Languedoc Roussillon Journals

Languedoc Roussillon, the Land of Wine and Honey

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An April 2010 trip to Languedoc Roussillon by sararevell

Abbaye de Fontfroide Photo, Narbonne, France More Photos
Quote: A neighbour to popular Provence, this stunning region is often overlooked. Its wine and honey production are two good reasons to go but the Mediterranean coastline, mountains, ‘garrigue’ hillsides and sleepy villages are other major draws. We made our base at St. Laurent de la Cabrerisse near Carcassonne.

Highlights of the Languedoc Roussillon

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Day Trip to Montpellier Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
For anyone staying in or around Carcassonne there are many places of interest besides the city itself. Just under 60 kilometres away is the Abbaye de Fontfroide, which dates from 1093. Visitors can take a tour and visit their wine tasting cellar. There is a bar and restaurant on site and trails wind through vineyards and up to a viewpoint for a bird’s eye view of the abbey site. Although outside of the region, driving to the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain definitely deserves a full day. Located about 170km (1 hour 40) from Carcassonne it is a must for art lovers. In addition, the drive south is one of the more scenic routes in Europe, with the Mediterranean coast on one side of th...Read More
The Canal du Midi Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
The best way to travel around the Languedoc Roussillon is undoubtedly by car. By driving you have to make the decision between the speedy toll roads and the less direct but toll-free auxiliary routes. If you have the time to travel at a more leisurely pace, and you’re super fit, biking around the region wouldn’t be a bad way to travel but keep in mind that it’s hilly here and even in April, the skies are clear and the sun beats down with often little roadside shade to be found.One area that is more shaded is along the Canal du Midi. Again, if time is on your side hiring a barge to travel the width of the region must be a pleasant way to go. The Canal runs from Toulouse in the...Read More

Les Jardins de Saint-Benoit: Accommodation, Spa and Restaurant

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)

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Hotel | "In the Gardens of Saint-Benoit "

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les) Photo, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France
Quote:
Nestled into vine-covered hills at the end of the diminutive village of St. Laurent de la Cabrerisse are the ‘Gardens’ of Saint-Benoit. The resort is made up of some sixteen individually named streets, along which rows of terraced ‘maisons’ sit waiting to greet the latest influx of guests.The recently opened Saint-Benoit was a contentious project. It is essentially an expansive resort located in a rugged frontier region rich in Cathar history and winemaking. The proposal to build a new 20-acre holiday park here was a bold one but the plans went through apparently with a slim majority vote of support from local residents. To their credit, the architects of the village ensured th...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)
Route de Talairan
Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
+33 4 6711-8715

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)

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Restaurant | "Corbieres, Tapenade and an Armagnac to Finish"

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les) Photo, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France
Quote:
On site at the Saint-Benoit is a long restaurant, available to guests for breakfast and evening dining. To be honest, I don’t know if it is open to none-guests so if you’re not staying on site it’s worth calling beforehand to enquire about reservations. When we checked in we were advised to make reservations for dinner but I would say that outside of the summer months, this may not be absolutely necessary. We enjoyed a bottle of Corbières red on the outdoor terrace beforehand. It must be said that the sunset views from Saint Benoit across to the village of St. Laurent de la Cabrerisse really are quite breathtaking. It’s not that this landscape is especially dramatic or exotic but when the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)


+33 (0)4.67.11.87.15

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)

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Attraction | "The Spa at Saint-Benoit"

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les) Photo, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France
Quote:
The entrance to the spa at Les Jardins can be found opposite the reception desk. Candles line the stone steps leading down to an indoor pool and adjoining area reserved for massage and other treatments. It is here that guests staying in the village come to fill up delicate glass bottles with honey-scented liquid soap and select small bricks of locally made bar soaps of lavender, strawberry, red wine or for tomato and basil. While the spa sounds, and looks like a haven of relaxation, we were taken aback by the entrance fee to the indoor pool and jacuzzi area: €20 (about $25 or £17). This is the price per person, per visit! The pool area is nice, but it’s not that nice. The jacuzzi is shallo...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Jardins de Saint-Benoit (Les)

Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse

Wine Tasting Trips

Abbaye de Fontfroide

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Attraction | "Wine Tasting at Fontfroide"

Abbaye de Fontfroide Photo, Narbonne, France
Quote:
All around the Languedoc Roussillon region the earth is sculpted by an ancient art form: winemaking. Vineyards blanket the rich red clay and sand terroir, sweeping across the foothills towards Carcassonne and beyond. We stopped at three small wineries to sample what we hoped would be some of the region’s finest.The Abbaye de Fontfroide planted its religious roots here in 1093 and the monks were quick to continue the wine-making legacy left by the Romans. The Abbey’s output was such that ‘Fontfroide’ became one of the eleven terroirs within the vast Corbières appellation and today they produce an array of red, white and rosé wines. Under the Abbey’s gift shop is a smart tasting ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Abbaye de Fontfroide
Route Departementale 613
Narbonne, France
+33 4 68 45 11 08

Chateau de Caraguilhes

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Attraction | "Wine Tasting at Caraguilhes"

Chateau de Caraguilhes Photo, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France
Quote:
Just a few kilometers away from Fontfroide, but in the clay, limestone and sandstone terroir of Boutenac is Château de Caraguilhes. Once part of Abbaye de Fontfroide’s vineyards, Caraghuiles’ history dates back to the twelfth century. Somehow the domain’s 600 hectares endured and produces under the same name today. About 30km west of the Mediterranean coast we turned off the D611 and rumbled along a straight dirt track flanked by tall purple irises that lead to Caraguilhes. Unlike the serenity and propriety of Fontfroide, this estate was in a flurry of bottling and construction activity. A long truck was parked alongside the back of the main building and as we pulled up, we cou...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Chateau de Caraguilhes
Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse
+33 (0)4 68 27 88 99

Chateau Les Palais

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Attraction | "Wine Tasting at Les Palais"

Chateau Les Palais Photo, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France
Quote:
We asked our host at Caraguilhes if she would recommend any other wineries in the area and she magnanimously suggested Château Les Palais, which is run by the mayor of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse and his wife.Like Caraguilhes, Les Palais is located at the end of a dusty track off the D611 but is neatly obscured from the main road by a row of tall trees. Around a large shaded pond are a couple of gîte cottages, a stone chapel which now serves as the tasting room and the beautiful family home of Mayor Xavier and Anne de Volontat. Take away the signage directing guests to the ‘Caveau de Dégustation’ and Les Palais could easily feature in a Marcel Pagnol film adaptation. We arri...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Chateau Les Palais

Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse, France 11220
+33 (0)4 68 44 01 63

Day Trips in Languedoc (and Spain)

Abbaye de Fontfroide

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Attraction | "The Guided Tour of Fontfroide Abbey"

Abbaye de Fontfroide Photo, Narbonne, France
Quote:
About a half hour drive from Les Jardins de Saint-Benoit is the Abbey of Fontfroide. Founded in 1093 as a Benedictine monastery, the site was saved form ruin by painter Gustave Fayet and his wife in the early 1900s. What visitors see today is a testament to their sensitive restoration as the abbey and its grounds are an oasis of beauty and serenity in the midst of the craggy garrigue surroundings. Guided tours run once an hour in the winter and twice an hour in the summer, with a break for lunch around 1pm. It is well worth the €9 entry fee to wander through the wisteria-framed 12th cloister and into the cavernous church. The tours are in French but foreign language audio guides are availa...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Abbaye de Fontfroide
Route Departementale 613
Narbonne, France
+33 4 68 45 11 08

Half Day Trip to Lagrasse

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Village of Lagrasse Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
Less than half an hour from Saint Laurent de Cabrerisse is the village of LaGrasse. As you enter the village, a sign introduces it as one of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (it is part of an association, not something the locals decided upon independently) and in all fairness, the caption is fitting.The village is surrounded by vines sticking out of mud the colour of clay and its wine making heritage is apparent up and down the village. We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon to a village that was mostly closed up for the day. A couple of shops and a curious museum were open but for the mostpart, places didn’t appear to open until 7pm or so. Either they’ve figured out a way to be...Read More

Day Trip to Carcassonne

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Carcassonne Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
About half an hour from our hotel is the fortress town of Carcassonne. The ramparts circle the medieval core and are make for an impressive sight upon approach. The town is divided into two distinct parts so deciding where to park is a little tricky. We found a convenient (and free) place to park at the foot of the ‘Cite’ but only ten minutes walk in the opposite direction to the ‘ville basse’. We started with the steep ascent up into the Cite, a walled town which is part quaint village and part theme park and reminiscent of Mont St. Michel. We didn’t go into the castle itself (we probably should have but got had unfortunately spent too much time getting to Castelnaudary that day) so spent...Read More

Grignote (La)

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Restaurant | "Cassoulet at La Grignote"

Grignote (La)  Photo, Castelnaudary, France
Quote:
A guidebook somewhat mistakenly led us to Castelnaudary. The alleged birthplace of cassoulet, our book promised a lively Monday market so we drove almost 40 km west of Carcassonne to peruse and sample some of the local produce. Sadly the marketplace had all but cleared out by the time we rolled up at midday so we wandered around the hilltop town in search of some quaint food and souvenir shops instead. We soon came to the conclusion that there are none. Castelnaudary is a small, sleepy and sadly not very exciting place to visit. We drowned our sorrows in a large lunch at the corner restaurant ‘La Grignote’. La Grignote is one of about three or four restaurants that mark a trail down Rue du...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Grignote (La)
2 Rue Soumet
Castelnaudary 11400
+33 04 68 23 31 83

Day Trip to Montpellier

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Story/Tip

Montpellier Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
Despite being a two hour drive from where we were staying, our guide book proclaimed ‘Montpellier is a great city’ in the very first sentence so we felt compelled to go. Apparently Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France and I can understand why. It’s close to the Mediterranean, seems to have good transport links and is a truly delightful place to walk around. We parked smack in the centre, underneath the Place de la Comedie and emerging like cautious moles, we tried quickly and unsuccessfully to blend in with the locals. After our drive we were hungry and thirsty so we did the most tourist-like thing and had a coffee and croissant at the Opera Café at the end of the square. Serv...Read More

Le Sister's Cafe

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Restaurant | "Giant Salads at the Sister's Cafe"

Le Sister's Cafe Photo, Montpellier, France
Quote:
Deciding where to stop for lunch in Montpellier isn’t easy. Around every other corner a charming plaza awaits, usually with two or more restaurants advertising lunch specials, which frankly all sound good. After doing the rounds of countless cafes, we returned to the square at the corner of Rue des Soeurs Noires and Rue de Vallat. It was less noisy and busy than some of the larger squares but still seemed popular with less than a handful of outdoor tables being vacant. We settled on Le Sister’s Café, which somewhat unsurprisingly is staffed by women. Less laid back than the Opera Café, this operation was no-nonsense, and efficient. Fortunately we managed to get a table in the s...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Le Sister's Cafe
3 Rue Des Soeurs Noires
Montpellier, France 34000
+33 (0)4 6766 1595

Teatro-Museo Dalí

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Attraction | "A Surreal Day Trip to Figueres "

Figueres, Spain Photo, Languedoc Roussillon, France
Quote:
About an hour and a half south of Les Jardins de Saint-Benoit Spa at Saint Laurent de Cabrerisse and in a different country is Figueres. It is a bustling, Spanish town with an attractive centre but the real draw for visiting is the Dali Theatre-Museum. Figueres is the birthplace of the inimitable Salvador Dali and for anyone staying in the south of France or north of Spain, his museum definitely deserves a visit for the building as well as the artwork. The former theatre was left in a state of ruin after being bombed during the Spanish civil war but thanks to the mayor of Figueres and Dali himself, the structure was saved and rebuilt as one of the most fantastic art galleries in the world....Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 3, 2010

Teatro-Museo Dalí
Gala-Salvador Dalí Square, 5
Figueres, Spain
+34 972 677 500