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The Aude department of France (department number 11) is located in south central France in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It has an estimated population of 309,770 (approximate in 1999) and is named after the Aude River.
The capital of the Aude is the city of Carcassonne, with the large towns of Limoux and Narbonne in the immediate area.
Ideally located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrénées mountains, the department is often referred to as “Cathar Country”. The ‘Cathars’ were a religious movement who were persecuted in the 13th century. The main perpetrator of the crusade against the Cathars, Simon de Montfort, is buried in Carcassonne.
Why you should visit the Aude for your next holiday in France
The Aude boasts a varied landscape given to its location. Bursting with beach resorts along the 50km Med coastline and a blanket of wheat fields and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Also to be enjoyed is the magnificent backdrop of the Pyrénées and deep forests – a hiker’s paradise. With Cathar sites a plentiful (the citadel of Carcassonne a famous example), Aude truly offers something for everyone.
The climate of the Aude is fairly typical to that of the Mediterranean with long hot summers, temperatures often reaching over 30 degrees C and short, mild winters. Rain falls in spring and autumn and there can sometimes be strong Mistral winds and summer storms. The inland hills are colder in winter and the Pyrenees have thick snow cover.
What to see in the Aude
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 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 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.
A pretty little town and home of cassoulet, a thick stew made from haricot, beans, sausages, mutton and goose. The airport of Carcassonne if only a few kilometres from Castelnaudary, making it a great base from which to explore the area.
This charming town is situated on the banks of the River Aude and is within close proximity to the deep and enchanting forests of the Pyrénées. The main industry of the town is hats and shoes. Quillan and the surrounding area is perfect territory for every adventurous and non-adventurous activity you can think of, from kayaking and canoeing to horse-riding and hiking.
How to get to the Aude
Languedoc Roussillon has good air connections. The adjacent Midi Pyrenees region has Toulouse international airport which has flights from many parts of the UK and Europe and there are also airports at Carcassonne, Montpellier, Nimes and Perpignan.
The journey from Calais to the departments capital of Carcassonne is around 1060km and takes around 9 ½ hours.
The TGV service from Paris serves Perpignan, Nimes and Montpellier. Eurostar operates from London to Avignon. The distance from Avignon to Carcassonne is 238kms, which is about 2 ½ hours drive.