With a long weekend ahead of us, Tom and I decided to take the opportunity for a night away in the wine-growing region to the South-East of Quillan.
Driving east on the D117 and not in any hurry, this was our chance to do some exploring along the way, so we planned a relaxed start, a leisurely walk up to one of the many neighbouring Cathar castles, a long auberge lunch, and a mid-afternoon wine tasting on the domaine where we’d booked to stay the night in a simple gite.
When the weather dawned cold, misty, wet and windy on the morning of our departure, we refused to be put off. But it did make for a more interesting and memorable experience.
The history and fortunes of French villages are inextricably linked to their local water sources – at least in popular folklore – and this region is no different.
Writers like Marcel Pagnol in ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ have created something of a mystique and a romantic ideology around the important of village springs to community and livelihood, true or otherwise.
We have certainly heard many stories since arriving in Quillan, of the various local springs, and advice on which to sample depending on what you are looking for. The practice here does seem to be to prefer water direct from a source, than from a tap, or even from bought spring water.
Opinion has generally been unanimous that that the source at Axat is the one to go for, so we have been keen to test the theory. There was the just the small matter of navigating the narrowest piece of gorge road in the Haute Vallee de l’Aude to contend with.
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? And why back to Quillan? On the one hand it’s a thoroughly researched choice. On the other hand, there’s something entirely random. And then, there’s the chance that fate has a hand…
We’re down to the final week in Quillan. It’s time to revisit old haunts, for the boys to enjoy their holiday (school’s out), and for us to squeeze in those last sights we haven’t got quite to before now.
Yesterday we did the circuit of the abbeys closest to Quillan: St Hilaire, St Polycarpe and Alet-les-Bains, something that’s been on the list for a while. Continue reading
We recently bought a ‘passport’ to the Cathar castles – a discount deal to 21 castles, abbeys and historic sites associated with the Cathars. So we now have every incentive to visit more – as if we needed an excuse.
Yesterday we visited the castles at Villerouge Termenes and at nearby Termes, in a long day trip into the Corbieres, which included more narrow gorge roads. Continue reading
Having written about Felix Armand a couple of days ago, I want to add that I have since found more memorials to him in Quillan. There is a Felix Armand street very near us. And this morning I noticed that a large rock monument near the railway station is dedicated to Felix Armand. Continue reading