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SUD DE FRANCE EDITORIAL

Special edition of Midi Gourmand published by the Société du Journal Midi Libre French limited company with share capital of 6.356.302 € Main stakeholders: GSO-SA – FCPE GMLA Registered office: rue du Mas-de-Grille 34430 Saint-Jean-de-Védas Postal address: 34438 Saint-Jean-de-Védas Cedex Tél : 33 (0)4 67 07 67 07 Managing editor: Alain Plombat Midi Tourisme is produced by Pôle Editions, in partnership with Sud de France Développement Director: Didier Thomas-Radux Tél : 33 (0)4 67 07 66 11 E-mail: dtradux@midilibre.com Editorial coordination: Didier Thomas-Radux Editorial: Marie Vanhamme, Anne Schoendoerffer, Claire Mondrian, Didier Thomas-Radux Archives photos : Jean-François Salles (p. 41, 19, 26, 28, 42); Cl. Bertrand (p. 35); Paul Palau (p. 1, 8, 13, 15, 26, 32, 41, 46); William Truffy (p. 30, 34, 39, 48); Yves Estivals (p. 25); BIM (p. 26, 43); Christine Palasz (p. 47); Alexis Béthune (p. 43); ASPC (p. 13); Pierre Saliba (p. 45); Frédérique Berlique (p. 12); OT Font-Romeu (p. 17, 34); OTI de Quercorb (p. 13); Musée Céret (p. 44); Musée Maillol (p. 44); Station de ski de Camurac (p. 7); ville de Limoux (p. 13); OT de Limoux (p. 37); Espace Nordique Capcir (p. 8); I.Angles – CDT 66 (p. 9); Mic Photo (p.10); Station Formiguères (p.11); Domaine skiable Cambre-d’Aze (p.14); Syndicat intercommunal du Puigmal (p. 15); Marie Vanhamme (p. 38); Thomas Piettre Leclair (p. 38); station Porté-Puymorens (p. 16); Guy Grégoire (p. 21, 22); Equipe de l’Aigoual (p. 26); Communauté de communes Pays de Sault (p. 33); Pays Grand-Combien (p. 35); Michel Monnot - OT Mont-Aigoual (P. 27); Musée Cévenol (p. 27), OT de Chanac (p. 23); Jo Pillet (p. 23); OT des gorges du Tarn (p. 23); OT de La Canourgue (p. 23); OT Villefranche-de-Conflent (p. 18); Festival Pablo Casals (p. 18); OT du Haut Vallespir (p. 18); OMT de Prats (p. 18); Restaurant du Vieux Pont (p. 39). Cover photo: Paul Palau Layout: Studio IDM, Saint-Jean-de-Védas Printed in Europe. Legal deposit: at publication ISSN number: 2112-7468 Joint Committee: 0413K 90782 Midi Libre – November 2012 ©

MountainsinLanguedocRoussillon:aSuddeFrance destination

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now and sunshine are no longer sufficient to attract the crowds. Nowadays, a broad range of original activities must be available for tourists. Mono-activity holidays or weekends are a thing of the past! If skiing during the day – from Nordic skiing to downhill skiing, between the Catalan Pyrenees and the Cévennes, Languedoc Roussillon boasts resorts that offer all possible types of winter sports – there must still be the opportunity to go snow-shoeing, to try out snowkiting or ice diving! Not forgetting that after-ski relaxation also means spa or thalassotherapy treatment. Languedoc-Roussillon’s 16 ski areas offer accessibility, atmosphere and family friendly resorts, providing a wide range of services including all of these possibilities. All year round, from the Pyrénées-Orientales to the Lozère, from the Aude to the Hérault, not forgetting the Gard, the warm climate also allows activities which would be impossible elsewhere. You can thus go skiing in the Pyrenees and strolling around the city of Carcassonne. Walk around the antique monuments of Roman Nimes or contemplate the buildings built by famous contemporary architects in Montpellier. Explore the museums or climb the Cathar castles. In all seasons, Languedoc-Roussillon remains a welcoming region for all those eager to discover it. In both winter and summer, all these pleasures are close to hand.

Languedoc Roussillon

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www.sunfrance.com


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SUD DE FRANCE CONTENTS Legend Heritage

4-27 - ALTITUDES

Art City

PYRENEES

Symbol of antiquity

SKI RESORT DETAILS (7-17) • CIRCUIT : 24 H BETWEEN QUERCORB AND PAYS DE RAZES (13) • CIRCUIT : 24 H FROM CONFLENT TO VALLESPIR (18)

CEVENNES

Lake

SKI RESORT DETAILS (19-26) • CIRCUIT : 24 H ON THE CAUSSE DE SAUVETERRE (23) • CIRCUIT : 24 H AROUND THE MONT AIGOUAL (27)

Golf course

28-45 - ATTITUDES

Animal park

contents

OPEN AIR: NEW TRENDY WINTER SPORTS (30) FOR THE JOY OF MOUNTAIN BIKE FANS (31) DISCOVERING THE WILDLIFE PARKS (32)

Aquarium

NATURE : CEVENNES NATIONAL PARK OR PYRENEES CATALANES PARK: BREATHTAKING LOCATIONS (33) A

Hot springs

REGION OF SUBTERRANEAN FORMATIONS AND SPRINGS!

REGIONAL

(34)

Mountain resort Marina

RELAXATION : 13 SPA RESORTS FOR MAXIMUM WELLBEING (35)

River stop

HERITAGE: CATHAR CASTLES, VAUBAN FORTRESSES, PAYS DE SAULT CHURCHES, ALL PART OF AN EXCEPTIONAL HERITAGE (36-37) TRAINS UNLIKE ANY OTHERS, INDUSTRIAL SITES TURNED INTO ATTRACTIONS (38-39)

Cruise Stopovers

GASTRONOMY: TWENTY-SEVEN CENTURIES OF HISTORY FOR THE WORLD’S BIGGEST WINERY FROM FOIE GRAS MARKETS TO SWEET CATALAN AND CEVENOL DELIGHTS (40-43)

Airport TGV Station

CULTURE: FROM BOURG-MADAME TO THE MUSEE FABRE, RICH COLLECTIONS HOUSED IN REVAMPED MUSEUMS (44-45)

Exceptional garden

46-49 - PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Regional Nature Park

• • • •

MAIN WINTER EVENTS (46-47) SUD DE FRANCE, A BRAND AND A QUALITY PROCESS (48) HOW TO GET HERE? (48) LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON TOURISM COMMITTEES (49)

More information To complement your reading and discovery of Languedoc-Roussillon, “Sud de France Development - Tourism in Languedoc-Roussillon” offers a range of additional tools: An iPhone application for the Cercle Prestige ("SudPrestige", downloadable from iTunes). An iPad application for downloading brochures ("SudPrestige", downloadable from iTunes). An adaptation of the site sunfrance.com for mobile devices (sunfrance.mobi) Finally, the small black square attached is a QR code linking directly to the website www.sunfrance.com. Scan the code with your smartphone for direct access to the Sud de France home page: Development Tourism in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Company visit Green holiday resort Most beautiful villages in France UNESCO Blue flag Way of St James Rivers and canals of the Mediterranean Via Domitia

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N O

E S


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1

ALTITUDES

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From the Cévennes to the Pyrenees, Languedoc-Roussillon is a region of dales and mountains, peaks that are green in the summer and covered with a blanket of snow in the winter, a place for skiing and hiking completely surrounded by unspoilt nature. In the winter, skiing and its various disciplines, but also snow-shoe trekking and dog-sledding, ice diving, sleigh rides and relaxing hydrotherapy are all popular activities. Between the sites in Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude and the resorts of the Cévennes, Margeride and Aubrac, all the pleasures of this region are within easy reach.

Camurac - 1,400/1,800 m ....................................................... p. 7 Capcir Cross-Country Skiing Area - 1,500/1,900 m .... p. 8 La Quillane - 1,710/1,810 m ...................................................... p.9 Les Angles - 1,600/2,400 m .................................................. p. 10 Formiguères - 1,700/2,400 m ............................................... p. 11 Puyvalador-Rieutort - 1,700/2,400 m ............................... p.12

Circuit between Quercorb and the pays de Razes . p.13

Cambre-d’Aze Area - 1,640/2,400 m ................................. p. 14 Cerdagne Puigmal - 1,800/2,900 m .................................. p. 15 Porté-Puymorens - 1,600/2,500 m ..................................... p. 16 Font-Romeu - Bolquère / Pyrénées 2000 1,700/2,200 m ............................................................................... p. 17

Circuit route from Conflent to Vallespir .................. p.18

Les Bouviers-Grandrieu - 1,400/1,485 m .......................... p. 19 Laubert-Plateau du Roy - 1,200/1,450 m ......................... p. 20 Le Bleymard - Mont Lozère - 1,400/1,610 m ................... p. 21 - 1,420/1,680 m ............................................................................. p. 22

Circuit a tour of the causse de Sauveterre .............. p.23 Bonnecombe -1,200/1,450 m ................................................ p. 24 Nasbinals - 1,200 m ................................................................... p. 25 Mont Aigoual - Prat Peyrot - 1,560 m ................................ p. 26

Circuit a tour around mont Aigoual ......................... p.27

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The great outdoors in the Cévennes,Aubrac and Margeride

ALTITUDES RESORTS

Around Mont Aigoual and Mont Lozère, between Gard and Lozère, seven ski resorts overlook the wide open spaces of the Cévennes, enabling visitors to discover wild landscapes through cross-country skiing, snow-shoe trekking and sleigh riding. www.causses-cevennes.com www.hiver-autrement.com

Les Bouviers-Grandrieu Laubert-Plateau du Roy Le Bleymard - Mont Lozère

ST-CHÉLY-D’APCHER

GRANDRIEU

Le Mas de la Barque

48 - LOZÈRE

Aubrac sud Bonnecombe Nasbinals

MARVEJOLS

Mont Aigoual - Prat Peyrot

MENDE

FLORAC

ALÈS

30 - GARD LE VIGAN NÎMES LODÈVE MONTPELLIER

34 - HÉRAULT

BÉZIERS

CARCASSONNE

NARBONNE

LIMOUX

11 - AUDE

All types of skiing in the Pyrenees

Situated at altitudes of between 1,600 and 2,700 metres, nine of the ten ski resorts in the Languedoc-Roussillon region are located in the Pyrénées Orientales. The skiable area stretches principally from HautConflent to Cerdagne and Capcir. A tenth resort, Camurac, is situated in Aude. www.neigescatalanes.com www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com www.pyrenees.com

Camurac

PERPIGNAN

Les Angles

PRADES LES ANGLES

66 PYRÉNÉESORIENTALES

Espace Nordique du Capcir Formiguères

Puyvalador-Rieutort CÉRET

Cerdagne Puigmal

Espace Cambre-d’Aze Porté-Puymorens

Font-Romeu - Bolquère / Pyrénées 2000

www.sunfrance.com

ALPINE SKIING

CROSSCOUNTRY SKIING

DOG A SNOW-SHOE SNOWKITING A SLEDDING TOBOGGANING TREKKING PATH SLOPE SUDDEFRANCE - 6 -

La Quillane

BALNEOLOGY


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES CAMURAC

Thecreedofnature

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he only ski resort in Aude, Camurac occupies the heights of the Pays de Sault area, a succession of narrows and gorges leading to the source of the river Aude, nestled bet-

ween forests of beeches and fir trees, the wetlands of the prairies and summer mountain pastures that in winter give way to skiers. Dominated by the Tabe Massif and its ridge, the Pic du SaintBarthélemy and the Pic du Soula-

The fir tree trail

1,400/1,800 m

This trail runs from Coudons to Camurac and crosses the Grand and the Petit Plateau of Sault. Created in 1970 by the Syndicat Intercommunal d’Aménagement Touristique (a local authority joint board for tourism development), the “Route des Sapins” runs through the forests of Callong-Mirailles, Picaussel, Coume-Froide, La Benague, La plaine and Comus where you can admire the full diversity of the forest environment, including the tallest fir trees in the Department, some as high as 50m. There are also spruce trees interspersed with stands of beech, downy oak and larch. This 96 kilometre-long loop runs through villages and numerous panoramic viewpoints over outstanding landscapes such as the Gouffre de Picassel, other viewpoints on the Frau Gorges, the Joucou Gorges, or historic sites like the Memorial to the Maquis, the Cathar castle of Montaillou, or Saint James’ Abbey at Joucou. Interpretation panels and fully-equipped picnic areas can also be found along this trail. Maison de la Montagne du Pays de Sault visitor centre. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 20 65 69

The site : 11 sign-posted ski runs: 2 green, 5 blue, 2 red, 2 black, 4 button lifts and, new for this year, 1 T-bar surface lift. Beginners’ area with rope tow. Toboggan run. Ski school with children’s area. Snowshoe trails. Sign-posted cross country skiing trails. 25 snow cannons. Practical information : Tél : 33(0)4 68 20 32 27 Tourist Information Centre :

rac - mountains at an altitude of 2,348 metres - this family resort has successfully made a prime asset of its protected natural environment. In architectural terms, the village has resisted concretebased development, opting instead for the authenticity and charm of a mountain hamlet. At the heart of an agricultural area centred on sheep farming, in which the richness of the natural setting constitutes an invaluable heritage, winter sports go hand in hand with discovering the environment. It is an ideal place for couples and families to plunge into the depths of wintry nature. The cross-country skiing and snow-shoe trekking area covers 9 kilometres, while the Alpine skiing area has 11 marked slopes accessed by four ski lifts. Beginners and children are also catered for with a ski school, toboggan run, beginners’ area with a rope tow and snow parks.

Tél : 33 (0)4 68 20 75 89 www.cc-pays-de-sault.fr Day pass : €19 Family pass €61 + €2 for purchase of ski pass card upon arrival at the resort, valid for an unlimited period. www.sunfrance.com/montagne

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The bear’s footprints

Although the deer, capercaillie, Rosalia longicorn (a protected insect) and Boreal Owl are customary inhabitants of these diverse natural environments, “Baloo“ the bear also finds the area to his liking. Released in the Pyrenees in June 2006 as part of the reintroduction and conservation programme for brown bears in the Pyrenees, this Slovenian plantigrade made his home in the area of the Plateau de Sault. Discreet and timid, he is difficult to spot, but never seems to give up searching for a soul mate, although he has little chance of finding one, as females are only present in the central Pyrenees, an area jealously guarded by Pyros, a 23-year-old alpha male! The Pas de l’Ours (“Bear’s Footprints“) viewpoint, the name of which recalls the animal’s historic presence, overhangs the Gorges de la Frau, the kingdom of Golden Eagles, Egyptian Vultures and Peregrine Falcons. This listed natural site is also a Mecca for legends and stories as it connects the Montségur castle – the seat of Catharism – to that of Montaillou where twentyfive interrogations were carried out by the inquisitor Bishop Jacques Fournier during the crusade against the inhabitants of Albi between 1318 and 1325. www.paysdesault.com


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES CAPCIR CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING AREA

Thelargest of the cross-countryskiingareas

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t the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Park, Capcir, the highest plateau in the Western Pyrenees (1,500 and 1,900 m) is bordered by the Madres Massif to the east and the Carlit Massif to the west. The ancient glacial basin which, despite the persistent cold northern winds, enjoys a large amount of sunshine, unfurls its never-ending sumptuous landscapes – immense pine forests dotted with lakes and frequented by izards and mountain sheep. To the west, where the mountains stretch towards the sky, reaching their highest peak at Carlit (2,921 m), perch the Alpine ski resorts of Formiguères, Puyvalador and La Quillane. With 140 kilometres of marked trails, the Capcir cross-country skiing area is the largest in the South of France.

Hiking is strongly featured here with 37 kilometres of marked crosscountry skiing trails and 46 kilometres of marked snow-shoe-trekking paths where the snow has not packed down, giving visitors the impression of striding through virgin terrain in the heart of the valley. Snowkiting, which is to snow what kitesurfing is to the sea, offers a different perspective. The Capcir resort is scattered with a multitude of spots at different altitudes for experienced snowkiters and free-styling “pros“ who love to toy with the rough terrain. Also available: discovery sessions with thrills guaranteed! This high, vast plateau is also a preferred terrain for competitions: the Premières Planches du Capcir (“Capcir’s First-time Boarders“), a race for children and part of the Challenge Jeune Fondeur (“Young Cross-Country Skiers’ Challenge“) cross-country skiing competition, the Traversée Capcir (“Capcir Cross“), from juniors to seniors, in four stages in classic style ranging from 2.5 to 30 kilometres, and finally the Capcir Grand Prix, a special free-style cross-country race that forms part of the Copa Catalana championship.

Three in one

1,500/1,900 m

The best way to take a walk...

The site : Over 190 kilometres of slopes with 4 red, 5 blue, 2 green, 5 cross-country skiing trails, 2 snow parks with crosscountry rope tow, 8 marked snow-shoe trekking paths with free access, one dog-sledding trail, and a snowkiting area. Picnic rooms Day pass : €9,50.

With cross country skiing, shoeshoeing, hiking, tobogganing, sled dog rides, biathlon, and much more, the 13 ski runs at the Capcir resort provide a wide range of family activities to enjoy both the nature and the snow. Bearing the “4 Nordiques” logo, the ski area is split into three parts. The highest of these, la Llose‑Clavera, lies at 1,900 m altitude with views of the Mediterranean. It has wide ski runs that are ideal for learning cross country skiing. One of the three snowshoe trails connects Weekly passes from €29 à €50 Capcir Nordic Ski Area Col de la Quillane - La Llagonne Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 49 86 www.capcir-nordique.com www.sunfrance.com/montagne New for 2012: Package with ski pass + equipment + lessons: from €32 (cross country skiing, or snowshoeing, or biathlon). Guided Nordic walking, or

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the Torn Mountain Refuge with the centre of the resort. The La Quillane‑Calvet ski area is perfect for beginners ski lessons from the age of 4 and also has cross country skiing and sled dog trails as well as a toboggan run. Finally, La Lladure-Le Galbe‑La Matte, combines 5 Nordic walking trails and 3 snowshoe tracks, all freely accessible. Sled dog outings and equestrian activities are also possible. snowshoe outings with a meal of local produce from the Torn area. In addition, every Thursday evening during the school holidays, there will be night time walks followed by mulled wine. www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES LA QUILLANE

Afamilyresort that wants tostay that way Village excursions Although this winter sports resort is quite recent, the village it is situated in has been around a lot longer! La Llagone has been a main route linking Haut Conflent and Capcir via the La Quillane pass ever since the 11th century. Festooned in forests, this ancient, fortified village is clustered around its parish church, SaintVincent, built in the 12th Century. Recently listed as an official historical monument, the church has conserved 15 mediaeval liturgical decorative objects, including

a wooden statue of the Majesty (Christ the Majesty) painted in the 12th century. A little further north lies Matemale lake, an ice-diving site, sparkling in its magnificent green setting, at an altitude of 1,600 metres, in the heart of the Royale de la Matte forest with its ageold pines, and its populations of deer and stag. The village of the same name, through which the river Aude runs, houses no more than 300 inhabitants throughout the year has lost none of its mountain charms.

Art and War

A 1,710/1,810 m

t an altitude of 1,700m, opposite the Cambre-d’Aze peak, in the little village of La Lagone just a hop, skip and a jump from Mont‑Louis and its solar furnace, lies the resort of La Quillane, the smallest of the Catalan ski resorts. Built on the La Quillane pass inside the Capcir Cross-country Skiing Area, its four slopes - three green and one blue - are ideal for discovering and starting out in Alpine skiing. Enjoy the warm and welcoming atmosphere far from the larger, more crowded Pyrenees ski resorts! The two

baby slopes in the children’s area are managed by the Ski EFS School, which offers a wide range of alpine skiing lessons, cross-country skiing lessons, private snow-boarding lessons and group classes for beginners young and old. This family ski resort does its best to stand out from the rest. Its slopes are lit with the help of 34 floodlights until 8 o’clock in the evening; it boasts snowy slopes with at least 11 snow cannons and also offers entertainment in the terrain park where beginners and experienced skiers alike can discover free style skiing safely, on secure half pipes with freestyle airbags!

Area: Alpine skiing, slopes: 3 green and 1 blue 1 children’s snow park. 2 rope tows. 2 ski lifts. 11 snow cannons. Subject to opening this winter, there are plans for a snow and ice driving school. La Quillane - Information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 22 25 www.laquillane.fr www.sunfrance.com/montagne

Strategically situated on the crossroads between Capcir and Cerdagne, Mont-Louis is the highest fortified village in France. Designed by Vauban in 1679 to defend the new border with Spain, Capcir became French at the same time as Roussillon, Conflent and 33 other villages in Cerdagne. This stronghold belongs to a network of major Vauban sites now listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites (2008), in a group which includes twelve fortifications designed by the famous military engineer. The path running along the bottom of the ramparts offers a view of the fort in its entirety and enables you to appreciate the half-moon shaped bastions protecting the curtain walls, the watchtowers and the moats. In 1936, republican refugees from the Spanish civil war piled into the confines of the citadel which dominates the stronghold. Now the National Commando Training Centre, the citadel has opened its doors to visitors wishing to see the puits des Forçats (“Convict’s well“), constructed using 18th century wood, which provided the whole town’s water supply. Mont-Louis is also home to the first solar furnace to use double solar power, built in 1949 and used for both scientific research and harnessing energy for industrial production and crafts, such as ceramic kilning. http://mont-louis.net

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ALTITUDES PYRENEES LES ANGLES

Amulti-faceted resort

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he resort of Les Angles is one of the most beautiful resorts in the Pyrenees and the liveliest in the Capcir. There is a vast array of activities on offer to satisfy a wide spectrum of skaters, skiers and boarders. From the Bigorre plateau with its ski schools to the Pla de Mir for lovers of skating and Balcère and Jassettes with their 50 km of downhill slopes, with varying levels of difficulty, descending 800 metres and weaving through the forest with a magnificent panoramic view over the Matemale lake. The snow park spreads over 5 hectares at an altitude of 2,000 metres. Created in 1991 and restructured in 2009, it has adapted to reflect changing practices

A moment of madness

and techniques and offers those adept at ski jumps and acrobatics

Getting lost in the alleyways

1,600 – 2,400m

Built in the foothills of the Llaret massif, the highest of the Capcir, the village of Les Angles is among those rural mountain communities which have successfully made the transition to ski resorts. The old village has nevertheless not forgotten its past. The Place du Castel (“Castel Square“) is dominated by the castle keep – a vestige of 12th century fortifications. The façades of some houses still have bread ovens projecting from them and their lintels are engraved with the initials and professions of their previous owners. Here and there, among the alleyways rectangular granite fountains can be seen. These were installed at the beginning of the last century to provide water for the villagers and their herds. Firmly seated in the belfry, the bell still chimes to mark the day’s activities.

Area: 40 downhill ski runs including 2 black, 16 red, 9 blue and 13 green. 3 “free-rider“ zones. Snow park with a slope-style circuit. Snowboard-cross with several modules: Tables, Big Air, Hip, HandRails... Quarter turn. 365 snow cannons, 1 cable car, 4 chairlifts, 12 ski lifts, 2 tows. 8 shuttle buses. Accommodation capacity, more than 18 000 rooms. The resort endorses

a range of freestyle modules and several circuits (snowboard cross, slope-style, snowskating and an all-new Freestyle Airbag.). These are the facilities which make Les Angles “THE“ snowboarding Mecca in Languedoc-Roussillon! For those who prefer a gentler experience of nature, the resort offers 36 km of cross-country skiing trails and snow shoe paths as well as dogsledding trails. Border the Balcère lake, follow the meanders of the river Aude, explore the contours of the valleys and in the heart of the forests you might even spot an izard (a Pyrenean chamois), a mountain sheep or a capercaillie...

environmental protection Picnic area. Day pass: €34. Ski pass card ticketing. Resort Information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 32 76 www.lesangles.com iPhone application: Les Angles (free) The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass” allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski

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Take to the skies, paragliding and landing on your skis 600 metres further down the slope. Alternate between the snow and sky while being pulled along by a kite. Play like a seal on the ice-floor, diving into the frozen lake into waters of 2°C (in a wet-suit of course) tied to the outside world by a rope (accompanied by a professional). Or, just before nightfall, when the slopes are deserted, play snowsnakes with the family on a half-hour descent on a toboggan train... Since the introduction of the first chairlift in 1965, Les Angles has maintained its ambition of keeping itself at the forefront of modernity and innovation.

resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing).www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES FORMIGUÈRES

Familyandnature,great valueguaranteed The Spot for hiking in Pyrénées-Orientales

S

1,500/2,400 m

now-shoe trekking on the Serre de Maury plateau to the listed site of the Camporells or the Formiguères resorts with their 17 downhill slopes on tree-lined mountainsides descending 700 metres from altitudes of between 2,400 and 1,700 metres. The resort and its skiable area of 65 hectares are perched 2 kilometres uphill from the village. The resort is familyfriendly, offering child-minding for toddlers and special packages and “tribe packages“ for youngsters. The slopes themselves come in varying levels, with play areas and for the more acrobatic: tobogganing, snowboard cross, a snow park and a wood park.... The site is a partner of the Pyrénées-Orien-

tales French Disabled Sport Federation (the others being: Pyrenees 2000, Les Angles, Porte-Puymorens, and Capcir). Some of the instructors at the ski-school are trained in disabled skiing (handiski) and have dualskis and bi-skis as well as equipment for the visually-impaired, enabling them to transmit the pleasures of winter sports to all.

Area: 25 km of slopes. 70 snow cannons 17 downhill slopes: 1 black; 6 red; 7 blue; 3 green. Beginners’ slopes at the foot of the main slopes. 1 snow park. 1 snowboarder cross area. 1 freestyle area. 1 mogul run. 1 toboggan run. 2 chair-lifts 4 tows, 1 free rope-tow Free, marked snow-shoe paths. Piou-Piou kindergarten.

bark. This site harbours typical mountain wildlife - the ptarmigan with white winter plumage and feathered fingers enabling it to walk on snow, the Pyrenean Chamois (the emblem of the Pyrenees) – cousin of the European Chamois. Meanwhile, “Great North“-style weekends are organised by professionals – set out on snow-shoes and dogsleds into virgin terrain, followed by a night in an igloo. Also accessible, in the Galbe valley next to l’étang du Diable (“Devil’s pond“), is a slab of stone featuring cave-paintings attributed to the Neolithic period – including a human form. And, for an unforgettable stay, reserve your overnight stay in the guarded mountain refuge.

Accessed by two chair lifts, the listed site of the Camporells is a peerless spot for snow-shoe trekking and cross-country skiing. There, whether alone or with a guide, the circuit opens out onto magnificent landscapes with chains of blue lakes that join up the gentle trickles of the crystalline streams at the foot of the highest peaks and are... a candidate for the “Forêt Patrimoine“ (“Heritage forest“) award. The wooded Camporells massif is dominated by the hooked pine, a rare perfume in France, called “pinegre“ (“black pine“) because of the colour of its

An historic hamlet Formiguères, which extends over 46.9 km², has only 462 inhabitants, yet is the largest village of the Capcir. This historic capital served as the winter residence of the kings of Majorca in the 13th Century. Among the mountain dwellings with their lauze roofs, stands the wall of the pyramidal bell-tower with four bell-arches of the SainteNativité-Notre-Dame church, a listed building. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries and remodelled in the 13th century, the church was integrated into the town’s defence system, designed by Peter of Aragon in the 14th century. It has a unique nave with four lateral side chapels and two sacristies; note also the wooden carving of Christ’s descent from the cross – it dates from the second half of the 12th century and is reputed to be the most beautiful work of art of the Capcir. It might well be be the missing link between the very rare French models and the groups of wooden polychromatic Spanish models.

New for 2012-2013: opening of a 10hectare freestyle zone on the north facing slopes of la Serre de Maury. Day pass: €28.50. Hourly rates from €13 Resort Information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 43 75 Tourist Information Office: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 47 35 www.formigueres.net www.sunfrance.com/montagne

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The Forfait Saison Neiges Catalanes (“Catalan Snows Season Pass”) 6 days for €190, gives skiers access to the nine “Neiges Catalanes“ (“Catalan Snows“) resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Cambre-d’Aze Area, Font-Romeu, Pyrenees 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens, Puyvalador. www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES PUYVALADOR-RIEUTORT

Aresorttosuit youreverywhim

C

Underground landscapes

1,700/2,400 m

Located above the hydro-electric dam, the village of Puyvalador appears to be keeping an eye on the flow of the river Aude. The Catalan name, spelled “Puig Valador“ in the 15th century, can be translated as “mount in the shape of a ball or pincushion“ or “watchpost mountain“. Once fortified, it now only retains a few vestiges of its former royal fortress. Its frequently altered Romanesque church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, houses a superb 13th century polychromatic wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child. A mere three minutes from the village we find the Fontrabiouse cave which reveals, from chamber to chamber, a rich landscape formed by various concretions over the years – angels’ hair, tubes in the shape of organ pipes, disks, draperies, columns and, on the banks of the lake, deposits of aragonite crystals forming bouquets and a butterfly formation symbolising the cave.

Area: downhill skiing: 17 slopes - 2 black, 6 red, 5 blue, 4 green. 1 snow park. Marked snow-shoe trekking paths. Two chairlifts, 8 ski-tows. 65 snow cannons. A children’s activity centre and a ski school. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 44 83. www.puyvalador.com The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass” allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski

ompared to its neighbours, the construction of the Puyvalador ski resort among the pine trees at an altitude of between 5,500 feet and 7,900 feet was relatively late – 1981. Overlooking the Capcir plateau, in the Madres massif and forming a natural border between the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales departments, its long slopes snake towards the lake bearing its name, commanding breath-taking views along the whole valley and over the Pyrenean mountain chain. With a total length of 40 km, it boasts a range of slopes suitable for beginners to practise in a friendly atmosphere, as well as options for more experienced skiers, such as the slope at Les Lys (“The Lilies“) famous for its level of difficulty and its dizzying gradient. Although a blizzard may blow over the peak of the Ginèvre (at an altitude of 2,382 metres) making it easy to see why the region is also known as “little Siberia“, the bright sunshine enables all who visit to appreciate the beauty of the landscape with its specially marked paths and slopes for snow-shoe trekking or skiing, from which you may be able to spot the tracks of the capercaillie – the large heathland bird, or the Bearded Vulture – Europe’s largest vulture.

resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing).www.sunfrance.com/montagne

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On virgin snow The resort lives up to its watchword of wishing to cater for all levels of winter sports. For snow-boarders and other freestylers, one of the snowboard slopes is fitted with an enormous airbag for a risk-free landing! Off-piste is not forgotten either - the marked Fontrabiouse route winds throught the pine trees, over virgin show, and takes you through the most unspoilt part of the resort. The Puyvalador lake is also a snow-shoe trekking or dogsledding destination. The lake, retained by the dam, was built after the First World War and, like the similar Matemale lake, is designed to hold back the floodwaters of the Aude. The river, whose source is in the eastern slopes of the Carlit, tends to flow in torrents as it crosses the Capcir. Further to the west near the resort of Les Angles, Bouillouses lake, fed by the Têt, is a site of outstanding natural beauty – a blue diamond set amid snow-encrusted peaks – definitely worth a detour.


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ALTITUDES PYRÉNÉES 24 H CIRCUIT BETWEEN QUERCORB AND THE PAYS DE RAZES that took the name of “Terre Privilégiée” (Favoured Ground) in the 13th century and owed its prosperity to trade in cloth, shoes and felt hats which was a speciality of the Aude Valley in the 19th century. The Château de Chalabre, seat of the Mauléon-Narbonne family has been regularly extended and added to down the centuries and today this restored bastion of 2,500 m2 set in the heart of a 25 hectare estate has been transformed into an historical leisure park offering workshops in calligraphy, javelin throwing, dance, etc. There are also events including storytelling, equestrian displays and much more on the theme of the Middle Ages and chivalry, providing an appealing way for children to dip a toe into the past.

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Saturday and Sunday, the town is ablaze with the colourful costumes of bands and the sounds of musicians. Flower parades and processions of floats make for a stunning sight in the world’s longest carnival pageant.

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Tourist Office. Avenue du Pont de France. Saint-Hilaire There are 14 hamlets grouped around the Mirepoix Tel: 33 (0)4 68 31 11 82. LIMOUX town centre of Puivert which were once A.O.C. Wines Association. 11 3 situated on the banks of a large lake that 20 avenue du Pont de France. DurbanAUDE suddenly dried out in the 13th century. Corbières Chalabre Tel: 33 (0)4 68 31 12 83 Mouthoumet The smaller pond which replaced it 2 Couiza appears to maintain the legend of Lavelanet 1 e 4 - Bathing the White Lady, a Princess from Tuchan Aragon who complained about the in history Quillan waves submerging the rock where at Alet-les-bains she liked to contemplate the lake Belcaire Saint-PaulOn the road home, Alet-les-Bains and was carried away in de-Fenouillet Agly Axat manages to blend the importance floodwaters from a breach made Rivesaltes Latour-de-France of its medieval heritage with the in the wall to reduce the water Sournia Saint-Estève charms of a spa town. The level. The Medieval castle of Puivert Romans already valued the healing PERPIGNAN was besieged by Simon Ax-les-Thermes de Montfort, Quérigut Millas Toulouges properties of its waters and today, but rebuilt in the 14th century. It still Têt the spa resort combines therapeutic conserves its square gate tower, its Vinça Thuir care and à la carte facilities for e courtyard and from the defensive PRADES Villefranche Alet-les-Bains relaxation and well being. While positions of its high keep, there is a de Conflent Les Angles relaxing, others might prefer 4 magnificent view of the Quercorb region. On Olette contemplating the superb Roman relics of the the 4th floor, the ribbed vaulted ceiling in the Sainte-Marie d’Alet Benedictine Abbey. The “Musicians chamber” gently descends above Font-Romeu CERET door, the Chapter Hall, the polygonal Mont-louis entrance lamp stands bearing the images of the musicians. Arles- chapel and the cloister walls of this imposing These sculptures and instruments have been sur-Tech architectural edifice in Alet sandstone are all Prats-dereproduced in the Medieval Instrumentarium at Mollo-la-Preste listed historic monuments. In the fortified the Quercorb Museum. Quercorb Tourist Office. Cours d’Aguesseau. medieval town centre, there are fine 13th and Chalabre. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 69 65 96 14th century half-timbered and corbelled Château de Chalabre. Chalabre. 2 - Javelin throwing at houses set out in a star shape around the Tel: 33 (0)4 68 69 37 85. the Château de Chalabre square. Built at the confluence of three rivers surrounded 3 - Dropping into the Abbey visitor reception. by wooded hills, Chalabre is the capital of the wine cellars of Limoux Tel: 33 (0)4 68 69 93 56. Quercorb region. Historic plaques mounted on some buildings relate the historic past of a town Limoux is best known for its Blanquette, a sparkling wine produced since the 16th century using the “champagne method”. Many producers open up their wine cellars to visiting groups and it’s well worth a look to see revealed the history and some secrets of how the wine is made before finishing with a tasting. The old town of Limoux is dominated by the Gothic cross above the Church of Saint-Martin and is just right for a stroll in its narrow lanes while looking out for 15th century private mansions and Renaissance residences, the Pont Neuf (1327), or the arcades surrounding the Place de la Republique and the relics of its Alet-les-Bains Chalabre medieval ramparts. From January to March, each


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES CAMBRE-D'AZE AREA

Convivialityonoroff-piste Nature and culture

T

1,640/2,400 m

he Cerdagne, a high plain formed by a filled-in fault between two mountains, occupies the bed of a former lake at an altitude of 1,200 metres. The landscape alternates between the sweet and pleasantly rolling fields and pastures of the wide open valleys where herds of cattle graze and the spell cast by the high mountains (the Carlit massif and the Puigmal link) darkened by dense forests. The French upper Cerdagne (the lower Cerdagne is Spanish), is generously blessed with fresh air and sun. With 300 days of sunshine per year, the area lends itself both to experiments in solar energy and as a tourist destination, especially for winter sports. Ranging between 1,600 and 2,400 in altitude, the

Cambre d’Aze Area is situated where the Capcir meets the Cerdagne at the foot of the Cambre d’Aze mountain range.

United they stand Unity makes for the charm and the quality of the Cambre d’Aze area which combines the skiing areas of two villages, Eyne and Saint-Pierre-dels-Forcats. This warm and friendly ski resort emphasises its family-friendly dimension and draws together all types of winter sports within a radius of just a few kilometres. Powder snow fields, way marked trails and perfectly prepared and fully equipped ski runs are well adapted to downhill, or cross country skiing, to hiking, snowboarding or tobogganing. Natural snow accumulation is

Area: 35 km of slopes. 157 snow cannons. 21 slopes: 2 black, 7 red, 3 blue, 9 green. Two beginners’ areas. 2 toboggan runs. 1 snowboard. 1 snow park. 14 modules. Forest circuit. Snow shoe path. 1 chairlift, 16 ski-tows, 1 conveyor, 2 ski schools ESF, ESI. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 08 01.

supplemented by a huge network of 157 snow cannons. This is a favourite site for outings on skis or snowshoes while horseback rides on snowy paths rouse other emotions. The horseshoe-shaped Cambre d’Aze pass which overlooks Saint-Pierre dels Forçats is one of the most iconic for hikers. At its summit, an unobstructed view of some of the highest Catalan peaks from Canigou, taking in the pic du Géant (‘Giant’s Peak’) and further on, Carlit. On the return journey, thrills are guaranteed along the ‘grand couloir’ (‘great corridor’) – it descends 1,000 metres alternating between on- and off-piste... wonderful to watch and exciting to do, torch-lit descents are organised throughout the season.

The joint management association for the Cambre d’Aze ski area Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 08 01 www.cambre-d–aze.com Day pass: €27 Half-day pass: €22 Hiking access, chairlift: €5 The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass” allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski

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Eyne and Saint-Pierre-delsForçats form part of the Catalan Regional Natural Park. The Nature Reserve of the Eyne Valley has been known to botanists since the 18th Century and its status was listed officially as a ‘nature reserve’ in 1993. The diversity of its locations fosters the presence of rare species of both plant life and wildlife with populations of Pyrenean chamois, roe deer, red deer, golden eagle, ptarmigan, and numerous raptors... The ‘Maison de la Vallée’ (‘House of the Valley’) organises visits of the botanic gardens and hikes throughout the year. The area is also known for its archaeological heritage: among the most visited are the Lou Pou dolmen – a megalithic casket dating from 2000 B.C.; the del pasquerets dolmen – a tomb placed in the centre of a tumulus; and the Basousse menhir. At Saint-Pierre-dels-Forçats, the Sant Pere church boasts a unique nave bordered by two side chapels dating from the 12th Century and houses numerous works of art ranging in date from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Among the most noteworthy is the main altarpiece.

resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing).www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES CERDAGNE PUIGMAL 2900

Aresort at the top

A

fter doubling the number of slopes (15 in 1998, 30 today) and installing 15 kilometres of slopes using artificial snow, the resort of Puigmal, created in 1974, is now home to the highest skiable area in the Pyrenees. At an altitude of between 1,800 and 2,700 metres, the resort has spared no effort to satisfy the expectations of an ever-increasing number of winter-sports enthusiasts – all this while still respecting the natural environment. It offers a total surface area of 320 hectares, of which 80 are off-piste. Making the most of its forests and open spaces, the resort has gone allout to cater for a wide-range of

sliding sports. Each zone has its own dedicated sport – free ride, snowboard-cross, moguls, snow park, ski-school, panoramic and slalom runs, and, for each of these, there are appropriate levels from beginner to expert. Half-way between free ride and freestyle is the wood park, with its five nature routes through the forest: increasing the various options to try out the ski-jumps and moguls. The resort is also famed for the expanse of its free ride area which spreads out in a circle from the summit of the slopes at some 2,665 metres and offers a plethora of slopes and drops. In fact, every March the Puigmal Derby takes place here - the Pyrenean stage of the Derby Trophy.

A hot bath in the snow

1,800/2,900 m

Fancy admiring the ridge of snow-capped mountains of the Canigou over to the Sierra del Caldi from an altitude of 1,450 metres (4,750 feet) while luxuriously bathing in a pool of water naturally heated to 38°C (100°F)? Yes, it’s possible! And a long session is an ideal way to round off a day of skiing or hiking. The outdoor pools carved out of the granite from the Dorres are supplied with warm sulphurous waters which seep from the rock at 41°C (106°F). In bygone days, the waters were believed to have curative properties against aches and pains. Everyone can appreciate a moment of relaxation like this, an unusual way of unwinding. In the village, one of the chapels of Saint Jean’s Church is dedicated to an enigmatic black virgin. The Pyrenean region contains a cache of important Roman statues which are occasionally interpreted as representations of ancient goddess mothers.

Area: downhill skiing, 30 ski runs: 6 black, 14 red, 5 blue (1- 9 km), 5 green, 2 snowboard cross tracks, 1 snow park, 1 wood park. Beginners’ area at the foot of the pistes. Ski school. Children’s area for those aged 3 and over Ski-lifts: 8 ski-tows; 2 chair lifts; 2 teleropes, 1 rope tow. ISO Certification 9001 V2000. Picnic rooms.

Even higher The Puigmal d’Err, at 2,910 metres, is the second highest summit in the Pyrénées-Orientales. Historically, the area was crisscrossed with rural paths. A professional accompanies you along this great classic of cross-country ski-routes. From the summit, your gaze is drawn across the Cerdagne and the Spanish Sierra right over to the Montserrat massif to the north of Barcelona. 12 km of artificial snow ski-runs. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 70 15 et 33 (0)4 68 04 72 94 www.puigmal.fr The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass” allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées

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In the foothills, surrounded by an amphitheatre of high peaks at an altitude of around 3,000 metres is the Nuria Valley whose eponymous river finds it source at the sides of the Puigmal. Cradle of the sanctuary of the virgin of Nuria, a pilgrim shrine, its new church, erected at the start of the 20th century, houses a Roman-style wooden sculpture of the Virgin, seen as the patron of fertility.

2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing). www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES PORTÉ–PUYMORENS

The resort deepin thesouth witha tasteof theNorth

I

naugurated in 1936, PortéPuymorens was one of the very first resorts established in Pyrénées-Orientales and is now also one of the sportiest. Guarded by the Cerdagne tower, of which only some ruins remain on a rocky outcrop, the village, the heart of the resort, faces southwards, at the start of the Carol valley, whose entrance it once formerly guarded. The slopes climb from an altitude of 2,500 metres soaring upwards to flirt with the Pic de la Mine (‘Mine Peak’) and the Estavol peak, so that for some of them, there is a descent of 900 metres – some of the longest in the Pyrenees. The area is divided into three main sectors: La Mine – a pano-

ramic area; Fontfrède – threaded around the Coulée, one of the longest slopes in the Catalan Pyrenees and Baladra – for free riding with wide open spaces.

By hill and by dale

1,600/2,500 m

Where France, Spain and Andorra meet, Porté-Puymorens is located at the entrance to the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Natural Park and the landscapes which surround its forests of pine trees and glacial lakes, are a sheer delight. The exit from the Puymorens tunnel is topped by a cascade of light due to its polychromatic glass sculpture. From here the narrow glacial Carol valley extends towards Bourg-Madame. Along the way, you’ll find traditional villages with their slate roofs: Ur and the Saint Martin church – a listed historical building, Enveitg and LatourCarol – the terminus of the Yellow Train line. Of the castle and the hamlet of Carol itself, which defended the narrow valley, there remain only two ruined towers, standing on a rocky outcrop near the torrent. A little further on, climbing the route of the Yellow Train, the village of Saillagouse gives itself over to other pleasures, providing a museum dedicated to Cerdagne charcuterie.

Area: 45 km (28 miles) of slopes. 70 snow cannons. 21 slopes: 4 black, 3 red, 7 blue, 7 green. 6 cross-country ski circuits. Snow park + 600 metre (1,970 feet) Half Pipe. 1 Mogul run recognised by the French National Team. Snow-shoe trekking paths. 4 chair lifts, 8 ski-tows, 1 “Bambi” tow-rope. 1

From the Puymorens pass – at an altitude of 1,915 metres– it is possible to try cross-country skiing at altitude as well as through forests, unless you’d rather have a go at take-off with the snow kiting school. The latest winter sports are also catered for with facilities for freestylers, a 600 metre-longsnow park and a half-pipe.

White acrobatics A mogul run officially recognised by the French National Team held the French Mogul Skiing Cup Competition here in 2011. It is open to experienced exponents of this spectacular discipline, combining breath-taking speed and jump techniques whether or not they dream of following in the tracks of Silvan ESF Ski-school. Night time skiing every Saturday until 8pm. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 68 04 82 41 www.porté-puymorens.net The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass”allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace

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Palazo, the 2006 French champion – a native of nearby Latourde-Carol. Porté-Puymorens also acts as a magnet to free-riders because of the variety of the numerous corridors, perfect both for those starting out on sleep slopes and for those wishing to hone their skills – such as the Baillettes crest with its slopes varying between 40° and 50°. The wide range of snow corridors and spouts of the Baillettes Peak and the Vignolles are also used to learn the techniques of another sport – mountaineering. Also in the Porté-Puymorens valley, in the company of professionals, attempts can be made to climb frozen waterfalls, superb watercourses frozen onto the mountainsides.

Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing). www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES FONT-ROMEU - BOLQUÈRE / PYRENEES 2000

Snowandsun on theagenda

T

1,700/2,200 m

he granite steps which lead up to FontRomeu’s Grand Hotel have been climbed by rich celebrities in search of fresh air and leisure. Although today this palace is listed on the nation’s inventory of listed buildings and has since been converted into a private residence, the resort which rises in terraces some 1,800 metres above the Cerdagne plateau has remained unspoilt. Sun (over 3,000 hours-a-year), fresh air, and snow – natural and artificial – are all on the agenda. To revitalise its aura, the town is now home to the National Altitude Training Centre and is equipped with an Olympic skating rink, used by high-level sportsmen. The resort is looking to add to its list of awards – it has already earned the label of ‘the sportiest town in France’ and has now received the ‘Family Plus’ label after installing even more crèches for little-ones and a kids

park which aims to become the biggest in the Pyrenees. That’s 20 hectares reserved for winter sporting fun on themed slopes, in the company of Pyrenean animals or following in the tracks of the Inuit. Learn how to ski while having fun at the same time! Alongside the traditional luge run, there are hoops, tunnels, boards, meeting the young freestyler’s every need!

Satisfying as many as possible Font-Romeu Pyrenees 2000 emerged when the ski-slopes of two communities, Font-Romeu and Bolquère, were amalgamated. The two sectors linked by chair lifts boast 43 downhill ski slopes including the famous ‘Record’ – a black run descending 415 metres with many bends, compressions and schuss; it is used for giant slalom competitions. No fewer than 500 snow

Area: 59 km (36 miles) of Alpine skiing on 43 slopes 9 black, 9 red, 10 blue, 15 green. 111km of cross-country trails 1 snow park. 1 kids park. Snow garden ESF (4 years old and above). Child minding. Ski school. 8 chair lifts, 11 ski tows. 1 ski tow, 1 conveyor, 1 cable car. Resort information: 500 snow cannons www.altiservice.com Tourist Information Office:

cannons monitor the snowfall on the skiable surfaces. For crosscountry skiers there are 111 kilometres of ski trails and marked routes between the vast ‘La Calme’ (‘The Quiet’) plateau, and the forests of ‘Estanyols’ and ‘Farneils’. In addition, a brand new cross-country ski trail lined with snow cannons is to be installed this winter on the south-side of the La Calme sector. On the pleasantly tree-lined slopes of La Calme is a snow park with moguls and modules. Trekking on snow-shoes with or without a guide offers something to suit every character – whether contemplative or sporty – by day and night! In addition to snow kiting and other paragliding activities, there’s the snow scoot, a cross between a BMX and a snowboard, and finally a sort of snow bike for acrobatic or more leisurely moves – the QuadMountain bike – an all-terrain quad for the snow!

Tél : 33 (0)4 68 30 60 61 and 33 (0)4 68 30 12 42 www.font-romeu.fr www.pyrenees2000.com. Day pass: €33.50 Cross-country pass: €9.50 New: Half-day pass – 4 hours skiing €30 The “Neiges Catalanes Season-long Pass”allows you ski throughout the winter season at Neiges Catalanes’ 8 ski

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Right in the sun Font-Romeu means “Pilgrims’ fountain”, a name given to the area in 1957 after merging the two villages of Via and Odeillo. The origin of this is the chapelle de l’Ermitage (‘Hermitage Chapel’) which was built over a fountain. Located along the Way of Saint James, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains baroque works by one of the great Catalan artists, Joseph Sunyer and a number of ex-votos (votive offerings). Some 9,130 mirrors make up the 1,830 m² parabolic reflector of the solar furnace at Odeillo – definitely worth a visit. This laboratory run by the CNRS (the French national scientific research council), which took over from the experimental furnace at Mont-Louis in 1968, was involved in the search for alternative energy sources at the time of the first oil crisis. The choice of nuclear power put an end to these experiments. These days it concentrates on fundamental research, studying the behaviour of different materials at high temperatures.

resorts: Cerdagne Puigmal 2900, Espace Cambre-d’Aze, Font-Romeu, Pyrénées 2000, Formiguères, La Quillane, Les Angles, Porté-Puymorens and Puyvalador. There are plenty of options for downhill skiing, Nordic skiing as well as many pricing formulas (e.g., prices from €190 for 6 days downhill skiing, or a €40 freedom pass for 5 days cross country skiing). www.sunfrance.com/montagne


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ALTITUDES PYRENEES 24 H ROUTE FROM CONFLENT TO VALLESPIR

Cuxa Abbey. Route de Taurinya, Codalet. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 96 15 35.

century). As for the old mill, it safeguards the memoirs of Catalan weaving, the famous fabric used to make espadrilles.

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If you take the direction of Prats-deMollo on the D 115, a sign indicating, “Les Gorges du Fou”, invites you to take a spectacular Elne Tech walk along a 200 metre-high Argelèsfootbridge overhanging a narrow sur-Mer canyon (just 1m wide in places) with the rumble of the waterfalls of the river Fou in the background. At Prats-de-Mollo, we return to Vauban. This fortified town founded by James I of Majorca in 1325, had the height of its walls increased by Louis XIV’s military architect. He also added various defensive features such as parapets, watch turrets and gratings. The French gate and the Spanish gate give access to the old town with its cobblestone streets under the gaze of the FIGUERES Church of Saint-Juste-Sainte Ruffine and its crenulated church bell from the Romanesque period. It also has a large collection of Baroque artefacts. From the church, a street leads to Fort Lagarde. Built by Vauban, this stronghold dominates the fortified town and surrounds a medieval signal tower. Just a stone’s throw from there, the spa resort of la Preste les Bains invites you to relax at the end of the day in its spa fed by the blue waters of the Apollon spring. 11

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After the small village of Codalet on the D27, the road climbs towards the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Cuxa which has a rather unusual story behind it. The monastery was built in 883 and its church was consecrated in 974. Rebuilt in the 12th century, it soon went into decline and abandon at the time of the Revolution. The cloister and the

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Entrance to Ramparts. 32bis, rue Saint Jacques. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 96 16 40.

de Tourist Office. Le Palau at Arles-sur-Tech. Leucate Tel: 33 (0)4 68 39 11 99.

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Villefranche de Conflent is home to one of Field Marshall Vauban’s (1633-1707) 12 most important sites. Having secured UNESCO Axat world heritage status in 2008, the capital of the Viscounty of Confluent was built in 1092 at the confluence of three rivers (the Têt, the Cady and the Rotja), between the right bank of the Têt and at the foot of the steep slopes rising up to the Canigou. As Villefranche a highly coveted strategic location, de Conflent this outpost of the Kings of Olette 1 Aragon came under the control of the French in 1654. It was then redeveloped by Vauban who built Mont-louis up the ramparts and added a fort. Today, this military edifice has become a tourist attraction and a pleasing addition to a visit of the medieval town centre with its narrow lanes and its pink marble facades.

Abbey St-Michel de Cuxa

Academy of the weaving

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Circuit

1 - Villefranche de Conflent – a major Vauban site

monastic buildings gradually became ruined and devastated, but one part of this can today be found in the Cloisters Museum of the New York Metropolitan Museum. The remaining capitals and columns that stayed in France enabled the reconstruction of two galleries in pink Villefranche marble on the original site. The nave of the abbey church is dedicated to the Archangel Saint Michael and is one of a rare number of examples of pre-Romanesque art. Today, the abbey is alive and well and home to a small community of Benedictine monks while every summer, it also hosts the Pablo Casals Festival (chamber music).

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3 - On the banks of the Tech Reputed for its “rousquilles” (small white rounded cakes), its weaving and its Bear Festival (in February), Arles-sur-Tech is also the birthplace of ironworking, a beneficiary of the mining industry which flourished during the 17th century and which underpinned the reputation of Catalan blacksmiths. Their skills can be seen in the numerous balconies of houses in the town and is celebrated at the end of October by the “European convention of metalwork art”. In the town, all cobbled streets lead to the Benedictine Abbey at its centre. This, the oldest Carolingian abbey in Catalonia, contains a host of treasures such as the tympanum above the entrance, one of the earliest examples of Romanesque sculpture, the oldest Gothic cloister in Northern Catalonia, the barrel-vaulted nave of the Romanesque church and broken by two buttresses, reliquary cupboards with painted decoration (12th and 14th centuries), Baroque altar pieces, reliquary busts in silver and a large Schmidt organ (18th SUDDEFRANCE - 18 -

Tourist Office. Place le Foiral à Prats-de-Mollo. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 39 70 83.

Prats-de-Mollo


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES LES BOUVIERS-GRANDRIEU

Forsports andnaturelovers Bison at the Sainte-Eulalie Reserve

I

1,418/1,485 m

n Lozère, to the north of Mende, between the Aubrac and Allier rivers, at an altitude of 1,400 metres, the Margeride offers huge expanses of pasture, heaths of broom and heather, dotted here and there with large round boulders, interrupted by pine and beech forests and crossed by turbulent streams. A sort of world’s end where earth and sky seem conjoined in an eternal dialogue. An ideal environment for the family to admire nature’s beauty while at the same time indulging in cross-country skiing or snowshoe trekking. Located in the commune of Saint-Denis en Margeride, the re-

sort of Les Bouviers-Grandrieu is renowned for its cross-country skiing facilities which offer, at the heart of its beech and spruce forests, thirty kilometres of traditional trails and skating for different skill levels at an average altitude of 1,400 metres. Two snow-shoe trails, taking nature as their theme (7 or 11 km) might lead you to witness the footprints of the mythical Beast of Gévaudan, or to the edge of the European bison reserve, or in the footsteps of the pilgrims heading for Santiago de Compostela..... before taking you back to the chalet village. There is also an area reserved for youngsters to indulge in with winter sports.

Area: Cross-country skiing, green runs (3 km and 4 km), blue (6 km), red (8.7km), black (10 km). The resort offers four types of individual and group accommodation, gites, flats, chalets... Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 66 47 41 54 www.lesbouviers.com www.sunfrance.com/montagne

The European Bison is more slender than its American cousin, although the fact remains that it is still Europe’s largest terrestrial mammal. Weighing in at one tonne and measuring 2 metres at the shoulder, “Bison Bonasus”, a survivor from Prehistoric times, could only be found living naturally in Poland and the Caucasus at the end of the18th century. Faced with the alarming drop in numbers, a Polish Zoologist, Yan Sztolcman, made an urgent appeal at the “International Congress for Protection of Nature” in 1923. His plan to safeguard the bison in the Bialowieza Forest was adopted and just in time too! Only thirteen bison make up the gene pool of all current European Bison. La Margeride was selected as part of move to diversify the centres of reproduction for reasons of security. Long ago, it was part of the lands populated by European Bison and therefore possessed all the criteria to guarantee success. This animal which lives in the forest and grazes on grass but also branches, leaves and

SUDDEFRANCE - 19 -

tree bark, acclimatised well to the western plateau of la Margeride where the hooves of the first batch of six males and three females first touched the soil in 1991. The museum area at the Sainte Eulalie Reserve provides information using a variety of media supports on the origins and the way of life of the European Bison. A reconstruction of a Prehistoric cave also tells its story. Viewing areas set out over a 1km trail enable visitors to meet, on foot, some European and American Bison. The hour-long visit is set in nearly 200 hectares of pasture and forest and it is here in this magical atmosphere, with the sledge skimming through the snow, admiring the wonderful winter landscapes of la Margeride that you really get the greatest pleasure watching the herds with the addition of some baby bison born in spring 2012. So cute! European Bison Reserve, 48120 Sainte-Eulalie en Margeride. www.bisoneurope.com Tel: 33 (0)4 66 31 40 40.


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES LAUBERT - PLATEAU DU ROY

Among the trappers south of the Margeride

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o the south of the Margeride, the resort of Laubert‑Plateau du Roy boasts a huge cross-country skiing area spreading over 10,000 hectares of meadows and national forests. The cross-country trails both traditional and skating, extend over 60 kilometres and are split into two sectors that wend their way through descents of between altitudes of 1,200 and 1,450 metres on the Palais du Roy plateau from the village of Laubert. They lead to the banks of Charpal lake, the reservoir retained by the dam and surrounded by woods. There is plenty of choice for snow-shoe trekkers either off-piste or by taking one

Siberia for the Huskies

of the Charpal site’s four marked paths. You will feel like a

From Les Aurochs to Du Guesclin

1,200/1,450 m

On days of light snowfall, when you have had your fill of fresh air or are exhausted by the sheer effort, and a little respite is all you dream of, the area around the resort offers the perfect opportunity to commune with nature. The reserve at Sainte Lucie, some fifty kilometres from the resort, invites you to share the company of wolves. A surprising challenge to the ravages of time has been mounted in the hamlet of Giraldès where they have reforged their links to the Auroch – an ancestor of the domestic cattle breed. This bovine was hunted to extinction by Neanderthal man only to be recently resurrected through a succession of crosses between rustic breeds! The sacred art museum in Chastagnier houses a collection of priestly vestments and other religious objects. The mill at Les Calquières traces the history of wool-production in the Gévaudan. The Du Guesclin museum at Chateauneuf de Randon celebrates the eponymous constable who was charged with ridding the town of English domination. Plenty of opportunities to explore the history of the area and its inhabitants thus await the visitor.

Area: Cross-country skiing, 60 km of marked, secure trails split into two sectors. The Charpal sector has 6 trails. On the Laubert sector, snowfall permitting, 3 trails: blue, red, black. Depending on snowfall 20 km of trails link the two sites. Snow-shoe trekking, 25 km of marked paths – 3 paths: green,

trapper when faced with the immensity of this landscape, which evokes the wilds of the Canadian north. The impression will be even stronger when you visit the European bison reserve at Sainte Eulalie!

blue, red on the Charpal – 3 paths: green, blue, red on the Laubert and two toboggan runs. The dogsled trails are unmarked but are available upon request. A ski school. The site is certified “Cross-Country Skiing of France”. Resort information: Domaine de Laubert Tél : 33 (0)4 66 47 71 37

SUDDEFRANCE - 20 -

Each February, a national dog sled race is held in the resort. The “Lozerienne” course takes in much of Margeride and the plateau du Roy and leads runners close to the Charpal lake and the “Truc de Fortunio”. About fifty teams of between one and twelve dogs run the course of approximately 40 kilometres. The teams leave the starting point at two-minute intervals for the first leg their order is determined by a draw and for subsequent legs it is determined by race rankings. This superb and unusual competition attracts over 300 cross-country sled dogs under the instructions of their mushers. Side-shows and activities take place during the races including dogsled initiation sessions or more sedate outings in horse-drawn traps.

Tourist Information Office Châteauneuf-de-Randon : Tél : 33 (0)4 66 47 99 52 www.sunfrance.com/montagne Tourist Information : Mende Cœur de Lozère District Tourist Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 66 94 00 23 www.ot-mende.fr


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES LE BLEYMARD - MONT LOZÈRE

Thevast, virginwhitesnows Quite another story

T 1,400/1,610 m

he Cévennes National Park was recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Le Bleymard - Mont Lozère is at the heart of the park on the northern slopes of Mount Lozère and is just a stone’s throw from Finiels – a hamlet perched at the summit. The resort is dedicated to winter sports and exploratory tourism. From 1,400 metre to 1,610 metres in altitude, it spreads its skiable surfaces between Alpine skiing to the north and crosscountry to the south. It is one of only two resorts in the Cévennes (l’Aigoual being the other) to

offer Alpine skiing. There are seven runs laid out for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities and the slopes are accessed by five lifts. From the Finiels pass, five cross-country trails lead to the wide open spaces of the “strange, bare massif dotted with a chaos of rounded boulders of granite and punctuated with springs...” from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Travels with a donkey in the Cévennes”.

Boards and Sails “Mt Lo Park” is the name given to the snow park to open its doors in winter 2011/12. Equip-

Area: Alpine skiing: 7 slopes: 1 black; 3 red; 1 blue; 2 green Cross-country: 1 green (2.9km), 2 blue (4.8km), 2 red (10.4km) Snow-shoe paths: Red (5km); blue (2.5km) Toboggan area. Snow park.

ped with a line of three rails, from beginner to expert, and an air-line with four kickers giving made-to-measure take-offs of between 3 and 12 metres. The banked turns, super loops, moguls and triples will be irresistible. All abilities will be catered for (children, beginners, snow boarders, kings of the slopes). Don’t miss the “Cross-Boss” – the latest thing on the Prat Nau red run. The resort hosts independent activities, schools from the French ski federation from Génolhac and Villefort, introductions to dogsledding, and snowkiting from the Finiels pass with the Lozère paragliding club.

Resort Information Bleymard-Mont Lozère : Tél : 33 (0)4 66 48 66 48. www.lemontlozere.com www.sunfrance.com/montagne

SUDDEFRANCE - 21 -

Within just a few minutes, Mount Lozère is quite capable of enveloping itself in dense fog and vortices of snow, cutting off its villages. The storm bells lined along the mountainsides of the Lozère at Fage, Serviès, Auriac and Les Sagneswere have been put there to aid the stray traveller as a lighthouse aids a sailor. These granite edifices were built near the communal bread oven, each topped by a single bell which still chimes to this day as a reminder of the village life of yesteryear and the rigours of the climate! In such icy conditions, the thermal spa town of Bagnols with its baths is temptingly cosy! The waters gush out of the mountain at a steady 41°C and are a cure for aches and pains. Known of since Roman times, the benefits can equally be prescribed for rheumatics and the airways. Built as an amphitheatre right up to the banks of the Lot, the establishment has a separate area for relaxing stays. There are swimming pools, hammams, a sensory area (mood music and plant essence fragrances), showers, massage...


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES LE MAS DE LA BARQUE

Intoxicated by thegreat outdoors

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he symbol of the department to which it has given its name, Mount Lozere – whose highest point, the Finiels Peak, is in the Cévennes – extends its long plateau of moorland and grassland. The landscape’s only vertical elements are the chaotic blocks of granite, balanced in precarious and spectacular ways. These summits rounded by erosion form a succession of rolling undulations which descend into gentle wooded slopes; except at the dramatic eastern edges with its 1,000 metre plunge towards Génolhac and the Villefor fault. The diversity of its landscape, its plant life and wildlife, makes this granite massif worthy of inclusion inside the perimeter of the Cévennes National Park. In winter, Mount Lozère takes on a magical aspect, with its waterfalls, murmuring snow-dusted rivers and its

Mountain views

trees glistening under the frost. At the eastern end of the Mount Lozère massif at the foot of the Cassini peak (1,680 metres), the Mas de la Barque resort stands in an unspoilt natural setting. At an altitude of 1,420 metres, the resort, in winter, is dedicated to cross-country activities. The in-

formation point for the National Park and the gîte-village were built in an architectural style that respects the tradition of the Cévennes using granite walls and slate roofs – showing a harmony with nature. The 28 kilometres of cross-coun-

Art and history

1,420/1,610 m

The “Maison du Parc National des Cévennes” (“Cévennes National Park House”) in Génolhac has information and leaflets on the history of the Cévennes: the war of the Camisards (opposing Protestants and the king’s soldiers) of which the headquarters was in the Cevennes. Vialas, a nearby village, guards the memory of these events and is home to a temple built in 1612 and the cave of the Camisards of Tourières. More playful, the dale of Villaret offers both discovery games and art in a verdant valley. How could you deprive your children of this pleasure!

Area: Cross-country ski trails: Green 2.3km; blue 6.2 km; red 8.7 and 10.2 km Ski hikes, marked route to the Tarn 14 km Snow-shoe trekking path: green 0.8 km; blue 3 km;

try ski trails start off from the Mas de la Barque and meander between the pines and other conifers in the national forest.

red 6.5 km Tobogganing stadium 10,000m² freely accessible Dog sledding teams. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4 66 46 92 72.

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Villefort Tourist Information Office: 33 (0)4 66 46 87 30 Génolhac Tourist Information Office: 33(0)4 66 61 18 32 www.lemasdelabarque.com www.sunfrance.com/ montagne

Lovers of the great outdoors will find a true taste of adventure here. Two marked trails are offered: one, the shorter, stays within the forest while the other escapes over the Tête de boeuf (“Cow’s head”) crest, the pass and the eagle rock, finally reaching the Cassini peak. In addition to the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, in fine weather there is a view over to Mont Blanc, Mont Ventoux, Mont Canigou, the Mediterranean, the Tanargue massif, Sancy… Daredevils can continue their trek towards the source of the Tarn, crossing beautiful hamlets and farms built on the mountainside out of large carved granite stones: Mas Camargue, l’Hôpital, Bellecoste… Fine weather expeditions can be undertaken with a compass, a map and a good sense of direction or you can take a guided snow-shoe trek. Dogsledding is another option – either as an introduction or half- or full-day outings driving a dog team, a trip can even be arranged over several days, led by professionals.


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ALTITUDES CEVENNES 24 H A TOUR OF THE CAUSSE DE SAUVETERRE

The land between Chanac and Sainte-Enimie is full of telltale signs relating to the existence of Neolithic agro-pastoral. There are many dolmens, menhirs and tumuli to discover by following the “Pays de Chanac Prehistoric Trail”, or the “Causse de Sauveterre Menhirs and Dolmens Route”. The vast grasslands of the Causses together with the imposing farms (at Champerboux) and the dry stone shepherds’ huts indicate the importance sheep farming still has for the region today.

Where else than among the magical landscapes of the Causse de Sauveterre could Utopix have happened? The tenacity and passion of artist and sculptor, Jo Pillet, helped him build a succession of ‘igloos’ covered in stones Saint-Amans and linked together like a chain of processionary caterpillars. Originally intended to become a dream family home, this unusual rounded LOZÈRE construction also has a play park with labyrinth, giant flipper, imaginary animals like the “crocotuiles” or the “coccibulle” MENDE and a famous dinosaur made out of 8 tonnes of stone in which Le Bleymard children love to play. N. 10

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Located between the Causse de Sauveterre and D. 987 the Lot Valley, Chanac was the summer Nasbinals residence of the Bishops of Mende until the Revolution. The 13th century keep N. 9 around which the town formed in the D. 60 0 Middle Ages is all that now remains D. 599 of one of the finest castlesSaint-Chélyof d'Aubrac Gevaudan, although the high altar Marvejols at the Church of Saint-JeanBaptiste may have come from the 9 N. castle’s chapel. On the N88, 5 N. 108 kilometres up the valley from Saint-GermainN. 88 1 du-Teil Chanac, the 14th century ramparts Chanac of Le Villard extend out onto a rocky outcrop. This was the main La Canourgue D. D. 988 2 5 defensive bastion protecting the D. 45 D. 32 lands belonging to the Bishops. Its 2 Campagnac monumental dressed stone gateway is SainteD. 99 framed by two round towers and opens 4 3 Enimie 8 7 on to the church and various buildings 90 D. 2 D. 3 restored by the Departmental Council and the N. 9 A. 75 town of Chanac. The internal staircase built into Le Massegros the thick walls leads up to a small terrace with Sévéracle-Château breathtaking views of the Lot valley. Pays de Chanac Tourist Information Office. Quartier de la Vignogue, Chanac. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 48 29 28.

Tourist Information Office. Route de Mende, Sainte-Enimie. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 48 53 44. www.gorgesdutarn.net

4 - Utopix, another world 1 N.

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Utopix

Chanac Tourist Information Office. www.ot-chanac.fr

Dolmen of Aumède

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2 - In dolmens and sheep country

3 - The medieval village of Sainte-Enimie Bolstered by its designation as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France “, Sainte Enimie’s shops and half-timbered houses rise in terraces along lanes laid with cobblestones gathered from the Tarn. At a bend in a vaulted passageway, the Church of Notre-Dame comes into view. Rebuilt in the 15th century, but in a Romanesque style, it houses a collection of 14th and 15th century statues, including a virgin made out of gilded wood, one of Saint-Anne and a pietà. One of the chapels also recounts the legend of Sainte-Enimie in ceramic decoration. Princess Merovingienne was thought to have sought treatment for her leprosy by using the waters from the Burle. The spring feeding the river can still be accessed via a footpath. At the top of the village, the remnants of an ancient Benedictine monastery can be found, including a chapel and a chapter house, both listed historic monuments. SUDDEFRANCE - 23 -

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La Sirvente, Sainte-Enimie. Visits upon request only. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 48 59 07. Le Pontde-Montvert

5 - En route for La Canourgue FLORAC

On the D46, the Sabot de Malpeyre is a strange 30 metre-high clog-shaped rock which also looks D. a winking eye, reminding you of the a lot like 983 magic of nature. The story is that while passing through La Canourgue, Gargantua forgot his shoe. Last stop is la Canourgue where the tangle of canals and the maze of lanes dating back to the Middle Ages has led to it being called the “Venice of Lozere”. Tourist Information Office. 24 Tour de ville, La Canourgue. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 32 83 67.

Sainte- Enimie

La Canourgue


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES SOUTH SUD - BONNECOMBE

Snow-kiting oncowpastures

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he monolith of Aubrac, huge, almost shapeless crosses of basalt rock with outlines of very short arms and legs planted askew a simple heap of lava rocks, seem to create a union between the megalithic and Christian worlds.“ With these few words, poet and writer Julien Gracq, also a geographer, captures the sheer bulk and intensity of Aubrac. The mid-mountain plateau seems cut off from the world with its desolate, windswept peaks, which reach an altitude of 1,400 metres between the Truyère and Lot valleys. This nomadic territory, where Aubrac cows peacefully graze in summer and the vast stretches of grasslands are scattered with blocks of granite and shepherds’ huts (traditionally, these bunkers

Closer to the clouds are where they made their cheese) is transformed into skiable terrain in the winter. This mid-mountain zone with its harsh climate is covered in a thick layer of snow. Ideal for winter sports! The ski station is situated in the Bonnecombe pass, a cattle trail leading to the southern area of

A glacial footprint

1,200/1,450 m

The marker indicating by the “Signal de Mailhebiau” causes false readings on a compass because this giant basalt stone from the Tertiary period has retained its magnetism. On Aubrac’s volcanic plateaus, in a fold caused by erosion, lie four glacial lakes whose true depths and amazing colourful reflections are less easy to appreciate in the winter months when frozen over. Neither the cold nor the ice can stop the Déroc waterfall, an overspill from Salhens lake which plunges forcefully over the top of a basalt cliff, 33 metres high. Stand in awe, whatever the season!

Area: cross-country trails, 35 km, marked and secured, alternate routes and skating. Green 4.5 km, blue 6 km, red, 8 km, black 10 km. Sledding zone with instructors and a beginners’ slope. Snow-shoe trekking excursions: 3 km, 6 km, 8 km. Marked and secured. 1 toboggan run, 1 nursery slope, a Nordic ski and snowshoe trail, a walking trail,

the Aubrac mountains, the highest on the plateau. The Espace Nordique Aubrac Sud (South Aubrac’s Cross-country Skiiing Area) brings together 40 km of cross-country ski slopes between 1,200 m and 1,450 m in altitude. The trails snake through the Baronte forest, circle the Bonnecombe pond and skirt the Signal de Mailhebiau, Aubrac’s highest peak at 1,469 m. They venture onto higher pastures with unbeatable views of Lot, the Canta mountains, the chaîne des Puys (a chain of cinder cones and lava domes), Margeride, the Great Causses… the ski resort is ideal for beginners, big or small, and has its own ski school and sledding zone with instructors and a slope.

2 snowshoe trails. In January, the ski resort holds and takes part in the “Snowshoe Day” as well as night time outings. These activities are supervised by trained mountain guides. Information: Aubrac Sud Lozère - Bonnecombe : Tél : 33(0)4 66 32 39 53 www.aubrac-sud-lozere.com www.sunfrance.com/montagne

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Situated in the municipalities of Les Salces and Les Hermaux, the Bonnecombe pass is, the central point in the Aubrac Sud Nordic sports complex. A biologically diverse protected zone, it is the scene in may of one of the region’s most authentic folk festivals celebrating transhumance. The Bonnecombe pass is, along with that of Aubrac, one of the main departure points for snow-kiting. Used in the early 2000s by a few rare snow-kiters, the number of enthusiasts of this totally wild sport is increasing every winter. Accessible to beginners, the site is split into 3 zones, requiring varying degrees of skill; one of these zones leads to Signal de Mailhebiau and then, from that summit to a vast, isolated, open space, measuring 50 hectares where you can roam free with the wind in your sails! The site is registered with the French Federation of Free Flight and has an accredited school on site. http://federation.ffvl.fr


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES NASBINALS

Nature,well being,family: a winning combination

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ituated 3 kilometres from the village of Nasbinals, at an altitude of 1,200 metres, the site of Fer à Cheval (“The Horse Shoe”), is designed for summer activities, and then transformed towards the end of the year for winter sports. The cross-country skiing area of 35 kilometres is part of Greater Aubrac’s Skiing Zone which groups together 5 ski resorts, Aumont-Aubrac, Brameloup, Laguiole, Nasbinals and Saint Urcize over three departments: Lozère, Cantal, and Aveyron, making a total of 250 kilometres of marked, snowpacked slopes. The site offers 35 kilometres of classic cross-countryskiing trails and skating runs, a very physical spin-off of crosscountry skiing. Three slopes of varying difficulty provide a beautiful and experimental space to experience the skills and techniques of Alpine skiing. The snow-show trekking paths, cross country ski trails and dog-sledding trails offer a real opportunity for the whole family to indulge in the joys of a white winter, close to nature, crossing forests and plateaus, inhabited by deer and squirrels, white eagles and peregrine falcons, far from the hustle and bustle of some of the trendier resorts!

Your every wish fulfilled!

1,200 mètres

Because winter holidays are not

just all about sport, there are two well-being centres in Nasbinals and the surrounding area which provide much needed comfort after your exertions. The Chaldette resort, designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, has white arches with wooden and glass walls stretching right out to the banks of the river Bès. Bathed in light, opening out in harmony with the surrounding scenery, the structure symbolises the successful blending of hydrotherapy and green (or white!) tourism and of health and well-being. There’s good quality air at an altitude of 1000 m and good quality water, naturally flowing at 35°C and recommended for the treatment of digestive and metabolic problems… … The resort places its emphasis on modern hydrotherapy, which like traditional water cures offers treatment packages lasting from

Area: Cross-country ski trails – classical and skating: green (1.5 km), blue (3.5 km), red (8.5 km). Links: 13 km. Alpine skiing: 3 blue slopes (runs). Snow-shoe trekking: 2 paths of 4 km. Cross country treks: 15 km. Dog-sledding trails: 10 km of dedicated tracks. 1 ski lift.

half a day to a week but with the added benefit of a swimming pool, sun tanning studio, gym, relaxation space, sauna, hammam, bubble baths, massages, tonic or relaxing showers… A little further away, in Saint-Chely d’Apcher, the Spa in Aubrac, with its own supply of spring water is more rustic in design with a logo portraying the famous Aubrac cows, and offers sophisticated treatments such as balneotherapy with essential oils, hammams, a 100 m2 swimming pool heated with a wood burner to 30°C and a Jacuzzi, etc.

Day passes: €8 -15. Information: Station Nasbinals Fer à Cheval : Tél : 33 (0)4 66 32 56 17 Nasbinals Tourist Information Office: Tél : 33 (0)4 66 32 50 17 www.sunfrance.com/montagne

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Fiction and reality

The Nasbinals Roman church (dating from the 11th and 12th centuries and modified in the 15th century) was renowned on the Way of Saint James because of its number of beds. This priory, which belonged to the monks of Saint-Victor de Marseille, became a welcome, but unexpected resting place for the pilgrims before crossing the Aubrac plateau, often made perilous by bad weather conditions. In the centre of the village, the huge edifice of the church with its brown basalt walls topped with slate roofs evokes a reassuring sensation of nonthreatening power. Since the railways of Compestello were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Podiensis way which starts at Puy-en-Velay and crosses a large area of Aubrac has enjoyed a new wave of interest. These landscapes were used as the setting for Coline Serreau’s comedy film, «Saint-Jacques–la-Mecque ».


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ALTITUDES CÉVENNES MONT AIGOUAL-PRAT PEYROT

Withaseaview!

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amous for the exceptional panoramic view from its summit, which reaches a height of 1,567 metres, Mont Aigoual is highly appreciated by Alpine skiers within the region. Could this be due to the plant life, which in certain ways resembles that of the Alps at around an altitude of around 2,000 to 2,400 metres? Or could it be caused by the extreme climate, the centre of the weather front between the oceanic air and that of the Mediterranean? It is more probable that it is the mighty slopes which beat a path through chestnut trees, beech groves, spruces and fir trees that are the real strength of this exceptional Gard ski resort. Situated at 1,380 m in the Prat Peyrot pass, in the commune of Valleraugue, in the southern Cévennes, the resort offers downhill slopes equipped for skating, for all levels, accessible by 13 ski lifts, both mechanical and electric, and, if needed, 85 snow canons. The joy of the slopes accompanies the beauty of the peaks from which you can look onto other summits, Mont Lozère, the Great Causses, and when the weather is clear, further away and higher up, Mont Blanc and the Alps range, the Pyrenees and… the Mediterranean.

White trails

1,560 mètres

The skiing area opens out into mountainous landscapes, centuries-old forestry breaking it up here

and there, clearings and grasslands where flocks of sheep and cattle still graze in the warmer months. There is a total of 60 km of cross-country ski trails, hardpacked and marked. Including one black ski run of competition standard. The Ecole de Ski Français (French Ski School) offers one-toone or group lessons in crosscountry skiing, Alpine skiing or snowboarding. Snow-shoe trekking is unsupervised. Perfect for teaching children, the resort hosts several competitions including the Journée de la glisse (“Winter Sports Day”) and the Traces Blanches de l’Aigoual (‘The White Trails of Aigoual’) - two days of cross-country skiing, for all categories. The facilities have been used here for two winters (in 2006 and 2009) for the Championnats de France Masters. (“French Masters’ Championship”).

Area: Alpine skiing, 9 km of slopes: 4 red, 6 blue, 5 green. Cross-country skiing, 60 km of trails: 2 green, 2 blue, 2 red, 1 black – competition standard and 1 cross-country skiing circuit with artificial snow. 85 snow cannons. Snow-shoe trekking – free access. Resort information: Tél : 33 (0)4.67 73 19 80 Valleraugue Tourist Information Office: Tél : 33(0)4 67 82 25 10 www.sunfrance.com/montagne www.pratpeyrot.fr

A history of weather

Predicting the weather

The Mont Aigoual observatory, the last mountain meteorological observatory in France, with its fortress like structure on the peak of Mont Aigoual, is impervious to the weather and the various hazards linked to its location. Inaugurated in 1894, the Met Office station serves as both a museum and a modern laboratory with a range of forecasting and observation instruments. As well as being open throughout the summer, it opens its doors to visitors for two weekends during the February half-term holidays and 8th January for the national snow-shoe trekking festival. Turning back the clocks

A few kilometres away, the Vigan museum, set in an old silk mill, tells the history of southern Cévennes through rooms depicting trades and ethnology - displays of silk works and a collection of clothes from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as by Coco Chanel. Take your time

From the old quarter of Serre, to Valleraugue, you take the4,000-step path, which soars towards the Mont Aigoual observatory. If you are not tempted by the summit, venture into the sloping alleyways and discover the houses built out of stones shaped by the river.

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ALTITUDES CEVENNES 24 H A TOUR AROUND MONT AIGOUAL outpost owes its prosperity to silkworm rearing from the 17th to the 19th century (as was the case with most villages in the southern Cevennes). With the Pont du Gasquet, pont du Chiné, pont de la Pieyre, pont du Mas Carle, etc., the village has no less than 12 bridges crossing the Hérault which makes for quite an original discovery trail! Due to the “épisodes cévenols” (rain-laden clouds blown by strong winds from the Mediterranean) and the devastating floods which they can cause, only the stone built Pont de la Confrérie, previously called the Pont de la Fontaine, dates back to the 12th, or 13th century. Most of the other old bridges were destroyed by floods. N. 10

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Le Caylar

Valleraugue lies on the slopes of the Mont Aigoual and marks a transition between the mountain’s foothills and the gentle landscapes of the Viganais district. Situated at the confluence of the Hérault and Clarou rivers, this ancient military Valleraugue

2 - The 12 bridges of Valleraugue

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Maison de l'Aigoual Visitor Centre. Col de la Serreyrède. L'Espérou. D. 7 Tel: 33 (0)4 67 82 64 67. www.causses-aigoual-cevennes.org

Reputed for its relaxed and gentle way of life, Le Vigan encourages you to stroll around its narrow Saint-Germainlanes to discover its mansions dating from the de-Calberte D. 18th century (hôtel d'Assas, hôtel de 98 4 Ginestous, hôtel Estherazy), its 17th D. 9 D. 98 century public fountains and troughs, its 3 temple and its ancient Capucins Saint-Andréon chapel which reminds you that you de-Valborgne D. are in Hugenot country. Overlooking 98 D. 907 3 the Arre, the superb arch of the old 12th century bridge has resisted centuries of floods. To find out Valleraugue D. D. 986 39 more about civilisation in the 2 3 Vézénobres Cevennes, the Le Vigan museum Lasalle D. 48 presents its history based on key 5 GARD materials used in handicrafts and 4 industry such as clay, wood, stone, LE VIGAN Sumène wool and silk. Located in a former silk mill on the banks of the Arre in the Saint-Hippolytesplendid surroundings of a medieval part du-Fort 9 9 9 D. of the town, the exhibition also introduces Ganges D. you to other unusual personalities like Coco 98 6 Chanel, André Chamson, etc. Barre-desCévennes

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From Prat Peyrot on the D269, the 1,299 metrehigh Col de la Serreyrède marks the D. 98 boundary between two watersheds and 6 offers a spectacular view of the Hérault D. 996 D. 996 valley. The mountain pass lies on the Meyrueis route of the Grande Draille de l'Hérault, a centuries-old transhumance route used during the summer to take sheep from the D. 986 Languedoc garrigue to the high 1 Trèves pastures of the Aubrac. The Maison rbie de l'Aigoual visitor centre also Do u houses the tourist information office while the “Terres d'Aigoual” Nant farmers’ shop will delight the food D. 999 lovers with its local produce.

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4 - Le Vigan, capital of the southern Cevennes

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1 - View point at the Col de la Serreyrède

Museum of Vigan

3 - A short stop at the old Mazel textile mill and Puech Sigal Heading towards Le Vigan, the Mazel textile mill at Notre-Dame de la Rouvière provides a good illustration of the silk industry. Entirely renovated in the 1990’s as part of a project to revive sericulture and the production of silk yarn, the building possesses a well preserved mill which is unique in the Cevennes foothills. The name of the hamlet, Puech Sigal, signifies in Occitan, the “rye mountain”. Ancient houses with traditional chimneys, old cobblestone lanes and threshing areas testify to this ancient variety of cereal that has today been replaced by sweet onions from the Cevennes which now boast AOP status. They are grown on terraces which arc in uniform curves along mountain slopes, making the Taleyrac Valley look a little like Asia. Maison de Pays visitor centre, 7 quartier des Hortes à Valleraugue. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 64 82 15. www.causses-aigoual-cevennes.org SUDDEFRANCE - 27 -

Musée Cévenol. 1 rue des Calquières, Le Vigan. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 81 06 86. Open during school holidays.

5 - From Aulas to Arphy, the valley of waterfalls From the lovely and lonely medieval village of Aulas, following the Coudoulous (“stones that roll”) via the tiny village of Arphy, you pass through the valley of waterfalls. River, streams and irrigation channels transform the foot slopes of Mont Aigoual into abundant gardens and orchards planted with Reinette du Vigan, a variety of apple that has been highly prized locally for centuries. The other bounty of the Cevennes, sweet chestnuts are can also be seen on this section of the route.

Former(Old) Shadowing(Spinning) of Mazel


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PERSPECTIVES

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Languedoc-Roussillon used to be famous for its Pont du Gard (Guard’s Bridge), the Canal du Midi, The Way of Saint James - the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the town of Carcassonne and the fortresses of Villefranchede-Conflent and Mont-Louis, built by Vauban. That list has since been extended to include the eternal treasures of the Causses and the Cévennes, both listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in the summer of 2011. Of course, LanguedocRoussillon is also all about wide open spaces, grandiose caves and Cathar castles … exceptional places that evoke a certain lifestyle, to which its gastronomy and exceptionally rich cultural heritage also bear ample witness.

p. 30-32 Nature .................................................................... p. 33-34 Relaxation ..................................................................... p. 35 Heritage ................................................................. p. 36-39 Gastronomy ....................................................... p. 40-43 Culture ........................................................................ p. 44-45 Events ................................................................... p. 46-47 Accomodation-acces ............................................... p. 48 The Great Outdoors............................................

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PERSPECTIVES THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Skiing,snow-shoe trekking andsledding…

Unspoilt countryside, pristine snow, perfect silence, dream conditions for trekking!

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anguedoc-Roussillon’s mountain resorts provide an ideal cross-country setting, trekking paths, and dog sledding trails (see page 22 onwards). The Capcir area in undoubtedly the largest, which along with its hard-packed ski slopes has a further 46 km of snow-shoe trekking paths and 37 km of cross-country skiing trails running right through the valley, in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees Regional Natural Park. Beyond the marked slopes, Capcir, Cerdagne, and Haut-Conflent are brimming with possibilities, whether on the summit of a mountain or the edge of a lake. Home of snow-shoe trekking, Cévennes offers an outstanding playground for trekking fans on the tops of Mont Lozère, in the sun-dappled beech groves of Mont Aigoual or the highlands of

Aubrac Margeride. Guidebooks and maps provide the safest of routes. For longer trails, mountain guides know the routes and can tailor them to individual wishes and abilities. All the resorts offer dog sledding and enthusiasts can obtain details of associations and qualified instructors. Pleasure

rides, treks or induction training - an original way of letting yourself be carried away by great outdoors, led by Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes or Greenland Eskimo Sled dogs. www.sunfrance.com/montagne

What’s cool on the slopes? Providing thrills of varying degrees of intensity, the latest trends are hitting the slopes. At the snow park, fans of free-styling are now trying out snow-kiting, a snowboard pulled along by a sail, a spin off from wind sports such as kite surfing devised in Montpellier. Whether you’re a skier or a snowboarder, towed by a kite or a sail, it’s all done on wide, open slopes covered in freshly-fallen snow. The most experienced boarders can set off with the advantage of the powerful mountain winds pushing their sails. Speed-boarding combines both the thrills of skiing and hand-gliding, tearing down the mountains, you alternate between periods of boarding and flying. Snake-sliding, which takes place only once the slopes have been closed, involves fastening sleds together to make a long chain which can take up to twelve people. The Catalan Pyrenees offer a range of wonderful spots for these sports, particularly in Angles, Capcir and Font Romeu. There are even some snow-kite schools which have very recently opened.

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PERSPECTIVES THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Bliss for mountain bikers

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iking enthusiasts, sportsmen with stamina, or acrobatic fanatics; mountain bikers will make a beeline for specially designed trails tailored to different skills levels. In the Aude, in the heart of Cathar country, there are no less than 1,400 km of sign-posted mountain bike trails. Designed for visual pleasure and occasionally for running risks, these trails criss-cross the slopes of the Montagne Noire, skirt the vineyards of Corbières, reach far into the Clape massif, follow the Canal du Midi, pass through the intimacy of small villages and open out into the grandiose landscapes of the Pyrenees, or the Cathar castles, or even the invincible city of Carcassonne. In the Pyrénées Orientales, two wheels will take you from plateaus to valleys, from lakes to precipitous slopes. Ranging from a tranquil walk to an energetic hike, from Capcir to Haut Conflent, in the Catalan Pyrenees, or on the Canigou, 61 trails give mountain bikers a good reason to exercise their talents in contrasting settings. Mountain biking in the Gard can be technical, invigorating, or panoramic in nature. It awakens your senses with loops that follow ancestral transhumance routes on Mont Ai-

goual, run along ridges in the Cevennes, take on the stony wastes of the garrigue near Uzès and disappear into the gorges of

The green network The Green Network (Réseau vert) crosses the Hérault from East to West and offers walkers, bikers and horseback riders 500 km of sign-posted and secure trails split into 19 stages of about 30km each. The Tour du Causse du Larzac Méridional hiking trail takes you through the Causse with its expanses of pasture and moors, the Lergue and Brèze valleys, the Parlatges Forest while skirting farms, barns and “lavagnes” (man-made watering holes for livestock) . All in all, 105 kilometres of pure bliss. A recent addition is the 188 km Larzac-Méditerranée trail which follows part of the Green Network and links Le Caylar in the Lozère with Agde in the Hérault. There is also the “Passa Païs”, a 59 km “green way” built on a disused railway line which runs through the Regional Nature Park in the Haut-Languedoc. It winds its way from Mons-la-Trivalle in the Hérault all the way to the medieval town of Olargues, passing through garrigue, damp forests, vineyards, and crossing the Eiffel Bridge. Further east, there are other “green ways” at Beaucaire la Vaunage, Gallician, Quissac, or Molières sur Cèze. These small sections average about 7 km each and slip discretely through the Gard landscapes. In the Pyrénées Orientales, the green lanes linking Perpignan to Thuir and Barcarès to Rivesaltes keep to quiet narrow lanes near the coast, or on the plain, or run alongside the banks of the Agly or Têt rivers.

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the Gardon. In Lozère, mountain bikers have plenty of recreational space geared to suit all desires from the most intrepid to the more contemplative. All you have to do is choose. You can start out on the road to Santiago de Compostella, cycle around the Aubrac, descend the gorges of the Tarn, stride up Mont Lozère, cross the Grands Causses, or follow Stevenson’s path. You can cross the Hérault in fifteen days via a 500km trail with opportunities for excursions into the Petit Camargue, or through the vineyards of Lunel, a detour around Lake Salagou, or on the outskirts of SaintGuilhem-le-Désert, a loop in the Hérault Gorges, or to La Salvetat in the heart of the Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park. Regional Office of the French Cycling Federation. Maison Régionale des Sports. Rue Georges Méliès, Montpellier. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 22 49 63


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PERSPECTIVES THE GREAT OUTDOORS

ThewolvesofGévaudan AnAfrican nature reservein theheartof Languedoc

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he Gévaudan serial killer wolf legend of the 1760s is still very much alive today. However, the Sainte-Lucie wolf park tends to demonstrate that wolves are timid animals that flee from humans and are therefore very difficult to observe. The 20 hectares or so in which the 130 wolves live in semi-liberty offer visitors a rare opportunity to admire them. Five species are present: the Common Grey Wolf, the Mackenzie River Wolf, the Tundra Wolf and the Tibetan Wolf, all of which differ in their morphology and the colour of their

coats. The park is also committed to providing information to help visitors better understand this animal, which was eradicated in France between 1920 and 1940 with the use of strong poisons such as strychnine. Visits are recommended in the morning or late afternoon, as wolves like to take an afternoon nap! Les Loups du Gévaudan (“Gevauda Wolf Park”) in Sainte-Lucie Saint-Léger-de-Peyre. Tel: +33(0)4 66 32 09 22 www.loupsdugevaudan.com www.sunfrance.com/parcs_animaliers

Happy tortoises at Sorède

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t the foot of the Albères Mountains, in the Vallée Heureuse, there is a wildlife park dedicated to tortoises. Committed to protecting Anapsids in general, the “Valley of the Tortoises” is one of the last remaining sanctuaries in Europe for the “Hermann’s Tortoise”. It covers two and a half hectares and provides shelter for some 500 tortoises representing

about 30 different species from the smallest right up to the monumental Aldabra Tortoise from the Seychelles. The visitor trail is equipped with interpretation panels to spot and learn more about each species.

The Vallée des Tortues. La Vallée Heureuse. Sorède. Tel: 33 (0)4.68.95.50.50. Visits upon requests by calling 06.74.18.92.11 - www.lavalleedestortues.fr

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he Sigean African Nature Reserve provides a home for 3,800 animals and covers more than 300 hectares of Languedoc garrigue and salt marshes bordering lakes Peyriac and Sigean. There is the Bush Park with its Blue Wildebeest, Greater Kudus, Peralta Giraffes, a bear enclosure, a Savannah park with White Rhinoceroses, Black Crowned Cranes, Grant Zebras and a lion enclosure. The animal areas can be visited by car, following a 7.5km route. There is also a footpath in the centre of the reserve with observation platforms where you can see African Antelopes, Chimpanzees, Elephants and Alligators and much more. This semi-natural animal reserve opened in 1974 and remains a mustsee attraction for children. African Nature Reserve. 9, Chemin Hameau du Lac. Sigean. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 48 20 20.


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PERSPECTIVES NATURE

Beauty that takes yourbreathaway The Cévennes National Park and the Regional Natural Park in the Pyrenees are both protected areas which boast sublime landscapes.

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he Cévennes valleys, the granite mountain ranges of Mont Lozère, Bougès, Aigoual and Lingas, the huge karstic summits of the Causses… The diversity of the environment within the Cévennes meant that it was granted the status of National Park in its own right and the special protection that goes with it. Created in 1970 and extending over three departments (Lozère, Gard and to a lesser extent Ardèche), the Cévennes National Park is the only such park to have been established in a mountainous region. In June 2011, the Causses and the Cévennes were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The effects of an age-old interaction between man and nature, which sculpted this landscape, have thus been recognised. The signs of man’s intervention in the area can be seen throughout the landscape, from megaliths to chestnut orchards and pastures for wandering flocks, not to mention silkworm farming. Contrasting landscapes link different settings, fields and prairies, moors and scrubland, wetlands, home to an extremely rich and varied plant life (11,000 species

including 2,250 plants and flowers) and wild life. Numerous highly endangered birds of prey, the Golden Eagle, the Short-toed Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, the Eagle Owl, the Fawn Vulture, the Monk Vulture the Egyptian Vulture - have all chosen to make their home in these parks. Your trip can also take in an exploration of the many discovery trails and eco-museums. www.cevennes-parcnational.fr

The Canigou foothills along the Spanish and Andorran borders The Catalan Pyrenees Regional Natural Park extends across 137,000 hectares over the peaks of Cerdagne, Capcir and HautConflent. Mountainous landscapes of peaks and ridges, summits and plateaus, ranging between 300 and 3,000 metres in height, with a climate made milder by its proximity to the Mediterranean. The park enjoys some 300 days of sunshine every year and a wide variety of natural settings - highland lakes, peat bogs, pine forests - which give rise to perfect conditions for fauna and flora, incluSUDDEFRANCE - 33 -

ding over 240 endangered species. Among them, the Pyrenean Chamois, the emblem of the Pyrenees, whose agility is the envy of many a sportsman. Numerous birds of prey find nourishment and a safe habitat and can easily be observed. Alongside unforgettable natural sites such as the Canigou mountain range, the gorges at Carança, the lakes at Bouillouses, the “desert” that is the Carlit peaks or the corries of the Camporells, the park is also the cradle of exceptional heritage sites. To begin with, abbeys, cloisters, priories and numerous roman and baroque churches await the visitor. Several of these churches are exceptionally rare, such as the church of Angoustrine, whose walls have been graced since the Middle Ages by murals, fragments of which remain to this day. The fortified towns of Mont-Louis and Villefranche-de-Conflent, listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, bear witness to the story of the turbulent history of Catalonia, daughter to the Kingdom of Majorca, which became a part of France in 1659, but which has nonetheless preserved its own identity. www.parc-pyrenees-catalanes.fr www.sunfrance.com/grands_espaces


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PERSPECTIVES NATURE

Awine-producingregion withlotsof…springs! Although the wine-producing region of Languedoc-Roussillon well known, the region also contains a number of natural water springs

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ituated in Pyrénées-Orientales, the underground water spring of Sémillante, which is microbiologically pure, flows naturally through the heart of the Catalan region. It has been sourced and bottled in Toulouges for several years. This water is used as a base for the soft drinks served in the Milles restaurant, including the famous Limonette. Salvetat comes from Hérault; it was classed as a mineral water in 1868 and flows through the heart of the Haut Languedoc Natural Park – it is slightly salted and rich in calcium and now belongs to the DANONE group. It is bottled in La Salvetat-sur-Agoût. Not far from Lamalou les Bains, the Vernière spring gives us naturally fizzy water caused by its long journey through crystalline rocks. Recognised as being of “public interest“, Vernière mineral water is particularly rich in bicarbonates, calcium and magnesium. In Lozère, at the crossroads between the Cévennes and the Causses, Quézac is another example of naturally fizzy water, rich in bi-

carbonates and sodium, calcium and magnesium. After a long and deep course underground, it flows into a glen at the foot of the small mediaeval hillside village of Quézac. Finally, Perrier water, an internationally renowned brand flows right through the centre of the scrubland near Nimes. The spring was first exploited in 1863 when it became a thermal spa. In 1894 it became the property of Doctor Perrier, who gave it his name. The guided tours will teach you everything there is to now about the little green bottle and its bubbles.

Salvetat Tourism Information Office Salvetat-sur-Agoût (Hérault) Tel: 33 (0)4 67 97 64 44 Vernière: Les Aires (Hérault) Tel: 33 (0)4 67 95 28 15 Sémillante: Brasserie Milles, (restaurant) Toulouges (Pyrénées-Orientales) Tel: 33 (0)4 68 54 44 66 Quézac: Syndicat de l’eau de Quézac (water union) (Lozère). Tel: 33 (0)4 66 45 47 15 Perrier: Perrier Spring. A hamlet called “Les Bouillens” (“The Bubblers”), Vergèze (Gard) Tel: 33 (0)4 66 87 61 01 www.sunfrance.com/eaux

The largest subterranean network in France! Languedoc-Roussillon is famous for its subterranean riches - there is no oil and there are no precious minerals, but a wondrous network of caves. As the temperature in the caves is generally higher than outdoors, winter is an excellent season to visit them. In the cave of the Demoiselles de l’Hérault (“Maidens of Hérault”), also known as the “grotte des fées” (“fairy cave“), admire the colours and evocative shapes of its concretions - including the well-known “Vierge à l'enfant” (“Virgin with child”) and the “Buffet d'Orgues” (“Chamber Organ”).Trabuc cave in Gard is the biggest of the Cévennes caves.Trabuc is a real underground network on two levels, with a lake and waterfall. It comprises a mysterious chamber where the floor appears to strewn with thousands of miniature soldiers. Aven Armen in Lozère features a single chamber, with the most magical of sights - the Forêt Vierge

(“Virgin Forest”) and its 400 stalagmites, calcite draperies and the Méduses (“Jellyfish”) which stands 30 metres tall and is the biggest stalagmite in the world. Dargilan cave in Lozere is its rival in both beauty and surprises, boasting an intensity of colours inside the pink chamber and rocks intertwined with the chamber of chaos. Clamouse cave in Hérault is unique due to the quality and variety of its aragonite crystals real gemstones, whereas in Cocalière cave in Gard, sparkling stones, pearls and fine calcite draperies await, reflected in the waters of the lakes.The giant abyss of Cabrespine in Aude is aptly named; it is one of the world’s largest caves open to the public. It contains a huge variety of crystallisations of extraordinary quality.The

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Canalettes cave in the Pyrénées-Orientales is an uninterrupted series of stalagmites stretching right up to the magnificent panorama that is the Balcon des Ténèbres (“Balcony of the Underworld”).And don’t miss the Abîme de Bramabiau in Gard with the river “le Bonheur” (“Happiness”) running through it or the Devèze cave in Hérault, nicknamed “Palais de la Fileuse de Verre” (“The Glass Spinster’s Palace”)… Fifteen such caves revealing a beauty and a history extending back several million years, often accompanied by a myriad legends. www.sunfrance.com/grands_espaces


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PERSPECTIVES RELAXATION

THE 13 SPAS

Amyriadspa therapies

There are no fewer than 13 thermal resorts in LanguedocRoussillon: a large selection from which to choose for that perfect well-being experience!

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oday, around 500,000 people each year enjoy spa treatments in France. However, over the last ten years, well-being and relaxation have become a veritable complement to traditional medical treatments. Massage rooms, beauty treatments, clay baths, Jacuzzis, and saunas have all arisen to meet the needs of a new clientele who come in search of comfort and enjoyable sensations, set in an enchanting environment! Set between the sea and the mountains, the thermal springs in Pyrénées-Orientales boast a wide range of therapeutic properties and have done so since ancient times. In Vallespir, between Ceret and Arles-sur-Tech, 30km from the Mediterranean coast, the hot water springs of Amélie-les-Bains are reputed for their rich sulphur levels. The Romans built the first thermal spas here around 633BC. Today’s thermal spas are built on the ancient baths are a gateway to a world of total relaxation, before heading out to conquer the peaks of the Albѐres or that of the Canigou massif… Close to the Spanish border, Boulou combines thermal spa therapy and tourism. The resort is located in a vast area dominated by the fragrant plantlife of the scrubland, ideal

for long walks, helping you get back in shape after relaxing. In Molitg-les-Bains, near Prades, in the heart of Conflent, the thermal spas nestle in the hollows of the Castellane gorges, at the foot of the medieval fortress of Paracolls, close to the old village. Invigorating mud baths and massaging showers, this thermal spa promises the most unbelievable delights! The Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste resort allows for a combination of thermal spa therapy, natural open spaces, and the discovery of Catalan art. In the old village whose walls are steeped in history, to taste the benefits of hot (44°C) and sulphurous waters is to leave all your tiredness and persistent pains behind! Vernet-les-bains, a short distance from Prades and the fortified town of Villefranchede-Conflent, is – in equal measures – a tourist, health and thermal spa resort, in the heart of the Cevennes Regional National Park in the Catalan Pyrenees. It is a thermal resort and spa, whose sodium sulphur thermal waters will restore you to fine form before embarking on a trek (on foot, horseback or mountain bike) in the surrounding area, or going off to admire the 1,500 trees of 200 different species, making Vernet-les Bains the foremost arboretum village of France. The Pyrénées-Orientales, another marvel of well-being, boast astonishing sulphurous hot water springs in the open air where nothing beats diving, right in the middle of winter, into the baths of Saint-Thomas, Dorres or Llo … www.sunfrance.com/bien_etre

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• Alet-les-Bains This small Aude resort enjoys a pleasant microclimate. The hot springs feed the centre where digestive and metabolic conditions are treated. • Amélie-les-Bains One of the first spas of France located in the Pyrénées-Orientales. It deals with rheumatic and respiratory diseases. • Avène-les-Bains The Sainte-Odile d’Avène springs, in Hérault, are at the forefront of research in the treatment of skin diseases, especially for burn victims. • Bagnols-les-Bains 21 km from Mende in Lozère, this station located 900 m above sea level, the water at this spa gushes forth at 41.5°C. Rich in fluorine, mineral salts and rare gases, it is used for ENT disorders and rheumatology. • Allègre Les Fumades-les-Bains Its cold sulphurous waters, rich in calcium bicarbonate, make this Gard resort a specialist in diseases of the skin and respiratory system. • La Chaldette The water at 35.6°C from this resort in the Lozère contains bicarbonate and sodium with a sedative and decongestant effect, ideal for ENT and intestinal disorders. • Lamalou-les-Bains The oligometallic and ferruginous waters of this Hérault spa are famed for the treatment of pain and nervous disorders. • Molitg-les-Bains Molitg, in the Pyrénées-Orientales, is a resort specialising in the treatment of dermatological, respiratory, and rheumatological conditions. • La Preste At the gates of Spain in the PyrénéesOrientales, the presence of sulphurous and radioactive springs led to the development of an important resort in the nineteenth century. • Rennes-les-Bains The warm and sulphated waters of this Aude resort are used to treat rheumatism. • Vernet-les-Bains ENT disorders and rheumatism are treated in this town in the PyrénéesOrientales. • Balaruc Located along the Hérault coast, Balaruc is the second biggest spa resort in France. Its warm waters containing trace elements have healing properties for the joints and legs. • Le Boulou South of Perpignan in the PyrénéesOrientales, Le Boulou is a charming little village where cardio-arterial and digestive conditions are treated.


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PERSPECTIVES HERITAGE

Heritagewhich opensitsheart Villefranche-de-Conflent

Today, from Durban to Lagrasse, the Cathar castle trail offers you a visit into the heart of the history of the “Good Christians” and Cathar’s regional monuments.

Corbières Sauvages Intercommunal Tourist Information Office Tél : 33 (0)4 68 45 69 40

Villefranche-deConflent, Vauban’s signature mark

Queribus

The castles in the Cathar region seem still to be protecting a movement which has marked Aude’s history and landscape.

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atharism, a dissident Christian religion spread by preachers, acquired many followers in the Languedoc. It was highly regarded by lords and boasted dioceses in Toulouse, Carcassonne, Albi and Agen. To combat the rise of this religion, which refuted the dogmas and the authority of the Catholic Church, Pope Innocent II launched the Albigensian Crusade in 1208. With Simon de Montfort at the helm, the Crusaders massacred the population of Bé-

ziers. Carcassone, Minerve and Lastours fell one by one. The city of Toulouse was conquered. The Treaty of Meaux (1229) put an end to the Holy War, while the Inquisition continued to hunt down heretics hiding in the fortified villages of Minervois and Corbières. What had become a conflict over independence for the South against the Kingdom of France ended with the fall of these fortified towns and Languedoc‘s reunification with the Crown. The castles of the Cathar region tell the story of this period. Peyrepertuse, Puivert, Aguilar, Termes, Puilaurens and Quéribus are among the most imposing examples. Up in the heights and solid, the vestiges of these fortresses seem to be balanced on rocky peaks or to thrust up from the rock to which they cling, while the crenulated ramparts give off an aura of power. SUDDEFRANCE - 36 -

On the crossroads between Cerdagne and Roussillon lies Villefranche, which was long the capital of Conflent. Founded in 1090 by the Count of Cerdagne in the hollow that is the Têt Valley, this mediaeval city is classed among the most Beautiful Villages of France. The city walls which encircled it in the 11th century were strengthened in the 14th century by the King of Aragon, who added semi-circular towers. In the 17th century Vauban altered it considerably. The downstream front was reinforced by a fortified bunker cave called the Cove Bastera, but the heights are dominated by a fortress, renamed Libéria in the 20th century. The ingenious railway circuit on two levels has become the only way to visit Villefranchede-Conflent which, like its neighbour MontLouis, is one of twelve of Vauban’s fortifications listed as UNESCO World heritage sites in 2008. Villefranche de Conflent is also the town from which the Yellow Train departs. Tourist Information Office: Tél : (0)4 68 96 22 96 www.sunfrance.com/patrimoine


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PERSPECTIVES HERITAGE

Sault...beautiful !

Campagna

Primitive Romanesque churches, Baroque alter pieces and much more. The religious heritage bears witness to history and is one of the many ways to discover the treasures of the Sault area.

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he Middle Ages not only gave rise to a wealth of castles and fortresses whose remains still haunt the Aude countryside. Churches and abbey churches were also built on the untamed hills of Corbières (Fontfroide Abbey), in the valleys around Carcassonne (Saint-Hilaire Abbey, the birthplace, so it is said, of Blanquette wine) and on the plateaus in the district of Sault. Seeking out theses relics also gives you the chance to discover the stone and wood-built houses of these mountain villages hidden away in the greenery on the borders of the Aude and Ariége Pyrenees. Suspended some 1000 metres up, just below the Pic d’Ourtiset, the village de Campagna de Sault is overshadowed by its church. This ancient chapel belonging to a neighbouring castle came under the ownership of Joucou Abbey in the 9th century, before passing to the Chapter of Saint Paul of Fenouillet two centuries later. Rebuilt in 1891 when the

nave roof collapsed, it now offers visitors the chance to see the full beauty of its Romanesque porch clinging to the rock face and the unusual appearance of its staircase pitched at 56 degrees leading to the bell, but stopping halfway up. Fontanès-de-Sault which is crossed by the turbulent waters of the Aude, tempts you to dip into nature and into time. The town has one of the oldest Romanesque churches in the region (11th century) which served three hamlets that were burned to the ground and erased by the Spanish during the reign of Louis XII. From the village, the track leading to the ruins of a church (Eglise du Pech) gives you a view of the Rocher de Dournes, the site of an ancient castle, and the deep valley of the Aude. Joucou is also an ideal starting point to visit the Gorges du Rébenty. The town was built around the remains of the abbey church of Saint James, which probably dates back to the 8th century. Boasting a wealth of built heritage and administering numerous parishes, the abbey reigned over the district of Sault for more than seven centuries before being abandoned at the end of the 15th century. The remains of the apse are its only lasting relics. Whether decorated in ivy at Belcaire, vine branches at Roquefeuil, or roses at Camurac, altar pieces (decorative panels in gilded wood) came to underline the choir of the church at the height of the passion for Baroque style. They are also part of the treaSUDDEFRANCE - 37 -

Belcaire

sures constituting the district of Sault’s heritage. The altar piece at Roquefeuil dates back to the end of the 17th century and is the only original example in which the central panel depicts Christ on the cross. As with all altar pieces, the two other panels display statues of parish’s patron saints. In this case, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Martin lie in niches with sumptuously sculpted cherubs, martyrs and angels. The church at Belcaire is dedicated to Saint Cosmas and Saint Damien and has an original altar piece as well as an admirable polychrome wooden virgin (repainted) from the 16th century and a statue of Saint Eutrope. Along with the Cathar trail which traverses it, religious history has left its mark that still visible and can be visited in the heart of the beautiful and wild district of Sault. Information and guided visits. ACCES. Maison de la Montagne visitor centre 11340 Roquefeuil. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 20 75 63


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PERSPECTIVES HERITAGE

Trainslikenoothers

That most famous of trains, the Yellow Train (or Yellow Canary) runs through Conflent and Cerdagne. A pleasant and alternative way to discover the landscape, be it in summer or winter.

cord as the highest train in France, the station at Bolquère-Eyne rises to a height of 1,592 metres, and certain sections have an upward gradient slope of 6%. It runs on a narrow gauge metric rail, one of only two still used by the SNCF. The power for this electric train is supplied by the dam at Bouillouses lake, over which it commands the most glorious panoramic view. The tracks stretch over 63 km and the route is marked by 650 civil engineering structures, including 19 tunnels, 15 bridges and 14 viaducts! Its construction was a real feat of technical engineering. A large part of the route runs along the river Têt and there, it encounters two stunning works of civil engineering, the superb Séjourné viaduct, constructed in stone, on two levels, sixty-five metres high and two hundred and thirty six metres long – and Gisclard bridge, the last surviving railway suspension bridge in France. Through the Massifs of Canigou, Cambred'Aze, Carlit and Puigmal, with their mountainside villages, the gorges at Caranca… the bold Yellow Train fearlessly passes through the Catalan Regional National Park and offers its passengers a unique panorama in a colourful setting. Information – The Yellow Train: 0800 88 60 91

Towards other shores Along the edge of the coast, the “petit train des lagunes” (“little lagoon train”) is a ra-

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porting the Catalan colours of red and yellow (or blood and gold), the Yellow Train celebrated its centenary in 2010. It links the stations at Villefranche-de-Conflent and Latour-deCarol with the Spanish border and also runs between two towns listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis, known worldwide for their fortifications built by Vauban. The Train Express Régional (“Regional Express Train“) is the only train linking Cerdagne to the plains of Roussillon. It is also a tourist attraction and a unique piece of heritage which is currently applying for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. What’s so special about it? The list is long. It holds the reSUDDEFRANCE - 38 -

ther ecological way to get to the l’île Sainte Lucie by public transport. It picks up tourists from the fairground in Narbonne and takes them as far as Port La Nouvelle, with one stop in Franqui, famous for its beaches, with their pools of ever-changing colours, leading to the beautiful – if rather wild – island known as “l’île aux milles senteurs” (“Isle of a thousand scents”). In Gard, along the line that links Alès to Anduze, the Cévennes Steam Train only stops at three stations, Anduze, Saint-Jean-duGard and Bambouseraie de Prafrance, a botanical park dedicated to exotic plant life including several varieties of bamboo. The Cévennes Steam Train association backed this project just before the SNCF removed the rails after abandoning the service on this section of the line, first opened in 1909! Departing from Anduze, the train plunges into an 833 metre tunnel leading onto a 104 metre long metal bridge which spans the Gardon… Spitting out steam and cinders, it covers 13km with the help of several civil engineering structures to cross rivers and valleys right through the heart of Cévennes. Petit train des Lagunes (“Little Lagoon Train”) Place Saint-Charles in Port-la-Nouvelle: Tél. 33 (0)6 62 13 36 96 Cévennes Steam Train in Anduze: Tél. 33 (0)4 66 60 59 00. www.trainavapeur.com www.sunfrance.com/trains


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PERSPECTIVES PATRIMOINE

Industrialtourism,another aspectoftheregion From the past to the present, whether it is the coal mines of the Cevennes, former textile mills and factories, mineral springs, or factories making espadrilles, industrial tourism gives you the chance to discover a different side to the region.

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he Ricard pit stands as a symbolic monument to the age-old activity of mining in the Cevennes coal basin and the struggles which led to its closure. For some months now, the headgear has been lit at three levels and now shines out over La Grand Combe, magnifying the headframe and giving a mythical quality to this metallic structure which sits over the town. As a listed historic monument, the Ricard mine has been transformed into a museum retracing the lives of the miners by using the different places that made up their everyday lives (the changing rooms with their pulley systems, the extraction gallery, the showers, etc.), giving an insight into what it was like mining coal for almost two centuries. Another mining attraction in the Gard, the Mine Témoin in Alès, introduces the visitor to this subterranean universe. The descent in the “cage” made by the “black faces” to access the vein of coal deep in the belly of the earth together with the 650 metres of galleries and all the equipment and materials of the four coal faces, make up a retrospective highlighting the principal stages of the mining operation. In Lozère, the silkworm nursery at la Roque is home to a museum revealing the different stages of raising silkworms, its influence on the architecture and on the landscapes of the Cevennes. Alternatively, the Calquières textile mill, close to the sources of the Allier, invites you to witness the different stages in processing wool from fleece to knitting yarn, using machines from the 19th century. The Savonnerie de Lodève in the Hérault

is still working today. It became an annex of the Royal Tapestry Factory in Paris (1627) and now produces carpets for the State. Visits to the weaving workshops are combined with a presentation and an explanation of the handiwork produced. The Maison de l’Olivier, at Clermont l’Hérault promotes the heritage of olive farming with a museum and a visit to the neighbouring olive oil co-operative. The town of Espéraza, in the Aude, has a hat-making museum bringing together all the machines and the different stages of production to make felt hats that made the town famous during the last century. Near to Carcassonne, the Brousses paper mill organises guided visits on the history and manufacture of paper together with an introduction to this ancient skill. In the Pyrénées-Orientales, the last big manufacturer of espadrilles, the Vallespir Sandales Company, throws open the doors to its workshops to reveal the specialised skills and expertise associated with the emblematic “vigatanas catalanes”.

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• Ricard Pit. Miner’s Museum. 51 rue des Poilus. La Grand-Combe. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 34 28 93 • Mine Témoin Alès. Chemin de la Cité Sainte-Marie. Alès. Tel: 04 66 30 45 15 • La Roque Silkworm Nursery. Molezon. Tel: 33 (0)4.66.49.53.00. • Calquières Textile Mill. 23, rue des Calquières. Langogne. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 69 25 56. • La Savonnerie. Impasse des Liciers. Lodève. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 88 86 44 • Maison de l’Olivier.13, avenue du Président-Wilson. Clermont-l’Hérault. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 96 10 • Hat-making Museum. Avenue de la Gare. Espéraza. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 74 00 75 • Brousses Paper Mill. Brousses and Villaret. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 26 67 43 • Vallespir Sandales. 7, rue Joseph-Nivet. Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 39 57 57.


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27centuriesofhistoryfor theworld’sbiggest winery the region has begun the conversion of its vineyards. The Qualitative market of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is now accompanied by a conversion of the vineyards to organic farming, now covering more than 30 % of its acreage. It is an exemplary region from this point of view, concentrating over 12 000 hectares of domains already converted and nearly 8000 in midconversion. The success of the Aupilhac domain in Montpeyroux is the best example of producers of organic wines on the move, such as the Chateau l’Hospitalet, Chateau Cazeneuve and the Villa Tempora.

Flavours

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anguedoc-Roussillon is the world’s largest vineyard.Its generous climate and the richness and variety of its soils make the land particularly fertile and creative for winegrowing. It is enhanced on a daily basis by an ancestral local expertise combined with cutting-edge production techniques. The Sud de France brand is the hallmark of this, a symbol simplified for the consumer. This veritable “umbrella brand” covering all the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon showcases the region, its know-how and the uniqueness of the Mediterranean soil. It was daring; and is a success thirty years later, to explore these two parallel tracks that are so complementary. Any winemaker is now eligible for the brand Sud de France and the region has witnessed the development of the generic Languedoc appellation, produced throughout the vineyards of LanguedocRoussillon, from Nîmes to the Spanish border. In this mass of vineyards composed of soils with high yields, it took a change of habits to stop a wasteful flow of wine by lowering the amount produced per hectare - to reach the level of quality achieved today. This quality is soaked in diversity, in a territory which produces sweet fortified wines (Muscat from Frontignan, Lunel, Mireval, Saint-Jean-deMinervois, Rivesaltes, Banyuls and Maury), sparkling wines (Blanquette and Cremant de Limoux) and an extensive bouquet of reds,

whites and multiple roses. For its current reputation, this land of vineyards owes much to the men who built it with a spirit of innovation. Here, wines that were previously mass produced strode for quality born from concepts. To make wine, grape vine by grape vine variety and invite the consumer to discover a shiraz, a cabernet or a sauvignon. This was the initiative of the Skalli establishment in Sete. The region promises evolution and is nevertheless the top wine region in the world with a vineyard of nearly 240 000 hectares, 25 000 wine producers and 2 500 wine cellars. For five years now, the Sud de France brand has gathered all the region has to offer, to enhance the colours of this wine region in France and beyond; colours as diverse as its schist soils, which fortify the wines from SaintChinian, Cotes du Roussillon and the Coteaux du Languedoc; as rich as its Shingle land - called Grés in Occitan - that make the wines of the Domain Puech Haut unforgettable, and that is the origin of the Grés appellation of Montpellier, brilliantly illustrated by the Clavel Domain. These Grés are typical of the Corbières, spicy red wines that belong to one of the most important appellations in France, and make the terroirs of Lézignan, Boutenac and Lagrasse resonate with meaning. And yet, after the policies of uprooting, the concentration of its cooperative economic tissue served the ambitions of a growing trade, SUDDEFRANCE - 40 -

The land of contrasts that is LanguedocRoussillon is composed of a mosaic of different landscapes. From mountaintop to the sea, from the high cantons to the Mediterranean, from the Petite Camargue to the Vermillion coastline, they give rise to a smorgasbord of specialities which shape a veritable sunsoaked, refined cuisine. While you are probably already familiar with the Picholine variety of olive, cassoulet from Castelnaudary and Carcassonne, anchovies from Collioure, oysters from the Leucate and Thau lakes, brandade from Nîmes, squid and sweet onions from Cévennes or even Pézenas pasties, the gamut of flavours just keeps on coming. So many products fly the flag for this gastronomic region; in addition Languedoc-Roussillon is favoured with the largest viticultural region on the planet and produces some of the world’s best wines – a joyous area!


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PERSPECTIVES GASTRONOMY

Aregionthatlovesfoiegras! From November to December, in squares,covered markets and under big tops, foie gras fairs spring up across the entire region. These spectacular markets mainly take place in Aude, Pyrénées-Orientales and the western part of Hérault

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n the Aude department, some forty kilometres from Carcassonne, in the region of Piège, the small town of Belpech proudly bears its title: “foie gras capital of Languedoc-Roussillon”. And no doubt beyond: “This region is where we find the very best foie gras and duck breasts. They’re even better than in the departments of the South West of France! You will only find family concerns here with small holdings that rarely exceed 1,500 ducks, all free range” says Robert Naudinat, president of the fair

committee. Ducks and geese are part of our ancestral heritage here. Palmipeds have always been bred, force-fed and prepared here to produce a cooked or semi-cooked foie gras for the Christmas period. For more than thirty-five years the fete committee of this town of 1,200 inhabitants has organised its yearly foie gras market in the large multi-purpose hall. Some fifty or so producers from the region and nearby departments come to sell their ducks and geese, each year drawing several thousands of enthusiasts or casual browsers. The atmosphere is quite amazing: the producers exhibit their foie gras, duck breasts, crackling, gizzards and more in a friendly hubbub. In addition to the duck and geese farmers, a gourmet market is organised with stalls selling cheeses, honey and gingerbread, bread and cooked meats. A guaranteed local atmosphere giving way to a giant gourmet meal drawing more than 600 enthusiasts each year accompanied by guild parades, music etc. Given its success, other towns have also started their own foie gras

market. In Aude, in Castelnaudary, now the largest fair in numbers of visitors, in Carcassonne, Limoux and Rieux-Minervois. But also in the Pyrénées-Orientales in Prades, Thuir, Céret and Bourg-Madame and lastly in Hérault in the vicinity of Béziers in Capestang, Sérignan, Cruzy, Sauvian and Capestang.

Foie gras fairs in 2012 • Prades: 18th November • Limoux: 24th November • Thuir, Castelnaudary: 2nd December • Belpech: 8th and 9th December • Capestang: 9th December • Rieux-Minervois, Sérignan: 15th December • Céret: 16th December • Carcassonne, Sauvian: 23rd December

Truffleswitha touchof theSouth

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symbol of luxury and French gastronomy, this black princess buried in the soil beneath the truffle oak, is gathered from December to March. In Aude, they ripen

just in time for the winter markets. In Moussoulens, the truffle market goes hand-in-hand with the visit of a truffle field and demonstrations by famous chefs of recipes stuffed with truffles, of course! But Aude is not the only department to hold markets for the famous mushroom, even though a “Maison de la truffe” has been opened there in Villeneuve-Minervois*. Saint-Geniès-des-Mourgues, inHérault, combines one with other truffle events, a cookery workshop and demonstrations of cavage (truffle hunting with a pig or dog). There is a great deal of pomp and circumstance around this precious mushroom in Uzes, in the Gard department, where for many years a Truffle Mass has been celebrated with the blessing of the truffles which are then sold at auction, whilst a truffle-based banquet is proposed by Michelin-star chefs. Arlessur-Tech, in Pyrénées-Orientales, pays its tribute in music with the sacrament of the “Trufa Catalana” guild. The regional production of the famous “tuber melanosporum” thus counts for between 20 and 30%of French production. SUDDEFRANCE - 41 -

* Maison de la truffe, avenue du Jeu-deMail à Villeneuve-Minervois. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 26 14 22

The main truffle festivals: • Fête de la truffe de Saint-Génies-des-Mourgues (Hérault): 6th January 2013. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 86 21 99 • Uzès truffle weekend (Gard): 19th and 20th January 2013. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 22 68 88 • Ampélofolies à Moussoulens-et-Montolieu (Aude): 26th and 27th January 2013. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 10 61 07 • Fête de la truffe of Arles-sur-Tech (Pyrénées-Orientales): 27th January 2013 • Fête de la truffe in La Canourgue (Lozère): 3rd February 2013. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 32 83 67 • Truffle market of Villeneuve-Minervois: 29th December, 19th January, 9th February 2013. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 10 61 07


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Crispy Ravioli with Pelardon cheese, tomato confit, mesclun salad For 4 people 6 pelardons 4 sheets of filo pastry Mesclun salad 12 petals of tomato confit Thyme Salt, pepper 1 egg yolk Cut each pelardon horizontally in two and sprinkle them with thyme, salt and pepper. Trim each sheet of filo pastry into three triangles and coat with the egg yolk. Place half a pelardon in the middle of each triangle and fold over the edges of filo pastry making sure to close them well to make a ‘ravioli’. Sear the ravioli in a frying pan of olive oil, turning them so as to colour them and give a crispy surface. Position a bouquet of salad leaves in the middle of a plate and place 3 ravioli on top with a petal of tomato confit between each. This small creamy cheese made from full unpasteurised goat’s milk can become hard after maturing. The fine crust varies from white, yellow or blue in colour and is universally appreciated by all the region’s top chefs. Nineteen of them have decided to join in celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary since it obtained its AOP by contributing to a recipe book dedicated to the pelardon. RECIPE FROM THE LE MAZERAND RESTAURANT AT LATTES. EXTRACT FROM “LE PELARDON REVU ET INSPIRE...”. PUBLISHED BY THE ASSOCIATION OF PELARDON PRODUCERS.

Sweet chestnut cake For 5 people 1 500g tin of sweet chestnut cream (crème de marron) 200g of melted butter 6 whole eggs Mix together all ingredients with a hand whisk. Grease the cake tin. Pour the contents into the tin and place in an oven at 150°C for 1 hour. Serve in slices with a scoop of sweet chestnut ice cream and decorate with a drizzle of caramel, or chocolate sauce. Nicknamed, the bread tree in the mid 19th century, when its fruits became a staple part of the diet for the people of the Cevennes, the Sweet Chestnut tree has experienced renewed interest and as such the chestnut groves in the Cevennes have seen considerable rehabilitation efforts over the last twenty years. Although the Bajanat, a soup made from dried chestnuts, remains a somewhat forgotten traditional dish, numerous chefs have helped restore the eminent status of this festive fruit. RECIPE FROM MICHEL GOMY, “LA BALME” RESTAURANT, VILLEFORT.

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PERSPECTIVES GASTRONOMY

Rousquilles The biscuit 150g of sifted flour - 45g of icing sugar - 45g of butter - 15g of liquid honey - 2 tablespoons of milk - 1 teaspoon of baking powder - 1 egg white - 1 tablespoon of orange flower water, or two drops of aniseed liqueur, according to taste. The icing : 1 egg white - 70g of icing sugar - 35ml of water - 2 tablespoons of lemon juice Cut up the butter into small cubes. Mix it together with the flour, baking powder and icing sugar. Crumble the mixture using your finger tips. Add the egg yolk, honey, milk and orange flower water. Cream the mixture until you obtain a smooth, but firm dough. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to obtain a pancake shape about 1cm thick. Cut up using a 7-8cm diameter pastry cutter. Remove the centre with a 3cm diameter pastry cutter. Place the rings on a greased baking tray and leave to bake in the middle of the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes. They must be only very lightly golden. While they are baking, prepare the icing: beat the egg whites until very firm and heat the icing sugar with a little water to until it forms a little ball when dropped in cold water (120°C). Add the syrup and the lemon juice to the egg whites and beat thoroughly. The egg whites must stay firm and white. Once out of the oven, cover each rousquille with the icing using a brush. Place them on a rack and dry them in the oven set at 50°C, leaving the door open. The rousquilles keep well in an airtight box. Rousquilles are a Catalan speciality and used to be sold by travelling salesmen who threaded the biscuits on to long thin canes for show.

La coupétade For 4 people Preparation time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes 1/3 litre of milk 3 eggs 4 big slices of dry bread 8 sugar cubes 8 soft prunes About twenty sultanas Natural vanilla extract Place the prunes and sultanas at the bottom of a dish. Cover them with the slices of bread leaving a 2cm gap around the edge of the dish. Beat the milk and the eggs together with the sugar and the vanilla to obtain a nice smooth mixture. Pour this cream over the slices of bread, pressing them down with a fork. The bread must be completely covered. Allow about 50 minutes cooking time in an oven at gas mark 5 (180°C 200°C). The coupétade is ready when it has nicely risen and is beautifully golden. Serve lukewarm, or cold topped with caramel, jam, or cream. The name of this dessert, which is a speciality of Mende, comes from the fact that it was baked in a deep clay dish called a “coupet”. RECIPE FROM BERNADETTE MOURGUES, “AU VIEUX PONT” RESTAURANT, MENDE.

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PERSPECTIVES CULTURE MUSEUMS

The Museum of Modern Art in Céret The museum of modern art in Céret focuses on the great artists of the 20th century who at one time stayed in this town or its surrounding areas. And many are those who have been seduced by the varied charms of the town Picasso, Braque, Gris, Soutine, Chagall, Matisse, Bioulès... The temporary exhibitions alternate between modern and contemporary, remaining faithful to this period whilst also opening its doors to international artists. Musée d'Art Moderne de Céret 8, boulevard Maréchal Joffre in Céret. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 87 27 76

Contemporary Art Space in Bourg-Madame Dedicated to Catalan artist Josep PuigMarti, known for his tireless imagination, which led him to reinterpret impressionism, eroticism and pop art. This space also welcomes artists of renown as well as exhibitions from local artists. Espace d'Art Contemporain (“Contemporary Art Space”), Place de Catalogne in Bourg-Madame. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 30 11 60

The Museum of Fine Art in Perpignan A private 18th century town house exhibits works representative of the art and culture of Pyrénées-Orientales from the 17th century to the present day: Catalan ceramics, Gothic altar pieces, works by Hyacinthe Rigaud, but also by Maillol - founder of modern sculpture, who was born not far from Perpignan, Raoul Dufy who lived in the region for a decade, Miro, and Pablo Picasso who frequented the town hotel which has been home to the museum since 1979. The Museum of Fine Art has

been awarded the title “Museum of France” for 2002. Musée des Beaux-Arts Hyacinthe Rigaud 16, rue de l'Ange in Perpignan. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 35 43 40.

Catalonia House in Perpignan This historical building, adjacent to Saint-Jean Cathedral and Campo Santo, is worth the trip all by itself. It is home to the Department of Catalan Culture and Heritage and features exhibitions and cultural activities for the general public.

Maison de la Catalanité 11, rue du Bastion Saint-Dominique in Perpignan. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 08 29 30

The Museum of Modern Art in Collioure Praised by numerous artists, Collioure, known as “la cité des Peintres“ (“the city of Painters“) boasts a modern art museum blessed with a collection of 190 pieces. Donated by Jean Paské, founder of the museum. On becoming a locally run museum, it

The Maillol Museum in Banyuls Situated in Banyuls-sur-Mer near Perpignan, this museum is dedicated to Aristide Maillol, born and raised in Banyuls-sur-Mer. It is the result of a donation given by Dina Vierny, patron and artists’ model for more than ten years. The museum also welcomes group exhibitions. Foundation Dina Vierny Vallée in Roume - Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 88 57 11

greatly expanded its collection.

Musée d’art Moderne. Villa Pams, route de Port-Vendres in Collioure. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 82 10 19

Bélesta Castle Museum This 12th century castle, fortified by Louis IX, is home to a museum of modern prehistory. Created following the discovery of the Bélesta Cave, it exhibits artefacts found during archaeological digs. The remains left by the Castle’s different occupants (remains of meals, ashes, woven cloth, etc.) helped extend the knowledge about the lives of the first stock breeders and farmers some 6,000 years ago and constitutes the central theme of the museum. Bélesta Castle Museum, 5, rue du Château. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 84 55 55

The Carré d’Art at Nîmes The Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Norman Foster, sits opposite the ancient Roman Maison Carré and maintains a dialogue between the past and

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the present. The museum’s collection consists of 400 pieces of work from the 1960’s right up to today, including works of art from the Support/Surface movement which has its roots in Nîmes. One floor is reserved for annual exhibitions. Carré d'art.16, place de la Maison Carrée, Nîmes. Tel: 33 (0)4.66.76.35.70

The Fabre Museum in Montpellier This location combines an old 17th century Jesuit College, the 18th century Hôtel de Massilian mansion and the apartment belonging to François-Xavier Fabre, donator, and from whom the museum takes its name. It is unique for its collection of almost 1,800 paintings, 4,000 drawings and 1,500 engravings from the classical, neo-classical and modern periods. The museum also features the donations of Pierre and Colette Soulages. Fabre Museum. 39, Bd Bonne Nouvelle, Montpellier. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 14 83 00


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PERSPECTIVES CULTURE MUSEUMS

The Ephèbe Museum

The Regional Museum of Contemporary Art in Sérignan Founded by the town of Sérignan, the museum features 4 to 5 temporary exhibitions a year dedicated to both nationally and internationally renowned artists and represents major movements and trends in contemporary art, while also inviting young artists to exhibit. Recently brought back under regional control, the museum now has 500m2 of additional exhibition space. Musée Régional d'Art Contemporain LanguedocRoussillon. 146, avenue de la plage in Sérignan. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 32 33 05 www.sunfrance.com/musees

What might you find in an underwater archaeology museum? This one in Agde is home to France’s largest collection of ancient bronze pieces. The museum takes its name from its most famous statue, Ephèbe of Agde, a prestigious Greek bronze discovered in the waters of the Hérault in 1964 which dates back to the 4th century BC. Two, more recent, Roman statues of Cupidon and a young boy dressed in a Roman tunic dating back to the first centuries BC and AD also constitute the museum’s pride and joy. From the Antiquity Room evoking artefacts of sea trade (amphoras and crockery), the Antique ship and the Greek city, to the Modern era with its displays of medieval ceramics, armaments from the Royal Fleet and the cargos of shipwrecks from the 12th to the 19th century, the museum’s exhibition rooms take you on a long voyage full of underwater discoveries of Agde and the surrounding area. Ephèbe Museum Mas de la Clape Cap d’Agde. Tel: 33 (0)4 67 94 69 60

The Dinosaur Museum

Champclauson Fossil Forest

This is a museum that all children beg to visit, but in fact, parents happily plunge into this ‘lost world’ too. The Dinosaur Museum at Espéraza goes back through time, revisiting the principal geological periods with the help of fossils of reptiles, mammals, invertebrates and plants. The centrepiece of the museum is its central hall where a surprising herd of dinosaur skeletons can be found, including some of the most formidable species that walked the planet. Another curiosity is the findings of digs led by the museum in the upper Aude valley, a major source of the later dinosaur remains. Eva is the name given to one of the herbivore dinosaurs discovered in 2001 and she has become the museum’s mascot. A small green character appears at the bottom of display panels and relates his version of history to the children. Walking enthusiasts can follow Eva’s walking trails which, via 20 interpretation panels, lead to Campagne-surAude where the largest and most complete dinosaur remains ever found in France were discovered.

A quite unique geological site has been revealed in the cliff of a disused opencast coal mine. Some fifty tree trunks, including some measuring about 3 metres high, together with fossilised plants were encased where they once grew some 300 million years ago. The fossil forest of Champclauson is one of the rare natural and carboniferous paleobotanical sites open to the public. It features displays on how the coal was formed and how plants and trees evolved right up to the present day. A little train also takes visitors on a trip going back nearly 300 million years.

The Dinosaur Museum. Espéraza. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 74 26 88 - 04 68 74 02 08. www.dinosauria.org/

Champclauson Fossil Forest. Hameau de Champclauson. La Grand Combe. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 60 34 65.

The PAB Museum in Alès Pierre André Benoit (PAB), printer, poet, sculptor and drawer, gifted his collection of modern art works to the City of Alès (Gard) to create the museum which bears his name. The works (Alechinsky, Arp, Braque, Hugo, Picabia, Picasso …) are exhibited in the former castle at Rochebelle. Musée Pierre André Benoit. 52, Montée des Lauriers in Alès. Tel: 33 (0)4 66 86 98 68

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PERSPECTIVES EVENTS

Afestiveregion From the Pyrenees to the Cévennes, no opportunity to gather village communities together was missed in the past. Certain festivals continue to delight us to this day!

A carnival-like Sainte Blaise At Trèves, on the first weekend of February near Sainte-Blaise - the patron saint of hemp-workers and master of the winds - the Pétassou springs out of legends and into life. Dressed in “pétas” (strips of coloured cloth which twirl in the wind, carrying on his back a dried pig’s bladder pumped up with air, he brandishes a stick of broom and strolls along the streets, stopping at the farms and houses asking for an offering. The demon of the carnival, often used as a threat by mothers frighten disobedient children, finishes on the bonfire and is a reminder of the old weaver traditions of the town.

Tourist Information Office: Mont Aigoual, Causses Cévennes - Tél : 33 (0)4 67 82 25 10 Trèves Town Hall - Tél : 04 67 82 72 90

Dawn serenade before Christmas At Limoux, the longest carnival in the world Of the plethora of carnivals, the Limoux carnival, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday from January to March is a little different. The Meuniers (“Millers”) (of whom it is said their carnival origins date from the 14th century), les Coudenos, les Blanquetiers, les Pébradous... a total of thirty costumed groups following each other, stretching out the carnival procession from 11:00am, going from one bistro to the next, tasting the famous sparkling Blanquette de Limoux wine, to the strains of Limoux music wafting from the arcades in the Place de la Republique. At 4:30pm, Pierrots – whose costumes differ from one group to the next – and Dominos and Goudils – the incorrigible breakers of rules – come to dance among the crowds. The Pierrots shake their “carabène” – a long painted reed stalk, while the Dominos lead the music with their whips. At 11:00pm, in the glow of resinscented torchlight, the masks, choreography, and music take on a solemn yet magical feel. One Sunday is given over to an outing for all the groups and their costumes to compete with each other. The Carnival King is received on the first Sunday by the Meuniers, all dressed in white. He is tried in Occitan and burned on the last Sunday, during the “night of the Blanquette” under a profusion of confetti! Mairie de Limoux. Tél : 33 (0)4 68 31 01 16

A ball, dawn serenade and Catalan dances for Saint Andrew – Rivesaltes gets into the festival spirit. The last weekend of November is also the occasion to celebrate the sweet muscat wine for Christmas which is blessed in the Sunday mass then... tasted in the company of the producers! Rivesaltes Tourist Information Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 68 64 04 04

You can eat all of a pig, except the squeal Strong advocates of this adage, Saint-Pons-de-Thomières holds a festival at the end of February. The brotherhood ‘Los Bonhetaires dal Soumal’ is reviving the methods and art of preparation with a charcuterie workshop, a pig-based meal and a festival of pig products. Since last year, the truffle has played a part – not least because the pig is one of those rare animals that can track down the famous elusive mushroom. Demonstrations of truffle-hunting arealso provided. But the highlight of this weekend-long celebration is with fork in hand at the “party of the pig men”. All you have to do is attack the hog roast. Regional flavour and ambiance guaranteed! Pays Saint Ponais Tourist Information Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 67 97 06 65

www.sunfrance.com/traditions

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PERSPECTIVES EVENTS

Bear necessities At Prats-de-Mollo, the bear is centrestage in a legend which recalls the traditional introduction of this surefooted beast to the Pyrénées-Orientales, with a dedicated carnival involving a fertility rite. The bear – the kidnapper of young shepherdesses – is pursued by local citizens, captured and brought back to the village square where it is shaved – this fairy tale is played out in music and dance at the bear festival. On the last Sunday in February, released at 3pm, the bears disguised in amazing furs charge along the streets of the village in search of their prey whose faces they mark with their sooty paws. Hot on their heels, the hunters let off rifle shots with each sighting, all the while reviving themselves with swigs of wine to get ready for the final capture at the end of the day. At that point, the barbers dressed in white bathe and shave the beast, giving it a human appearance. Thrills and laughs guaranteed! The festival of the bear takes place at Arles-sur-Tech on the first Sunday in February and at Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans on the first Sunday in March. Tourist Information Office of Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste. Tel: +33 (0)4 68 39 70 83 Tourist Information Office of Arles-sur-Tech. Tel: +33 (0)4 68 39 94 63 Tourist Information Office of Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. Tel: +33 (0)4 68 39 55 75

A very timely Muscat! Christmas Muscat is very timely! And just to convince us the Interbranch Committee of Roussillon wines organises in Perpignan, on each third Thursday of November, a tasting/discovery of Christmas Muscat. This first Muscat of the year, bottled just at the end of the grape harvest, was traditionally served at the table of the royal court of Barcelona during the Nativity celebrations. Many domains and wine cellars of the department and of Perpignan city centre offer tasting of the new vintage. The opportunity to savour the fresh aromas of the freshly picked grapes before inviting the nectar to the dinner party table. Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon. 19, avenue de Grande-Bretagne. Perpignan. Tel: 33 (0)4 68 51 21 22

Roquemaure, love is in the vine When phylloxera wiped out hectares of vines, a rich landowner from Roquemaure brought relics of Saint Valentine back from Rome in 1868, thereby hoping to put an end to the devastation. Instead of saving the vines, the relics brought this village in Gard a certain notoriety, and every 14th February sees 500 amateurs and professionals gather to celebrate the events in a historic reconstruction ... a feast-day for lovers. The whole village dons its 19th century finery for a gala meal, a waltzing competition, a dawn serenade to love and other festivities all to the sound of oboes, fifes and drums. The relics are honoured with a procession and mass with a cortege in the style of 1868. While the parade of seven carts filled with vine shoots beat the bounds of the town – an historic re-enactment! Roquemaure Tourist Information Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 66 90 21 01

Roquebrun, a scented festival The first mimosa flowers present the pretext for Roquebrun, the Nice of the Hérault, to celebrate the first signs of spring on the second Sunday in February. The flower parade brings together wagons decorated with a new theme each year. Of course, the mimosa is everywhere – on sale, blessed at the chanted mass and lending its colours and scents to the festival. Tourist Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 67 89 79 97

A carnival of wine dregs... Each year on Ash Wednesday, Cournonterral, not far from Montpellier, plays host to the most rustic and most secret of all carnivals. In a village cut off from the rest of the world, young men

and women from the village all dressed in white must from strange creatures with faces hidden behind black woollen masks, wearing top hats and, around the waist, a sack of straw soaked in wine lees. These Paliasses allow the wearers to shamelessly rub up against each other - an impressive virile ritual dating back to the 14th century. Cournonterral Town Hall. Tél : 33 (0)4 67 85 43 66

Foal racing at Pézenas Drums, fifes, oboes… It is the strains of these secular musical instruments that draw the inhabitants of Pézenas in Hérault into the streets to follow the Foal – an icon of the town which appears with the approach of Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras in time for the carnival. The legend dates back to 1126 in the reign of Louis XIII, whose mare had fallen ill. Cared for by two consuls of the town, the animal gave birth to a foal and to show his gratitude, the king presented a wooden foal to the town. So, each year nine men carry an enormous structure of the figures of Estieinou and Estieinette (representing the King and a young peasant girl) sitting astride the horse. Le Poulain (the foal) is recognised by UNESCO as an intangible part of World Heritage. Pézenas Tourist Information Office. Tél : 33 (0)4 67 98 36 40

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PERSPECTIVES A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ACCOMMODATION AND ACCESS

Stayingin Languedoc-Roussillon

A

diverse land, where you can devote yourself to the pleasures of skiing, take advantage of the winter sun along the beaches or just as easily breathe in some fresh air hiking or biking through the scrublands. Languedoc-Roussillon harbours such beautiful spots, typical of the art of living southern French style, which reveal themselves in all their glory as soon as the winter season is upon us. And accommodation choices are both numerous and varied. A stay in a gîte will delight those visitors hoping to discover traditional living in a home lovingly decorated by its owners, true ambassadors for the region. In the mountains, as well as the hotels and holiday camps, bed and breakfasts offer an exceptional

How to get here? By plane FROM FRANCE:

Direct flights from Paris (to Béziers, Perpignan, Montpellier), from Rennes (to Montpellier), from Nantes (to Montpellier), from Lyon (to Montpellier), from Ajaccio (to Montpellier). FROM BELGIUM:

Direct flights from Brussels (to Carcassonne, Perpignan, Nimes, Montpellier) FROM THE UK:

Direct flights from London (to Perpignan, Béziers, Montpellier, Nimes), Manchester (to Perpignan), Bristol (to Béziers), Leeds Bradford (to Montpellier), Liverpool (to Nimes), Southampton (to Béziers, Perpignan)

It's a good sign!

welcome, perhaps at the heart of a family who’ll let you in on all their local secrets of the mountains, whether it be the Capcir or the Cévennes. On the coast or in the towns - in Perpignan, Nimes or Montpellier, professional hoteliers welcome you into modern establishments with a wide range of services. Carrying the “Qualité Sud de France“ label, these establishments help you enjoy a

smooth and trouble-free stay in Languedoc-Roussillon. In addition to these, around fifty establishments selected for their exceptional criteria form part of the elite “Cercle Prestige“ (“Prestigious Circle“), providing excellence in tourism. Their quintessential stylishness is spectacular and capable of satisfying a client's every whim when discovering the South in winter.

FROM SPAIN:

Roussillon. TGV from Brussels Links from Barcelona Sants to Perpignan.

Direct flights from Madrid (to Montpellier).

Information on www.voyages-sncf.com - TER links:

Visit the airport websites: • Nîmes

www.nimes-aeroport.fr • Montpellier

www.montpellier.aeroport.fr • Béziers

www.beziers.aeroport.fr • Perpignan

www.aeroport-perpignan.com • Carcassonne

www.aeroport-carcassonne.com • Gérone en Espagne

www.barcelona-girona-airport.com

By train TGV direct from Geneva and Brussels - SNCF Reservations:

Daily TGV LINKS between Paris, Lille and Lyon and the major towns of Languedoc-

www.ter-sncf.com/Regions/ languedoc_roussillon/fr - Railway Information for

Montpellier, Narbonne, Nîmes et Perpignan : www.gares-en-mouvement.com/fr

By car A 61 Toulouse - Narbonne - A 75 Montpellier - ClermontFerrand - Paris - A 9 Barcelone (Spain) - Montpellier - Lyon - A 54 Montpellier - Marseille - Motorway information Listen to RADIO TRAFIC FM, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week www.sunfrance.com/acces

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This label guarantees a warm and professional welcome, promising quality and comfort in over 800 establishments and tourist sites. Whether in terms of accommodation, restaurants, winetasting cellars, local produce outlets or tourist and cultural sites, all are committed to maintaining the highest standards. These many establishments have all mastered the basics of receiving clients in English, welcoming disabled clients with care and attention and upholding their firm pledge to provide clear and useful information on the cultural and leisure activities available in Languedoc-Roussillon. www.sunfrance.com/qualité

The Sud de France Brand

Created in 2006 by the Languedoc-Roussillon Region in association with local businesses, the Sud de France label brings together food and wine production within the LanguedocRoussillon Region under one name in order to promote sales within local, national and international markets. Sud de France today lists more than 6,000 food products and 1,800 wine producers from LanguedocRoussillon under its label, a number that is constantly increasing. www.sud-de-france.com


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Magazine Sud de France - Hiver 2012-2013  

Montagnes du Languedoc-Roussillon

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