The ancient, walled city (la Cité) of Carcassonne is, together with the Eiffel Tower and Mont Saint Michel, in the top three of France’s most visited touristic attractions. A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997, it’s most people’s idea of the perfect medieval castle. It was the location for many films, a.o. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and the mini series Labyrinth. Do plan your visit well, for it can be extremely busy in high season.
It is not even an half hours drive from Villasavary. On your way there the view from the highway is spectacular. For that reason a special parking spot has been created, aptly called La Belvédère de la Cité.
Beach and sea
In little more than an hour’s drive from Villasavary are, amongst many others, the beautiful mediterranian beaches of Narbonne, Valras, Gruissan, Argelès sur Mer and Coullioures. It is usually fairly easy to find a parking place close to the beach.
However, to avoid peak hours in high season, it is recommended to arrive at the end of the morning and leave early in the evening. Tip: enjoy a delicious lunch in one of the many (fish) restaurants or bistros, then in the late afternoon score some delectable ingredients at the local market for a gourmet ending of the day out on the terrace in Villasavary.
The wind can blow hard in the surroundings of Villasavary, which is why you see many windmills in the nearby area. In the village, close to the house, is a beautifully restored specimen. The hills around Villasavary are called ‘Collines des Vents’ (windy hills) for good reason.
These are also the foothills of the Pyrenees. A challenging area for walking and mountain biking trips with different degrees of length and difficulty, starting from the village near the little football stadium, where signposts lead you the way.
Cities and culture
Many cities in the surroundings of Villasavary are worth a visit. You can make day trips to magnificent cities like Toulouse, Narbonne, Beziers, Albi and Montpellier but nearer by you will find beautiful towns that are just as authentic or perhaps even more, with their markets, terraces and restaurants. In Limoux, Mirepoix, Castelnaudary, Revel and of course Carcassonne, you can breathe and taste the good life of this rich region.
During the Middle Ages, the Cathars lived in the Languedoc, christians who defied the authority of the Roman Catholic Pope. They believed in becoming perfect (parfait) living a pure, ascetic life, never lied, didn’t eat meat and thought the Catholic Church to be materialistic and corrupt. Catharism became an important religion in the Languedoc, much to the dislike of the Pope. In 1208 he starts the first crusade against these heretic christians. In the following years many people were killed indiscriminately by the crusaders and castles and fortresses were ruined.
Château Montségur, a seemingly impregnable castle high in the Pyrénées Mountains, became the final stronghold of the Cathars. The Cathars supposedly fled to this mountaintop château with their church treasury, which supposedly included the Holy Grail. The castle was sieged by an army sent by the church and the last of the 200 cathars surrendered and were burned en masse. But, there are whispers of escapees scaling the steep cliffs with a part of the treasury. Could the grail have been smuggled out of the castle or perhaps, even out of France?
From Villasavary you will be in the high Pyrenees in less than an hour. A true paradise for hiking, cycling and enjoying nature in any possible way. This natural frontier between France and Spain is famous for its rough wilderness.
The little mountain state Andorra is certainly worth a day visit, but beware: it is a very popular destination for the seekers of taxfree alcohol, cigarettes and fuel. The way there and back is often one big traffic jam, especially on the last stretch of the 2400 meter (1,5 mile) high mountain pass Porte d’Envalira.
Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi is considered a masterpiece of French engineering, linking Toulouse to the Mediterranean via a waterway running for almost 250 kilometres. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canal du Midi is now much appreciated by boating tourists, hikers and cyclists. You will need some patience travelling it by boat though, the Canal has 91 working locks.