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In this part of Southern France history really is all around you. Narbonne was the Roman capital of Gaul and under its busy streets you can view the catacombs where the oil, wine and olives were stored before being put on ships for Rome. You can also actually stand on a piece of Roman road or, if you like to go as far as Nimes, you can walk on a Roman aquaduct and see a Coliseum in far better condition than that in Rome. Just 1 mile from the tiny village of Pepieux, you can stand inside the largest Megalithic tomb in the south of France (Dolmen des Fades) and relish the atmosphere as you take in the outstanding view.
As we are near the border of Spain, something that fluctuated through the centuries, there are many ancient towers and chateaux in defensive positions. Some of the Abbeys started life as strongholds, there are several to see but Fontfroide and Lagrasse top the list for sheer beauty.
Of course there are also the Cathar castles & chateaux - most popular are Montsegur, Queribus, Peyrepertuse and Villerouge Termenes. They are testimony to the first crusade that was held, not in the Holy Land, but here, in the Languedoc. You can climb the mountains to reach the castles and the view from the top is simply stunning.
La Cite, Carcassonne, a World Heritage Site, deserves a long visit and if it is a very hot day that's a good day to go as they have somehow constructed it to hold the breezes. It is a medieval town, restored and walled and as it was so long ago. There is much controversy about the restoration saying that a lot is imaginative, be that as it may, it works for us. It is commercialised inside the castle walls, there are tourist shops and cafes and restaurants, but that doesn't seem to spoil it, La Cite is timeless and retains such an aura of age. You can see a re-enactment of a joust there during the Summer and the show is outstanding - children and adults will love it.
Narbonne has a beautiful Cathedral as does Beziers. The little village churches, however, are well worth a visit, obviously they can't compete with the grandeur of the Cathedrals but they often please and surprise. At Christmas in Lezignan church they had a miniature town complete with tiny railway - it was wonderful.
The Canal du Midi is the second World Heritage Site in this area and is a lovely place to visit, whether you walk, cycle or hire a boat for a day or two. It doesn't have to be a renowned site, however, to make your holiday. The tiny medieval villages with their 'escargot' streets are a delight and exploring them, then taking lunch in one of their cafes, is an experienced to be treasured.
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