French Connections

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  • Holiday Heaven in the Aude

    It’s February and here in northern Europe, winter still has us in its icy grip. So naturally our thoughts turn to long, lazy days in the sunny south of France, to glorious Mediterranean beaches and forests fringed by mountain views.

    Here at French Connections, our thoughts are turning especially to the Aude in Languedoc Roussillon, for this is our region of the month. Typically for its Mediterranean location, the Aude enjoys long, hot summers with temperatures topping well above 30C, so no wonder we consider it a holiday heaven.

    The coastline stretches for a full 50km and is positively bursting with beach resorts, so there’s plenty of swimming and sunbathing. Further inland lies a blanket of wheat fields and vineyards as far as the eye can see, with the magnificent backdrop of the Pyrénées mountains, guaranteeing you scenery with constantly changing light and drama.

    The landscape is unmistakably Mediterranean with wild, rocky hills and hot, stony plains – and the wine is warm and southern too, for this is the territory of the gorgeous Minervois and Corbières. I recently enjoyed a delicious glass of Corbieres de Nimes - on offer at the supermarket - and the name, label and taste all transported me immediately to the warmth and history of this area of France.

    Deep forests offer a cool, quiet retreat and are a hiker’s paradise. And the history! From the 13th century, the Cathars have left their mark in the Aude, especially in the capital Carcassonne, surely one of France’s most romantic cities. Stroll the winding streets, explore the sights, languish at a pavement café and finish with a dinner of superb local food and wine in one of the many restaurants that ooze warmth and welcome.

    Where to stay in the Aude? You’ll find mouth watering traditional stone farmhouses with shutters and vine-clad terraces, village houses for a real taste of local life, beachside apartments and lovely country auberges with every luxury laid on. Check out accommodation ideas in our guide to the Aude and our guide to Languedoc Roussillon

    Our photo shows the breathtaking view from Les Gascous, a spacious 12 bedroom farmhouse set in five acres of garden with a salt water swimming pool. This tranquil setting is only 10 minutes drive from the medieval city of Mirepoix, where there’s plenty to see and do.

  • Holidays in Aude, the sunny south of France

    The Aude is a small area that seems to encapsulate all the best of France. A hot, sunny climate, miles of low-key Mediterranean coastline, the majestic Pyrenees mountains, vast vineyards producing iconic wines, colourful markets selling luscious local produce, picturesque farmhouses to stay in – oh and the capital, Carcassonne, is one of France’s most romantic historic cities.

    No wonder the Aude is our region of the month. Located in southern central France, in Languedoc-Roussillon, it’s a popular choice for holidays and we have a really good selection of accommodation, from seaside apartments to chateau gites and family villas in peaceful countryside.

    This is Cathar country, so there is plenty of history to discover. Amongst  a rich heritage are medieval castles, ‘Citadelles du vertige’ (literally ‘head spin’ citadels), sites of the 13th century Cathars who were so persecuted, romanesque abbeys and cloisters, prehistoric caves and the Roman city of Narbonne.

    This territory is ideal for viticulture and the Aude contains the biggest and oldest vineyard of France.  Fitou, Corbières and Cabardès are among the wine making areas and, when it comes to food to accompany such delights, gastronomy here has been taken to the level of a fine art.

    Aude offers a wide range of outdoor activities in spectacular and varied landscapes, not least walks under century-old trees bordering the famous Canal du Midi, the miracle of engineering that forms a 360-km network of navigable waterways that are such fun to cruise. Then there is hiking, water sports, cycle touring, mountain biking and cave exploration.

    festival mairie Carcassonne






    Carcassonne really is a must-see. Once the inspiration for ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, the city lies inside imposing medeival ramparts with 52 towers and is a maze of narrow streets, memorable views, fascinating sites and reminders of Cathar history. When you get tired of sightseeing, just wander into one of the 50 restaurants located inside the central Citadel area.

    In July the city celebrates two popular festivals - the Festival de La Cite and the Festival de la Bastide. The first features concerts of classical and pop music by world renowned artists, while the second combines opera and dance, music, theater and performance, both traditional and experimental.

    See more about the region and find your perfect holiday accommodation at our complete guide to the Aude.

    Canal du Midi photo by Paul Palau, Aude Tourism

  • Setting standards at a bijou cottage for couples in the Aude

    Linda and Bernard Devine own and run La Petite Maison Devine as a stylish, luxurious one bedroom retreat for couples. This private 18th century terraced cottage is set in the quiet medieval village of Laurac le Grand in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon.

    Originally a farmer’s property, the cottage has been renovated by a British architect to a very high standard, combining original features with the best of contemporary comfort. A truly enticing highlight is the private terrace with a spa pool, fabulous views and all day sunshine.

    The spacious accommodation is set on three floors, with a kitchen-diner at ground level and a salon with Juliet balcony on the first floor. A light, airy master suite takes up the whole of the top floor.

    Places to explore while staying at La Petite Maison include the Canal du Midi, the historic cities of Albi and Carcassonne and the beach at Narbonne.
    The Devines have many years of experience in the hospitality trade. Linda also has a business background of sales, marketing and customer service with exclusive London hotels while Bernard has engineering and building skills – all of which are put to good use running their holiday let.

    “The biggest things I’ve learned about being a host are communication with guests and the importance of excellent customer service,” says Linda. “We like to go the extra mile and ensure that our guests have a truly great holiday.”


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