Suggestions for a week in the Carcassonne region

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1. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

We are going to spend our week long 'crocus holiday' in South East France/Andorra/Spain border region. We will be based in Carcassonne for the entire time and will have a car.
Any suggestions for interesting stuff to do that doesn't necessarily feature in the conventional guide books? Our particular interests are wildlife/nature, scenery, history and food, and we'll have our 13 and 10 year olds along with us.
Given the time of year, any 'wet weather alternatives' would be particularly handy.
Thanks in advance for your suggestions

2. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1272 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Not sure what a crocus holiday is, but we love the Carcassonne area. It's great that you'll have a car because there is a lot of off-the-beaten-path stuff to see there. With a 10 and 13-year old along, don't miss La Cité, the wonderful castle at Carcassonne. There are two museums they might like, a Museum of the Inquisition and a Museum of School.

There is a lot of information about Carcassonne things to do at their web site:

Another fun thing to do and you can even do it in the rain, although not nearly as pretty, is to take a canal ride. There are tourist barges plying the Canal du Midi and the trips are great fun. We've taken them and we've taken our daughters on them. We leave from Homps but I believe they also depart from Carcassonne.

Alet-les-Bains is fun to explore and there is a marvelous restaurant on the old Abbey grounds. It's the restaurant in the old Hotel L'Eveche. BTW, to visit the abbey, stop at the tourist office and get a key from them.

Minerve is a short drive from Carcassonne up into the mountains and is a stunning perched village. Great scenery; great walks in the area. Not great for a rainy day however.

Montolieu, the Village of Books is right up the hill from Carcassonne and has a printing museum. It's a pretty village and has a couple nice restaurants although we prefer Les Anges au Plafond. There are lots of bookstores along the streets if you enjoy browsing.

Abbey of St. Hilaire is on the Cathar Route in Languedoc-Roussillon and also not far from Carcassonne. Take the abbey tour and they will explain how the monk Dom Perignon stole the recipe for sparkling wine and took it to Champagne.

If you don't mind a bit of a drive, the village of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast not far from Spain is spectacular. There is a castle, beautiful little church, lots of different beaches, colorful houses, colorful fishing boats, wonderful ice cream (gelato) and often donkey rides for kids on holidays. There are lots of galleries if you enjoy those.

If you haven't visited Mirepoix, that might be a fun day trip. It's a very medieval looking market village and it's gotten more touristy over the years, but it's still beautiful and has a lot of authenticity. Lots of cute shops and on holidays, again, pony rides.

That should get you started. If you have any specific questions, please come back and ask.

3. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Sally - this is really useful, and already has me hauling out my maps.
Good to see that you remain the fount of knowledge on All Things French :)

4. Posted by harbinger (Budding Member 39 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

By the way, the 'crocus holiday' (Krokusferien in German) is the Belgian/German phrase for what North Americans would call 'spring break'. Pretty, isn't it?

[ Edit: Edited on 21-Feb-2017, at 01:10 by harbinger ]

5. Posted by zzlangerhans (Respected Member 69 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

We spent a few days in this area a year ago in April. My top recommendation would be a place called Mas de la Fargassa close to the Spain border, which is a remote lodge nestled in the Pyrenees. Your kids will absolutely love it, and the drive up there is incredible. I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation for Collioure. In Limoux is the Musée des Automates which is probably worth a trip. Foix is a very nice town with a hilltop chateau if you have time. Further afield Narbonne and Beziers are larger, beautiful cities. Carcassonne itself is not much, once you've gotten your pics at the medieval city. They've really let the place turn into a giant tourist trap.

Details about Mas de la Fargassa and the other places here are in my blog

Have fun!

6. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1272 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

Crocus holiday . . . I like that better than Spring Break. It sounds most pleasant.

BTW, yes, there are lots of tourists in Carcassonne most of the time but it's always been a busy place and there are a lot of things to do that are fun. The tourists go there for a reason. We've been there at least four or five times and my husband's one wish for our next trip was to spend the night in La Cité. We were there once on Sunday morning for Mass and the town was virtually empty except for early church goers. Don't miss the chateau and the church . . . both are spectacular. You might enjoy a book on the Cathars if you don't already know their story. It makes the entire area much more interesting although it was not a gentle time in the history of France. I was whining about the excess of tourists in Mont Saint Michel once and my husband gently reminded me it had been a pilgrimage site for hundreds of years so being crowded and being sold tawdry trinkets was a very authentic experience. I'm not sure it helped, but I have regarded crowds in such places with a different attitude since then.

May is probably the worst month to travel in France as far as holidays. There are something like 5 or 6 holidays in May starting with May Day. The trick is to know when they are and what is going on that day . . . and what is closed. We've run into some really fun festivals on holidays and much of it is free and great fun for kids.

Have a great trip.

7. Posted by padington bear (Budding Member 12 posts) 2y Star this if you like it!

First of all beware of snow - yes I do mean snow. we drove from Carcasonne to Beziers and experienced snow in April a few years back so the road to Andorra might well be closed

I would add Villanfrance de Conflent with the spectacular caves/Capstang/Limouix and you should be able to make Rennes Le Chateaux of Da Vinci fame. The Dali art galleries at Figures and Pubol will be within your driving distance. Girona is well worth seeing. Sailing on Lac Salagou should be possible. The Clamouse Caves are well worth a look on the outskirts of the pretty village of St Guillhelm le Desert. There are also caves at Mirepoix - all the caves are totally different --- and don't forget to visit Decathlon at Bezier which is one of the largest sports shops in the South of France for just about every type of sport going with good quality out door clothing - our boys loved the area when they were the age of your children. Taking the children round a French market is another option and encouraging them to speak French is another fun activity