The Bio Vallee Lauragais cluster is part of the local policy to develop organic agriculture in a rural region with a high potential. The project aims at offering to new consumers of biological and natural food products that they sometimes struggle to find. Working hand in hand with local farmers, small and larger businesses are in an ideal position to enhance the quality and the biodiversity of local food resources. The goal of Bio Vallée Lauragais is to unite efforts to work for sustainable development by respecting authenticity while looking for innovations. The production area will cover 60 kms around Revel and will not only focus on food products but will also provide cosmetics and building material.
The company left Revel in 1991 but Get 27 remains the pride of the city in which this mint liquor was invented in 1796 by distiller Francois Pons. First employees in the company, Jean Get, who married the manager’s daughter, and his brother Pierre took over in 1853. Originally called Pipermint Get, the liquor soon added the figure of its alcohol level, which went down with time and is now only 21 degrees. Another drink created by the brand is called Get 31, yet its alcohol potency is only 24 degrees, 31 standing for the department in which it is made. Known worldwide for its taste but also for the peculiar shape of its bottle, inspired by a petrol lamp and created in 1860, Get is now exported in 122 countries. His business success even took Jean Get to the Revel town-hall in 1858 and he remained mayor for 20 years. The old Get factory in Revel has now been turned into a cultural centre with a library, a dance school and a cinema called Cine-Get. The famous bottle hangs over the front door of the building, which in the past gave Revel its special mint smell.
The eight stage finishes in Revel since 1966 have always crowned a strong man, from Rudi Altig to Paolo Savoldelli, but also Joachim Agostinho, Erik Dekker or Charly Mottet. Mottet will celebrate on this Tour the 20th anniversary of his first stage win. Yet the Frenchman, who had worn the yellow jersey for six days in 1987, said after his victory in Revel that he had given up on final victory and that he would from then on go for stage victories. Mottet was true to his word. In 1991, he won two more stages and finished 4th in Paris for the second time. Revel’s Tour history was also marked by Eddy Merckx’s performance in a time trial around town in 1969. The Belgian won his second TT in this edition and went on to win his first Tour. The next day the race had taken a shortcut compared to this year as the peloton directly headed for Luchon.
|1342||King Philip VI of Valois builds a fortress in Lavaur on the Via Tolosane.|
|16th century||Revel becomes a stronghold of the Huguenots.|
|1629||The Huguenot stronghold is dismantled after the Ales peace treaty.|
|1667 to 1672||Pierre-Paul Riquet builds the dam and lake of St Ferreol.|
|1790 to 1795||Revel becomes district capital.|
|1884||Birth of Vincent Aurio, future French president.|
In the museum you can discover the secrets of wood, the crafts required to work on it and a workshop allows children as well as grown-ups to test their talent for woodwork.
CANAL DU MIDI MUSEUM AND GARDENS
From 1660 to 1680, Revel hosted the headquarters of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Canal du Midi builder. A museum is dedicated to this immense work and the history of the canal.
Prefecture : Carcassonne
Population : 345,800
WebSite : www.cg11.fr
The department, with a population of 350,200, owes its name to the coastal river which flows through it. Its is located between two mountain chains, the Pyrenees to the South and the Montagne Noire to the North but its is above all famous for its 47-kms coastline with its famous seaside resorts: Leucate, Fitou, Lapalme, Sigean, Port-la-Nouvelle, Peyriac de Merc, Barges, Narbonne, Gruissan and Fleury d’Aude. The former Cathar area is scattered with castles while the spectacular walls of the medieval prefecture of Carcassonne is a world treasure. There is plenty on offer for tourists from beaches to rides along the Canal du Midi or treks in open nature. Wine, with a great emphasis on quality in recent years, has always been a major asset with appellations such as Minervois, Corbieres or Limoux’s blanquette.
The former capital of the Lauragais region, a stronghold of the Cathar heresy, Castelnaudary is famous nowadays for its culinary speciality, cassoulet. With 11,000 inhabitants, the town is the central point of the Canal du Midi and its Grand Bassin is a spectacular 18 acres pond. From there, the view is fantastic with the St Roch locks on the one hand and the Cybele island protecting the Canal against strong winds on the other. In the past, the basin was covered with boats loading grain for Sete, Toulouse or the Atlantic. Now, it is a yachting base attracting more tourists since it was declared a World Heritage site. Castelnaudary claims to be the capital of cassoulet yet Toulouse and Carcassonne also insist they invented the recipe. Cassoulet was named after the “cassole”, a terracotta pan made in the nearby village of Issel
Prefecture : Foix
Population : 148,600
WebSite : www.cg09.fr
Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, its back to Spain and Andorra, Ariege is an area of mountains, valleys and lakes, which has been inhabited forever. Twelve painted caves are invaluable testimonies of our far past while the Middle Ages have left a treasure of castles and roman churches in the former land of the Cathars. Water, sun, snow and fresh air: everything is combined to make Ariege the ideal place for nature lovers. Food is as tasty and copious as it used to be while catering has kept its authenticity. The building of a new motorway, the A66, has made Ariege much more accessible while the department keeps true to Napoleon’s saying which went: “Ariege produces men and iron”.
Placed under the authority of the Count of Foix, Mirepoix was won over by the Cathars in the late 12th century. In 1206, 600 Cathars attended a council in town. Mirepoix was taken by Simon de Montfort, who handed it over to one of his lieutenants, Guy de Levis, the founder of the Levis-Mirepoix family. A flood of the river Hers destroyed the town in 1289 and it was rebuilt on the other bank of the river on an elevated terrace given by the local lord to the people. Its 14th century cathedral, neglected after Mirepoix lost its diocese, was restored in 1860 by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
Its narrow little streets remind the medieval past of Leran, whose castle was first mentioned in 1164. Guy de Levis and the Albigensian Crusade were landmarks on the village’s history. Attacked in 1622 by the Count of Carmaing, the castle was preserved thanks to the plea of the landlady. It was confiscated during the Revolution and bought back by the Lveis family in 1805. Since 1983, it belong to a private company.
A picturesque village with elegant old houses, Chalabre once made a living by making hats. The village developed in the 14th century, after the Albigensian Crusade, when a fortified house was built. The castle was enhanced between the 13th and the 18th century. A local association, the Knights of Kercorb, organise original visits of the castle, allowing visitors to play the part of a castle dweller. Equestrian shows and medieval dancing are also on the programme.
This pleasant village lived for centuries thanks to the hat making industry, an activity now replaced by tourism. Visits to the Dinosaurs Museum, the old hat manufacture and the honey mill attract hundreds of visitors. Esperaza was the birthplace of Paul Barriere, former president of the French Rugby League and founder of the International Board, who created the sport’s World Cup.
The Usson castle, standing at 923 metres on a hill, is one of the oldest in the region since its construction began in the late 10th century. It was occupied until 1794 and still holds the traces of this long occupation. It belonged to the sires of Alion, who pledged allegiance to Simon of Montfort while protecting the Cathars as much as they could. Sold and dismantled after the Revolution, it was saved from total demolition when a restoration campaign started in 1990.
Ax has been since ancient times devoted to water and hydrotherapy. At the crossroads of three valleys, it has always been a passage site, especially for the Tour de France, which stopped here nine times if we take into account the finishes up on the Plateau de Bonascre. The site was well known since Roman times and its takes its name from the Latin acquae: waters. Its 80 springs made it a popular spa town ever since the Middle Ages. In 1260, the Count of Foix, Roger IX built a leprosarium for knights affected by leprosy on their return from the Crusades. The exploitation of the waters developed from then on. The hottest spring water in Ax reaches 77 degrees. Breeding cattle and sheep was the other wealth of Ax until the creation of the Ax 3-Domaines ski resort.
A new hydrotherapy centre based in Ax, les Bains du Couloubret, is drawing its inspiration from the Roman period. Established in the old spa of Couloubret, whose neo-Gothic front wall has been preserved, the new complex combines waters and leisure over 7 acres. The setting has been decorated the Roman way with marble, pillars, frescos and mosaics. An ideal place to relax, Roman style, after skiing or trekking.
Close to Ax, the village of Montaillou, topped by the ruins of its castle, became one of the world’s most famous medieval villages thanks to the book written in 1975 by historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error became a best-seller. It reads like a mystery novel as Le Roy Ladurie used the writings of investigating bishop Jacques Fournier, who would later become pope under the name of Benoit XII. A true “Maigret of the souls”, Fournier heard all the village inhabitants suspected of being heretics in 1308 and his investigation led to many of them being burnt or jailed. The local priest, Pierre Clergue, is a fascinating character as he turns out to be a Cathar but also a womaniser, madly in love with the village first lady, Beatrice de Planissoles. The book’s success attracted thousands of tourists and historians to Montaillou and the village hosts an annual medieval festival in which the Fournier investigations, now kept in the Vatican, are read to the public.
AX-les-Thermes has hosted the Tour since 1933 but the ski resort of Ax 3-Domaines had to wait for 2001 to see the race climb all the way to its slopes. The finish then took place on the Plateau de Bonascre, one of the three “domains” combined to form the resort. In 2003, a withdrawn but determined Spanish climber revealed himself by snatching the first of his three stage victories on the Tour. Carlos Sastre, who was then at the service of Tyler Hamilton, had received the go-ahead from his team director Bjarne Riis after the American broke his collarbone. On the finish line, the gentle rider from El Baracco produced a dummy and took it to his lips to dedicate his victory to his daughter Claudia, then aged two. A champion was born. Five years later, Carlos Sastre won the Tour.
|452||Martyrdom of St Udault, patron saint of Ax-les-Thermes.|
|987||Arnaud de Carcassonne hands his lands to the Lagrasse abbey should he die childless. The town is including in the County of Foix.|
|1241||Roger, Count of Foix, grants privileges to the inhabitants of Ax after its destruction by fire.|
|1260||King Louis IX orders the creation of a leprosarium in Ax to cure infected crusaders.|
|1311||Pierre Authie, a Cathar solicitor is burnt. In 1308, the population of Montaillou were arrested amidst harsh repression against the Cathars.|
|1888||Train arrives in Ax.|
|1955||Construction of the Saquet lift.|
|1960||First constructions on Plateau de Bonascre.|
|2001||First Tour finish on Plateau de Bonascre.|
|2003||The resort takes the name of Ax 3-Domaines.|
LE BASSIN DES LADRES (LEPERS BASIN)
Eight metres long and 11 metres wide, the Lepers basin is filled with 40 degrees hot water. Built around 1250, it was part of the leprosarium created by King Louis IX to cure lepers returning from the Crusades.