A thousand years of history combines with one of the last unspoilt Mediterranean landscapes to create an atmosphere nearly as intoxicating as the new generation of excellent local wines. Foodie delights can be found in abundance.
The Corbières is now one of the most rewarding travel destinations in southern Europe - yet still feels charmingly undiscovered. From broad white-sanded Mediterranean beaches to the foothills of the Pyrénées; from the languor of Louis XIV’s engineering masterpiece - the Canal du Midi - to the ramparts of la Cité in Carcassonne, it’s a paradise for the body and the soul.
These lands have formed part of both Spain and France in their day, as belied by the system of vertiginous mountain-top chateaux that were built to defend the ever-changing frontier. Latterly, they acted as the final strongholds of the Cathar heretics in the Albigensian crusades of the 12th century.
Long before, the area had been an important Roman and then Visigoth possession, and the extensive limestone caves around the village of Rennes le Chateau are believed to be the hiding-place of the Treasure of Jerusalem and the Ark of the Covenant, plundered from the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths. Now, the area is rapidly growing in popularity, due in no small part to the books of Kate Mosse and Dan Brown who have brought the mysteries of Rennes le Chateau to a global audience.
Food & Drink
There are lots of local restaurants, those in the nearby villages being relatively simple but tasty, through to plenty of Michelin-starred indulgences.
Local shops and markets brim with beautiful produce and unctuous cheeses, as well as the gorgeous local figs. Nearby is the Bas Languedoc, with a cuisine that is characterised by elaborate fish dishes such as bourride (fish stew), sardines and sea bass - all fresh catches from the local fishermen.
There is a huge number of vineyards and wineries in the area, Languedoc has the highest area of vines under cultivation in Europe. Also of interest are the white wines of Limoux, including the methode champenoise Blanquette, and the wines of Fitou and Cote Roussillon, where the popular Picpoule de Pinet is made.
Cultural events abound, particularly in summer. The jewel in the crown is the Carcassonne Festival.
Much of this is set in the stunning medieval Old Town and consists of a month of high quality culture and music, attracting names like Sylvie Guillem, Elton John, Sting and Diana Ross. Another hidden gem is the modern art museum in Ceret. It was created in collaboration with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse and contains a great collection of Picasso's ceramics as well as works by other impressionist and modern artists who were attracted by the light and beauty of the area.
There are some terrific food markets around the villa. The best is in Carcassonne in the main square on Saturday mornings as well as its brilliant covered food market on most days. There is also a small organic one in Lagrasse on Saturday mornings and a large one in Lézignan-Corbières on Wednesday mornings
In Narbonne there is an amazing covered food market that is open every morning of the year. Lonely Planet says: "Narbonne’s covered market is arguably one of the most beautiful in France. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it’s a masterpiece of art nouveau style, with panels of frosted glass, decorative stonework and a wonderful cast-iron roof." The market is a culinary dream and not to be missed.