Why Quillan?

One of the first things most people ask us when we tell them our plans is Where are you going in France? When we tell them we are going to a small town called Quillan, about 40km due south of Carcassonne, the next question is Why?

So why Quillan? It’s an entirely random and yet thoroughly researched choice.

After moving to Cardiff, one of our earliest European holidays was a week in the Pyrenees in late winter. We flew in to Biarritz, hired a car, drove east, and fell in love with what we saw. The weather was sunny, the snow-capped mountains stretched as far as you could see, the people were friendly, the countryside was beautiful, and the food fabulous.

Since then we’ve had several more holidays in the Pyrenees region, including one holiday based at Lavelenet, which is only a half-hour drive from Quillan. It’s a beautiful region. So when it came to where to spend our three months, there was never any question about which region. That said, we had quite a large area to work with, having had lovely holidays as far west as Ainhoa (near the Atlantic coast), as far north as Condom (north-east from Toulouse), and as far east as Nimes (on the Mediterranean coast).

Map of southern France showing the approximate locations of our family's previous holidays near the Pyrenees

Approximate locations of our family’s previous holidays near the Pyrenees

So how to narrow it down?

The first criteria was size. Not too big, but not too small. In the words of Goldilocks, ‘just right!’ We knew we wanted somewhere we could feel at home and get to know people. But we needed somewhere big enough to have schools for the boys, and a little bit of infrastructure so we wouldn’t have to drive everywhere.

The first step was to get out the maps of the area and start trawling for likely towns. And trawl we did – over many (many) pleasant evening hours. We marked up all the likely looking towns based on the size of their dot on the map. We discounted options that looked too urban or where the topography did not suggest an area of scenic interest.

We ended up with a list of about a dozen candidates, which we then googled and narrowed down further based on population size, what the schools seemed like and how appealing the town was to look at. Having narrowed it down to a handful of candidates we then trawled for accommodation, based on what was available, that seemed livable, and at a price we could afford.

And so it is that we will be spending three months in a first floor apartment above the Cafe du Fleuve in Vieux Quillan. No pressure at all, but after all that effort, the coffee had better be good!

5 thoughts on “Why Quillan?

  1. Stephen Christie

    That first Pyrenees holiday that you mention, via Biarritz, was a wonderful trip. That was way back in the BC period (before children), so we winged our accommodation day by day. It was February, but was good weather – crisp mornings, but sun every day. I recall creme brulee at Ainhoa, really quiet rural roads, and an outrageously beautiful walking track cut into the side of a massive cliff.

  2. Simon

    Have you been to Chateau de Peyrepertuse? Have been checking out Quillan on Google Maps and haven’t been there but have been to Peyrepertuse just over 50kms away. Wonderful Cathar Castle ruin, visited in 2002 on way to Collioure (had stayed in Minerve the previous night, then Collioure for three nights before heading back to Dublin).

    1. Jennifer Andrewes Post author

      No, we have not been to Peyrepertuse but on our week’s holiday in Lavelanet (June 2005) we went to several other Cathar castles in the region, including Montsegur, where all of us including 3-yr old Oliver climbed up to the top on the precarious rocky mountain path. Oliver’s scrapbook from the time records that there was a ‘little fright at the top when he fell through a rotten wooden board on the balcony entrance and got his leg stuck high over the path’! I recall we also had a lovely lunch at a small organic food cafe in Montsegur. Must go back there!

  3. Piddlewick

    Thank you for following my blog (https://pumpjackpiddlewick.wordpress.com/) as it gave me the opportunity to discover yours. Coincidences in this world I have found to be many, and with regards to yourselves, all I can says is WOW!

    We worked in New Zealand for a bit, in Hawkes Bay and had the chance to ~almost~ make it to Wellington on a driving/camping trip at the end of wine harvest. It was our planned destination but a combination of bad weather and great Pinot Noir in Martinborough delaying us, we did not have the time to get to Wellington.

    Still saying that, we did get to Quillan. When David (Pumpjack) finished his work in Northern Spain at Raimat, we took to the road (driving/camping again) and en-route from west to east as we headed to Mauri to meet up with wine making friends, we stopped in Quillan and camped nearby. Great town, and this was actually my second visit (but that is another story) and one I have always had a soft spot for. I agree with you it is just the right size, with the right amount amenities and some wonderful scenery on your doorstep.

    I shall enjoy reading more of your past blog entries of your time in France, but also look forward to your future ones. 🙂

    1. Jennifer Andrewes Post author

      Thank you for your comment – the world is indeed a small place. We also have a friend and another city in common – Cardiff, I believe 😉 I’m sorry you didn’t get to Wellington, but I can understand you being stalled in Martinborough, which is a gorgeous spot. We hope to get back to Quillan – or somewhere nearby – next year.


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