At about fifteen kilometres from Narbonne, in the heart of a quiet vale in the Corbières, in a setting of cypress and pine trees, nestles the former Sainte-Marie de Fontfroide Abbey, a charming, picturesque ensemble founded at the end of the 11th century by Benedictine monks and affiliated with the Cistercian Order in 1145.
Admirably restored, this Cistercian monument is open to the public throughout the year, and can be seen in a guided tour of about an hour or during a themed tour... A great chance to appreciate some wonderfully serene places, such as the 12th-century abbey church, with modern stained glass windows, the cloister with Romanesque columns, the majestic, marble-columned chapter house, the buildings for monks and lay people, not forgetting the terraced gardens and the superb rose garden with no fewer than 2,500 rose bushes!
You can taste the AOP Corbières wines from the estate, and numerous cultural events take place here, from classical music concerts to exhibitions, as well as the Plant Festival in May.
Location: 10 km away from the Villa
Justifiably known as the citadel of vertigo, the impressive Cathar castle of Peyrepertuse, which clings to the heights of the commune of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, overlooks wild, unspoilt country from its rocky promontory. The fiefdom of Guillaume de Peyrepertuse at the time of the Albigensian crusades, the castle played a key role in the defence of France against Aragon, and today its remains can be seen on this fortified hillside site. Like a stone sentinel watching over the Corbières massif, this immense medieval fortress, listed as a Historic Monument, is composed of three parts: the old castle, the middle enclosure and at the highest point, the San Jordi castle, which is accessible by the Saint-Louis stairway.
A steep path going from the car park on the edge of the castle road will take you to the ruins of Peyrepertuse, about a twenty minute climb. Once you have arrived at the site, you will be able to discover remarkable evidence of military architecture from the Middle Ages, and admire superb panoramic views of the surrounding verdant hills...
Each year in August, the Medieval Festival of Peyrepertuse, which takes place over two days within the castle walls, in the heart of the village of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse, will take young and old back to the Middle Ages, with its shows, concerts, banquet, market and medieval entertainments.
Location:32 km away from the Villa
CARCASSONNE LA CITE
With its 3 kilometres of ramparts and its 52 towers, the high town of Carcassonne, situated on the left bank of the River Aude, is the largest fortified city in Europe! Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the famous and impressive medieval Aude town, which was admirably restored in the 19th century by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, is one of the most visited locations in France.
Those who love heritage and old buildings can have a great time exploring the architectural treasures of Carcassonne... The majestic Gallo-Roman and medieval fortifications which encircle the town, the imposing Narbonnaise Gate flanked by two high, overhanging towers, the 12th century Counts' castle, built in the Trencavel dynasty and today housing a museum of masonry, the Saint-Nazaire Basilica with its Gothic statues and splendid 13th and 14th century stained-glass windows, as well as the Promenade des Lices, nestling between the two city walls, are all wonderful reminders of the past which can be appreciated while strolling about. The charming Marcou square, dotted with shaded café terraces, and the picturesque streets, lined with souvenir and craft shops, are also great places to explore during a walk around the city.
From June to August, the Carcassonne Festival offers a programme of classical music, opera, dance, circus skills, theatre, French and international variety concerts... Also not to be missed are the illuminations in the medieval town on 14 July, and the knights' tournaments within the city walls in July and August.
Location: 28 km away from the Villa
Nestling at the heart of the Corbières, the picturesque village of Lagrasse, classed amongst the most beautiful in France, makes a lovely picture, with its old humpback bridge over the Orbieu, its medieval houses, the remains of ancient ramparts and its abbey overlooked by an imposing bell tower. Before visiting the Abbey of St Mary of Orbieu, take a stroll in the medieval town, a place full of charm, where you can admire an old 14th-century covered market with stone pillars, art and craft shops, and a Gothic church listed as a Historic Monument.
Then on the opposite bank you can find the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary of Orbieu, founded in the 8th century, which was very prosperous in the past and had considerable intellectual influence. The courtyard of the old palace, the lower chapel, the cellar, the bakery, the sacristy, the north transept, the pre-Romanesque tower, the monks' dormitory, the Chapel of St Bartholomew, the Master of Cabestany's room and the guards' room are all fascinating sights to see during your visit to the medieval part of town, which belongs to the General Council of Aude.
Location: 16 km away from the Villa
NATURAL PARK OF NARBONNE
The vast Regional Natural Park of Narbonne in the Mediterranean covers 80,000 hectares in the east of the department of Aude. It has a truly diverse countryside, from lagoons and fine sandy beaches on the Mediterranean coast, to vineyards and garrigue in the Corbières, as well as the rocky escarpments of the Clape massif.
This wild and unspoilt natural environment, which displays a remarkable degree of biodiversity, is protected by the Narbonne Park and its Regional Nature Reserve. Composed of lagoons, dunes, beaches, old salt marshes, pine woods and garrigue, the Ile Sainte-Lucie Nature Reserve, in the commune of Port-la-Nouvelle, is one of the largest nature reserves on the French coastline. There are so many natural treasures to enjoy during a revitalising ramble along the paths and lanes which run through this peaceful land...It is also a safe haven for a good number of birds, either nesting or migratory, which appreciate the resting and nesting places offered by the lakes of the Narbonne area.
Location: 20 km away from the Villa
Between sea and lagoons, in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of Narbonne in the Mediterranean, stands the old, circular village of Gruissan, overlooked by the Barberousse medieval tower. As well as its village with typical little streets, the commune of Gruissan has two marinas, and a pretty Blue Flag listed bathing resort two kilometres away. Endowed with beautiful fine sandy beaches, great for relaxing and water sports, the resort of Gruissan-Plage is also remarkable for its picturesque neighbourhood made up of 1,300 chalets on stilts...
Besides its numerous summer entertainments, in May every year there is a big festival in Gruissan, Les Festejades, lasting three days, where the public can enjoy concerts, brass bands and batucada groups in a party atmosphere.
Location: 32 km away from the Villa
CAUNES -MINERVOIS ABBEY
At the foot of the Black Mountain, between vineyards and garrigue, lies the picturesque medieval village of Caunes-Minervois. This village is famous for the quality of its crimson marble, which is used to embellish celebrated monuments like the Grand Trianon at Versailles, the Opéra Garnier in Paris and the Capitole in Toulouse, to name but a few.
Caunes-Minervois is also renowned for its former Benedictine abbey, founded in 780. Richly decorated with crimson Caunes marble, its abbey church has two bell towers, a superb 11th-century Romanesque apse and a beautiful 13th-century sculpted doorway. As well as this architectural gem, there's an 18th-century cloister, a crypt which holds the remains of the first Carolingian church and 17th-century convent buildings.
After you have seen the abbey, take a stroll in the little Caunes-Minervois streets, lined with medieval and Renaissance houses. You will have a chance to admire the façades of beautiful, ancient dwellings, such as the 14th-century mansion Hôtel Sicard, or the 15th and 16th-century Hôtel Alibert.
Location: 25 km away from the Villa
Completely in the heart of the Corbières massif, near the village of Cucugnan, made famous by Alphonse Daudet's book Letters from my Windmill (Lettres de mon Moulin), stands the Cathar castle of Quéribus, at the summit of a narrow, rocky peak. This medieval fortress, located at an altitude of 728 metres, is recognisable by its imposing keep surrounded by three successive walls... A refuge for the Cathar faithful during the Albigensian crusade, the citadel of Quéribus was the last stronghold of Cathar resistance to fall into the hands of the crusaders in 1255.
Accessible in about ten minutes along a steep path, the Quéribus site has an astonishing panoramic view from the terrace of its polygon-shaped keep - you can see the Corbières, the Roussillon plain, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees! The superb Gothic room in the keep, with its ribbed arches, will also be a highlight of any visit.
LocaTION: 34 km away from the Villa