7 PYRENEES ARIEGE REGION - A COTTAGE TO RENT IN FRANCE
La Maison des Penitents Blancs
Pyrenees region - Pyrenees cottage - Pyrenees village Pyrenees sight-seeing - Pyrenees house-plans - Pyrenees local regionSightseeing in the Pyrenees-Ariège region
Scroll down to see more images of sightseeing from this cottage. Images marked with an *asterisk are taken from the official Cathar web site.
There is great sight-seeing in all directions from this cottage. Driving to the south you very quickly come deep into the high Pyrenees mountains - maybe a trip to Andorra - to Spain - up through the many attractive mountain spa villages.
This is the charming little town of Tarascon en route to Ax-les-Thermes - winding streets with flowered window boxes surrounded by mountains on all sides. The scenery is spectacular en route with excellent roads.
Stop to have a drink at the small spa town of Ax-les-Thermes 20 kms further on - famous for its thermal waters, casino and as base for skiing and exploring the Pyrenees. The Tour-de-France rides through most years - then you have a choice of many different routes - Spain - Andorra - or up to the famous Cathar village of Montaillou - see the book in our cottage.
Maybe go up one of the funicular cable cars which give spectacular views of the mountains and the valleys far below. Left is the cable station at Ax-les-Thermes.
Drive home again through the small town of Foix. This is the main town of the region - about 30 kms away from our village of Mirepoix. Foix Castle - dating back to 11C - was considered impregnable in mediaeval times. It dominates the town with its three massive towers. There are wonderful views from this castle - which now houses a museum and is open to the public.
Another circular drive 40 kms to the north-east of Mirepoix brings you to the walled city of Carcassonne - one of the great sights of France which was World Heritage Listed by UNESCO in 1997. Founded in the 3C BC, it later became a Cathar heretic stronghold during 12C AD which was captured by Simon-de-Montford during the Albigensian Crusade. *
Carcassonne from the air - showing the perfect mediaeval fortress layout of two concentric walls with thirteen towers are spread along the outer rampart - and twenty-six along the inner one. The moated inner Castle of the Counts is a citadel within a citadel. Great restoration work was carried out in the 19C by Viollet-le-Duc.*
Continue on to the Canal du Midi - the great engineering feat of Paul Riquet which includes flights of locks where the slope is too great - goes all the way from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. Here it is passing through the town of Castelnaudary where you can hire boats and it is a great place to watch the variety of barges and boats negotiating the four-step locks.
Drive back from Carassonne south through the vines to the historic village of Limoux in the Corbières, about 30 kms away from Mirepoix. Limoux was founded in the 13C and is famous for its sparkling wine - Blanquette de Limoux - the first sparking wine which was developed in the 16C before champagne. Blanquette-de-Limoux is a specialty of our region and is enjoyed as a light aperitif wine. There is an excellent hotel-restaurant at Limoux called Moderne-et-Pigeon.
Limoux has a beautiful arcaded square where the Carnaval de Limoux is held every Sunday and some Saturdays from mid January to the end of March at 11 am, 5 pm and 10 pm. Carnaval is a very special Limoux event which has been happening since the 14C.
It is unique in that both the spectator and the actors become partners in the event as they improvise a dialogue, exchanging jokes in the local language, “ Occitan ”, with gleeful disrespect for age or social status.
A score of musicians accompany the lively pace of the parade.
Another really excellent trip to take is across country to the Mediterranean Port of Collioure - see below - about 2.5 hours drive from Mirepoix - but following the Cathar trail of dramatically sited fortresses. On this route which goes via Puivert - Quillan, Puylaurens - then past the incredible fortresses of Queribus and the fearful Peyrepertuse - see above - which are close together and clearly visible on high. The Cathars always built their castles in the most inaccessible sites - however all of these are open for viewing if you have a head for heights.
Even if you have only seen the Cathar strongholds from afar on this route - continue on down to the Mediterranean coast to the ancient and delightful village Port of Collioure - where so many famous artists such as Matisse, Derain and Picasso lived and worked. They often paid for their meals with paintings - so maybe have a drink or lunch at the restaurant - Hotel-des-Templars - which has many of their paintings on the walls.
Collioure - in the 12C it was part of Majorca and later taken over by the Kings of Aragon. Explore the little cobbled streets and houses winding up from the sea - all in bright ochre and the vivid colours so representative of the Fauvist Movement. . There are many art galleries here and excellent fish restaurants. You can see the fresh catch arrive in before enjoying a meal.
Collioure - the massive Chateau Royal which dominates the village is open to the public. Originally a 12C Chateau of the mediaeval Knights-Tempar - and later a royal palace of the Spanish kings of Aragon - now a marvellous fortress and maritime museum to explore with the best views out over both sides of the bay. You can then continue on down a few more kms past charming Port Vendres to pop into Spain along the sea front.
Driving back to Mirepoix - you may wish to go via the old Roman town of Narbonne. The Cathedral of St-Just in Narbonne is one of the only massive flamboyant Gothic cathedrals in the south of France - similar to those so well known in the north. 15 kms away from Narbonne is the Cistercian Abbey of Fontfroide which was founded in 1145 Typically situated in a narrow sheltered valley and remote from the outside world as was the custom of the Cistercians - Fontfroide became one of the most important and rich abbeys in the Midi.
The vibrant town of Toulouse is only 75 kms away from Mirepoix. There is a bus which goes there most days from the bus stop just around the corner from our house - also a train from Pamiers 20 kms away -so you do not have to drive there and find a parking spot. The excellent Office-de-Tourisme in the Place would have all the timetables. Toulouse is a large cultural centre with great shopping and excellent museums. Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose because of the wonderous variations of pinks in the colours of the ancient bricks of the buildings. There is so much to see and do there - especially to see some of the most beautiful ceilings and cathedrals. Left - the flamboyant ceiling of the Mairie or Town Hall - Le Capitole. Right - the stunning brick Gothic vaulted ceiling of the 13C Basillica of the Jacobins - .
- and yet another - the beautiful vaulted ceiling of the 11C Basillica of St Sernin - one of the most important examples Romanesque archetecture in the south. This is one of our favourite cathedrals in France.
Pyrenees region - Pyrenees cottage - Pyrenees village Pyrenees sight-seeing - Pyrenees house-plans - Pyrenees local region Sightseeing in the Pyrenees-Ariège region 1.Lot - 2.Dordogne - 3 Tarn - 4 Gascony - 5 Provence - 6 Haute Provence - 7 Pyrenees Availability - Home - Rental costs - Locality Map www.cottagesinfrance.com