbonne presented a much different face after the grim and terrible beauty of the Cathar castles. An ethereal pale stone cathedral seemed nearly to float above the low buildings of the city as I drove along the A9 autoroute. Located just off the Mediterranean where the coast turns south toward Spain, the city has a pleasant brick-paved old quarter which glowed golden under a brilliant blue sky during my visit. Late on a weekday afternoon, its narrow pedestrian passages were full of people visiting the shops to pick up groceries for dinner or out walking their dogs – the French love their dogs!The ancient Roman city of Narbo was a major stop on the Via Domitia between Rome and its colon...Read More