Things to do in the Aude region of France
Marseillette is a grape growing village in the south Minervois region with an approximate population of 700. It has a Church dating back to the 12 century and of course the famous Canal du Midi flowing right through it. Marseillette has existed since the 10th Century and certain research has shown that it may have existed 2000 years AD in the Bronze Age under the name Villacano. The village was built on the highest piece of land and a fort was made with only 1 entrance which is still there today. There is now a clock tower on what was the first telecommunication structure in the world in the 14th Century.
Marseillette is also famous in the region for it’s dried salt water lake (etang). In the 12th Century when it was still a lake, it carried a lot of disease. In the end it was an Irish lady, Madame de Lawless who in 1804 after agreement from Napoleon decided to drain the lake. In 1808 with 300 workmen, they dug 3 drainage ditches to remove the water. Because the ground was full of salt, they then had to build more channels and a tunnel to carry water from the River Aude. This is still used today to regulate the water and salt levels in the “etang” . Because of the salt in the ground it prevents any frosts in winter and therefore makes it an ideal place for growing vines, apples and rice.
Marseillette is only 20 minutes away from the Medieval City of Carcassonne.
The famous restored mediaeval City of Carcassonne is the department’s capital and most proud possession. Once the inspiration for “The Sleeping Beauty”, the city is packed with interesting sites and memorable views and is a reminder of the Cathar history. There are in total 52 towers and 2 enormous ramparts and the citadel contains over 50 restaurants. The landscape here is unmistakably Mediterranean with wild, rocky hills and hot, stony plains, dominated by the vines of the Minervois and Corbières.
The place comes alive in Summer especially in July when they have the Music Festival and you can find different types of music / acts dotted around the city and performing in the outdoor theatre. The Carcassonne Festival is one of the major cultural events in the South of France and is now one of France’s largest festivals with nearly 100 shows on offer (Opera, Dance, Theatre, Classical Music, French and international popular music, Modern music), more than 70 of which are free!
The market town of Limoux lies on the river Aude about 30km south of Carcassonne. The well known sparkling wine ‘Blanquette’ is associated with Limoux. The wine was invented well before champagne and is still produced in the area by various small producers. However, most visitors make for the Coopérative Aimery-Sieur d’Arques. There is a weekly market held on Fridays in the arcaded Place de la République. You can enjoy a pleasant walk from here along the banks of the river Aude across the 14th century Pont Neuf. As with the larger towns of the Aude, Cathar history is abundant and a visit to Catha-Rama in Rue Fabre-d’Eglantine explains the history of the religious movement.
Narbonne & Gruissan Beaches
Narbonne is officially the oldest town in South-West France and was once a prosperous port. It is ideally located about 15km from the coastline of the Mediterranean. Turning inland on the A61 on route to Carcassonne brings you to this cosmopolitan city with its tree lined walks and esplanades. In addition to all of the historical sites, there are two large markets held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an open air section situated on the banks of the Canal de la Robine. Restaurants offering international cuisines are plentiful and the city as a whole is very cultural.
Les Montagne Noire
Located to the north this area is filled with stunningly beautiful scenery with lovely mountain villages, beautiful walking paths or leisurely drives.
Each day there are many markets in small villages and large towns to be able to see the authentic French way of life and buy local produce. Mirepoix on Mondays, Caunes Minervois on Tuesday, Wednesday in Lezignan, Thursday in Montpellier, Limoux on Fridays, Saturday mornings sat in the square (Place Carnot) having a coffee watching the local market in Carcassonne town or drive to Revel market and pick up your food for a picnic at the lake on the way back. On Sundays, there is always a large market in Narbonne.
Canal Du Midi – Biking, Walking or Boat
The Canal du Midi was the brainchild of Paul Riquet in the 17th century. It extends 150 miles (240 kms) with an impressive 350 locks and the towpath is lined with 300 year old trees, which have sadly been removed due to a virus called Dutch Elms disease. For 15 years from 1666, 12,000 men wielded shovels and woven reed baskets to remove the earth. Unfortunately, Paul Riquet died after being ill and exhausted without having seen his life’s work completed.
Today you can take a boat ride along the Canal du Midi from nearby Homps, Trebes or in Carcassonne. If that seems to energetic you could just sit and watching the canal boats navigate their way along the canal is a delight. In Beziers only 30 minutes away there is a set of 9 locks (ecluses).
Trebes and Homps both less than 10 minutes away are locations where you can hire a canal boat for a few hours or days so you can explore the canal yourself. The towpath can be accessed by the gates at the bottom or Les Petites Ecuries garden where you can walk or cycle along the Canal du Midi. Ideal and safe for cycling, use some of our bikes and explore the Canal du Midi and the plenty of restaurants and cafes in villages that border the canal.
For the Golf enthusiasts, there is an 18 hole course which accepts visitors on the outskirts of Carcassonne. This is a beautiful and challenging Par 71 course. Half sets of clubs can be rented for as little as 8 euros. Electric Buggies are also available. For the less enthusiastic there is a great restaurant overlooking the 1st Tee!
The river also flows through Marseillette so both fishing in the canal and river are available. (Local permit required). There are a number of fishing lakes, Trebes and Marseillette Etang being minutes from Les Petites Ecuries.
Lakes, Rivers, & Mountains
Lac de la Cavayere, some 10 minutes from Les Petites Ecuries is a man made lake with sandy beaches, pedlo’s for hire and a Total Wipe out course. O2 Adventure is also located here. You can walk around the lake in about an hour or find a place in the sun to relax.
White water rafting, kayaking are available from the neighbouring village of Puicheric. The Pyrenees and Andorra are only just over 90 minutes away, if you want to follow the Tour du France in July or check out the mountains.
Walking and Running
For those who enjoy running we can advise on safe and suitable running routes so don’t forget to bring your running kit ! Great area for walking with a varied terrain around us for all levels.
Sigean African Animal Reserve
Within an hours drive of Les Petites Ecuries is the Sigean African Animal Reserve which we recommend to our guests. Situated near the sea and Sigean village with its inland salt water lakes with hundreds of Flamingos. Although expensive it is a great day out, but you need to get there early to see all the animals feeding including Beers and Lions.
There are plenty of good quality local restaurants in the region and a list of recommended ones can be found in each gite. This guide will give you the phone numbers and addresses along with what type of cuisine to expect and price guide. These are restaurants we have eaten at and happy to recommend.