Today we explored the alternative route to Caudies via the Col St Louis. The benefit of this route is that, while a longer and narrower road, it avoids the cliff over hangs of the road through Axat and the Defile Pierre Lys.
The turn-off out of Quillan is just on the north side, through the hamlet of Laval (where, incidentally, there is a rather lovely stone village house for sale with a walled garden and a creek at the bottom of it – less said the better as it is out of our price range), and on through the Foret Communale de St Julia de Bec. It’s an idyllic road, fringed by grass and trees pretty much the whole way. It’s also a rare D-road in this area where you can go for miles without driving through a single village.
We took the short side road to stop in St Louis, a rather charming, sleepy village where a private chateau stands on the site of the original chateau fort, destroyed in 1542 by the Spanish. This was at the time when the French border was just over the pass, so the castle was strategically sited – for as long as it lasted. Next door is a rather beautifully situated grange, nestled in an established, if wild, garden. For sale. Oh dear.
On over the pass, which at just over 700m is not that high as passes in the Pyrenees go, but after a long, steady climb on the Quillan side, it is a quick, steep drop on the other side to Caudies, via magnificent rocky terrain and a rather impressive series of switchbacks in the road. The photos don’t really capture the extent of it, but it is quite spectacular.
Just below the pass – the road in the direction of Quillan. The switchback section is down to the right of the photo.
The stone wall in the foreground borders the road East to Caudies, which curves round to the right of this photo (out of shot), over the viaduct in the background, back round on the road in between (which you can just spy through the foliage below the stone wall), under the viaduct.
Back via the Defile Pierre-Lys, we briefly spotted some rafters and rubber tubers in the Aude river, and were, again, pleased to avoid meeting any large trucks in the narrowest stretches.