- The Race 2010
- All about the race
In the 21st century like in 1604, Limoux lives for three months to the rhythm of the longest carnival in the world. Dancing the traditional fecos, groups go from café to café, from square to square, covering the locals with confetti. From January to March, the carnival takes place every weekend. The arcades on the Place de la Republique resound with the sound of traditional music and the screams of the crowd. During the Folkloric Week, the times are different and weekdays are also involved. A Sunday is devoted to the march of all the bands and one musician and his instrument stars the show. Yet the Limoux carnival is not just a march or a parade, it s also living folklore which belongs to Limoux cultural heritage. On the first Sunday, His Majesty Carnival is introduced to the millers, who are dressed in white and equipped with a whip. The straw dummy is judged on the last Sunday and burnt during the Night of the Blanquette.
Is vineyards made and still make Limoux’s wealth and reputation and 95% of the wine production is Blanquette, an appellation since 1938 and the world’s first sparkling wine.
Blanquette de Limoux probably influenced the creation of champagne. The effervescent properties of the wine were discovered by chance by St Hilaire monks in 1531. And the famous Dom Perignon, who stayed at the abbey on return from a pilgrimage in Spain, brought the recipe back to Champagne. Back in his own Hautvillers abbey, Dom Perignon tried the same method for his own wines, which became the most famous in the world. Other sources say that Blanquette appeared as early as the 14th century.
The most famous cellar producing Blaquette is the cave des Vignerons du Sieur d’Arques, which regroups 330 wine growers over 6,000 ha. Blanquette is made with three main grape varieties, mauzac, chardonnay and chenin.
Blanquette is Limoux’s most famous specialty and though the Tour has never stopped in town, other cycling races have led to sparkling podiums. In 1976, a stage of the Grand Prix du Midi Libre was won by Lucien Van Impe, the Tour champion two months later, ahead of Bernard Hinault and Raymond Poulidor. In women’s cycling, Limoux has been the site or several stages of the Tour de l’Aude, the oldest race in the women’s calendar. Multiple world champion Marianne Vos was the latest winner in 2010.
|844||A Charles the Bald charter awards Limoux to the St Hilaire abbey.|
|10th century||Limoux becomes the capital of the Razes county.|
|1226||Start of the War of Limoux, staged by the Cathars against King Louis VIIII.|
|1296||Limoux is annexed by the crown of France until 1376.|
|1348||Limoux is ravaged by the Black Plague and seven years later by the Black Prince.|
|1531||The effervescent qualities of blanquette are discovered by chance.|
|1562||Marred by the Wars of Religion for 30 years, Limoux is destroyed by the Catholics led by Jean de Levis.|
|1642||Louis XII installs a seneschal in Limoux.|
|1854||A cholera epidemic claims 151 lives.|
|1891||A flood leaves seven dead.|
|1960||General de Gaulle proclaims his Algerian policy in Limoux.|
In a 19th century atmosphere, the museum is located in the artist’s studio of the Petiet family. A great diversity of works are on display, exploring the main currents of modern painting: orientalism, academism, impressionism or pointillism.
The St Jacques church houses the only public museum in France devoted to the piano and its making. The chronological exhibition recounts the history of the great French piano makers like Pleyel or Erard. The museum boast some 100 pianos, some of them unique in the world. The site also hosts quality concerts.
Its origins are uncertain. The first mention dates from 825. Until the start of the 13th century, the monastery was under the protection of the Counts of Carcassonne. But during the Cathar period, monks were accused of heresy and lost their independence and most of their good. Today, houses were built inside the premises and the cloister became a square. The church houses the sarcophagus of St Sernin, first bishop of Toulouse.
Prefecture : Carcassonne
Subprefectures : Limoux, Narbonne
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.
In Roman times, Pieusse was called Castrum Puncianum, a fortress defending access to the high valley of Aude. In the 7th century Pieusse bravely resisted the Saracens, but finally bowed to the invaders, who slaughtered the population and demolished the castle. Some ruins remain on the banks of the Aude.
Mgr Richard Dillon, the last president of the Languedoc Estate General and the bishop of Narbonne, became Baron of Pieusse. He owned the castle and buried his treasure in it. Pieusse is also the town of Jean Brousse, the first elected member of Parliament from Languedoc. Elected in 1871, he left his fortune to the town’s paupers. His house is now the town hall.
In Pieusse was buried writer Joseph Delteil and a small museum dedicated to his work can be visited in his house.
It was built around 1140 under the reign of Louis VII the Young by the Counts of Foix. Transformed throughout the years, it retained quarters and paintings from the 12th century. The North Wall has two elegant windows in the first floor though which the ladies could see their lord from afar.
15th century oratory
It is one of the rare oratories in France with a roofed cross. The origins of the Gothic monument are unknown.
The history of St Hilaire is closely linked to that of its monastery, built in the honour of St Sernin then St Hilaire, bishop of Carcassonne in the 6th century. The village grew throughout history around the abbey. The monks built walls to protect themselves during the Hundred Years War. In 1574, the village was burnt and demolished by the Protestants led by the Lord of Vilar.
The old fortified abbey was founded in the late 8th century and named after St Sernin. In the 10th century, the Count of Carcassone ordered that the monastery be dedicated to St Hilaire, the first bishop of Carcassonne in the 6th century. The abbey thrived until the 13th century when the Hundred Years War led to attacks, plunders, plagues and famine.
En 1531, the monks of St Hilaire discovered by chance the first sparkling wine in history, Blanquette. The abbey can be discovered through a guided visit.
The 14th century castle, a listed Monument historique, now housed the town hall. A local legend tells the story of Madeleine of Siran, called the Crier, who cried for 40 years in the castle after the assassination of her husband Benjamin de Levy in 1653.
Carcasonnes always played a leading role in the history of Languedoc. After the crusade against the Cathars, the city, equipped with new fortifications, became a spectacular showcase of the Royal power on the border between France and Aragon. The 1659 treaty of the Pyrenees, placing Roussillon under the French rule, led Carcassonne to lose its strategic importance and its fortifications were abandoned. The population and the French National Trust (Monuments historiques) asked architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc to restore the site, which recovered his past splendour.
An old textile city, the prefecture of the Aude department and a rugby league stronghold, now draws most of its prosperity from tourism.
The Tour de France halted in town seven times and saw some of the sport’s greats crowned inside the City walls. Lucien Teisseire earned the first laurels in 1947 while Andre Roseel momentarily stole the dhow from Hugo Koblet in 1951. Jean Stablinski was the winner in 1962. Thirty years later, Ti-Raleigh won a team time-trial and placed Gerrie Knetemann in he overall lead. In 2006, victory went to Yaroslav Popovych.
In the hart of the City of Carcassonne, the Chateau Comtal (County Castle) is a fortress which used to be the residence of the Counts of Carcassonne. The new castle was built in the 12th century : only a section of the keep has survived. The castle underwent several modifications, especially in 1229, when it became the home of the seneschal appointed by the King. The new building is composed of an enclosure with round towers, a porch and a ditch. The castle can be visited all year round and leads to the fortifications. It houses a museum of rocks and minerals and an exhibition on the City’s restoration in the 19th century.
Bastide St Louis
Jewel of the new town, the bastide is located within the former surrounding walls and ditches now replaced by boulevards built in the 18th and 19th century. The bastide’s chequered structured is organised around the central square, Place Carnot, with its famous Neptune Fountain (1770). The market is held around the fountain and in the 18the century Market Hall.
CANAL DU MIDI
The exceptional work of engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet in the 17th century, the Canal du Midi has been a World Heritage site since 1996. The canal must be seen as a whole ( the Cammazes, the St Ferreol dam, the Fonserannes lock) to realise the magnitude of the work., executed some 300 years ago. A crucial testimony of the architectural and hydrographical art of the time, it remains a fascinating site to this day.
Between the villages of Marseillette and Puicheric, the Canal du Midi bathes the dry lake of Marseillette. In the past, sea covered the area and left several lakes when it withdrew. The Marseillette lake was probably huge. Its is now planted with vines and fruit trees irrigated by several canals while rice is gaining ground. King Henry IV order the lake to be emptied and a trench was dug during Louis XIII’s reign to evacuate the water in the Aude river. But it was only in1851 that the work was completed.
The first Puicheric castle dates probably from the 6th or 7th century. The Puicheric rock, a mound perfectly suited for defence, was probably used by the Visigoths as early as 412. The name Puicheric probably meant Theodoric’s hill. In 1355, the fortifications were demolished by the Black Prince and the stones were used to build the current walls. The castle later was the home of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the creator of the Canal du Midi. A private property, it cannot be visited.
Prefecture : Montpellier
Subprefectures : Béziers, Lodève
Herault drew its identity from the meting of civilisations. Iberians from the south, Etruscans arriving from the sea, Celts from Rhineland or Ligurians from Italy settled in the area and mixed up before Greeks and Romans imposed their rule. Later, French became the official language in the 15th century. In a land always favouring exchanges thanks to the Canal du Midi or Via Domitia, tourism is a key economic sector with a 1.2 billion euros revenue and 40,000 jobs. The 100-kms-long coastline is one of the best -preserved in the Mediterranean in spite of several seaside resorts and yachting harbours. Several large natural parks around the seaside lakes like Etang de Thau are protected. Viticulture is another main asset. In Languedoc, wine is a culture which left its mark in the land and in the minds. Faugeres, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Coteaux du Languedoc, clairette ou Languedoc, Muscat in Frontignan or Mireval reflect the tradition. Demographically, the population has grown by 11,000 per year since 1990, the whole region gaining 57 pc inhabitants. Some 80 pc of the population live in the main towns, Montpellier, Beziers and Sete.
A lordship since the 11th century, Beaufort has a beautiful castle , part of the Minervois defensive system. An old fortress, the building was constantly refurbished between the 16th and 19th centuries. It is now a vineyard in the Minervois appellation.
Sitting on a rocky mound overlooking the Cesse river, Agel is picturesque with its narrow streets surrounding a mediaeval castle. The spring at the bottom of the hill was bringing water to a Roman fountain. Of the old castle, located west of the new one, only a gate subsists on a square named after the Old Fort. The current castle dates from the 12th century and its origins are not precisely known. It probably belonged to a network of castles defending the lords faithful to the Count of Toulouse during the war against the Cathar heresy.
St Chinian is best known for its wines and an appellation awarded in 1982. Vines have been grown since antiquity and wine produced since the 8th century when Benedictine monks planted vine in the Vernazorbes valley. The Canal du Midi in the 19th century favoured viticulture at the expense of textile mills, hard hit by several wars and crises. An abbey was founded on the spot and the village grew around it becoming a town known in the 16th century as St Anian d’Holotian. The name evolved to become St Chinian. The village lived from and around the abbey until 1789, when he population rallied behind the ideas of the French Revolution. The Benedictines were driven out, their belongings were sold.
St Chinian is also the city in which was brought up celebrated French singer Charles Trenet. The house in which he lived is now the House of Wine.
The buildings of the old abbey date from the 9th century and currently house the Town Hall. Destroyed by the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, the current building were rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Abbatial church and cloister
The abbatial church dates from the 9th century. It was plundered and demolished during the French Revolution when it lost its apse. The cloister was abandoned for a long period before being restored by the municipality and the department.
The Castle of Cessenon once ruled over 15 villages in the area and the situation lasted unti the French Revolution. The citadel was finally destroyed in 1633 by order of cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII. The ruins of the walls and the keep, the only remains of the period, still stand proudly in the High Quarter. At the time, wheat and cattle were the region’s main riches but vine gradually took over. To deal with overproduction, the winegrowers were forced to distil their wine and small distilleries were created. Red marble in the Courniac carer was another source of wealth. But the main industry was the clay used by the Cathala-Riche tile factory. In a small square in the hamlet of Lugne stands a copy of the Statue of Liberty.
Standing on its rocky base at the back of the defence system, the keep signals the location of the ancient fortress. It is a quadrangular building, 13-metres high, with a Romanesque gate. The bells were installed in the 17th century. Marie-Rose, Radegonde and Pierre still rings the hours and the days on three notes: C, B, A.
A historical village with a remarkable Languedoc circulade (organisation in circle), Murviel les Beziers boasts a considerable heritage. In the old town, a circuit makes it possible to discover the St John the Bapitst church, porches, Renaissance houses, small streets. On the land can also be found several prehistoric sites.
Pigeon houses are another local curiosity.
On a mound, the old manorial caste and its terrace offer a splendid view on the vast plain of Orb.
Perched on hill, Puissalicon appeaerd in history in the 11th century under the name of Podio Salicone. Countless explanations have been given to this earlier denomination which probably refers to the presence of salt on the mound. The ruins of walls and old gates remind the strategic importance of the fortified site whose narrow streets still follow the circular disposition inherited from the old days.
One kilometre from the village at the bottom of a basin where the Libron river flows, a 10th century Romanesque tower stands high in he middle of an old cemetery. The rectangular building is 26 metres high and was first erected on its own, before being used as the spire of the church now attached to it. It has five floors separated by black cordons.
It was built in 11th century over the Gothic church. Two big towers overlook a ruined keep. An underground gallery used to link the castles of Puissalicon and Cazilhac. Its is partly lost today.
In the heart of the Languedoc vineyards, Alignan-du-Vent draws its name from a Roman war veteran Alinianum, who owned a villa on the spot. The square tower of its old keep is an important testimony of its glorious past. Three surrounding walls were successively built, reflecting the expansion of the village. The St Martin church, once located outside the walls, was originally a small Romanesque nave enlarge d in the 12th century. Vine grows on most of the territory.
Pézenas historical centre, under the law of protection of the architectural heritage, has retained the charm of its private mansions opening onto courtyards or gardens, and of its cobbled streets. The governors of Languedoc (the Montmorency family and the Prince of Conti) have made Pézenas their capital. From its prestigious past, Pézenas has kept a beautiful architectural “ensemble” of buildings from the 15th to 18th century; the town was therefore called the small Versailles of Languedoc.
Pézenas, rich in history and architecture, is a place favouring the creation. Numerous famous characters made its history. In Pézenas were born the chemist Jean-François Venel and Paul Vidal de la Blache who created the human geography or Boby Lapointe a French artist, quite a character, who wrote songs, sang, he also was a comedian, a humorist and a mathematician.
Pézenas Hall of Fame would not be complete without Molière and his theatre company “l’Illustre Théâtre” who arrived in Pézenas in 1650. Between 1646 and 1658, they travelled on the roads and paths of Languedoc, before getting back to Paris hometown of Molière, 12 years later. Back in Paris, Molière became Comedian of his Highness the King of France. He became famous and wrote 28 master pieces and invented the ballet comedy.
To pay a tribute to its illustrious visitor, the town of Pézenas opened up the Scenovision Molière -a show going through 5 rooms, using the latest technologies of the 3D and the sound- that proposes an original journey to discover Molière’s hectic life. Young and adults, lovers of theatre will be seduced by the decors of the rooms and the emotion that emerges from the projections where historic truth and passion for the theatre are omnipresent.
For more than 40 years Pézenas has been a town of art because of its architecture and the settling of numerous craftsmen in the historical centre and also because of the concentration of high quality know-how. The town therefore got the label Town of Arts and Crafts.
Pézenas has kept its carnival tradition throughout the centuries; the carnival in Pézenas focuses on the totem animal: the Foal. Folk tradition created the legend in 1226 when King Louis VIII crossed the town. The animal made of cloth and wood is accompanied by fifes and drums and the population dances around the Foal forming a farandole. The carnival in Pézenas retains its whole original significance and rites: the dance of the gusset, the “hot ass” and a show by the Machous. The Foal became internationally known when it was acknowledged as immaterial world heritage by the UNESCO.
In 938, Montagnac is attested and in the Middle-Ages, the town is equipped with walls, ditches five defensive gates and a fortified church. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the town is split between the bishops of Agde and the consuls. Royal privileges will lead t the creation of the Wednesday market, which is still held nowadays. Prosperous fairs allowed the town to embellish. As early as the 14th century, commercial lojas were used as shops or warehouses for foreign salesmen. In the middle of the 16th century, Montagnac became a Protestant stronghold, fiercely fought by Catholic priest Leonard Delsol. After the Edict of Nantes, the religious problem became stronger in Montagnac and protestants went into exile. Around 1818, the vine replaces all the other cultures and wine is the town’s main wealth until the 1907 crisis.
The original fortified house on the site belonged to the abbey of Cassan. The castle passed into many hands before being bought in 1986 by Japanese company Nippon Fangyo. Afmidst controversy, the castle is sold to a holding. A golf, a tennis centre and a luxury hotel should be built on the site.
Raymond Trencavel, viscount of Beziers, founded the Valmagne abbey in the 12th century. Until the beginning of the 14th century, it was one of the richest abbeys in the south of France. Benedictine at first, it became Cistercian in 1159.
In 1789, the monks ran away and Valmagne was demolished. The lands were acquired by Mr Granier Joyeuse and then by the Count of Turenne. The current Gothic church, rebuilt in 1257, was converted in a wine cellar during the Revolution.
The charm of the cloister fountain, the purity of the chapterhouse with its lovely vault and the sheer majesty of the entire building make Valmagne a prestigious site in Languedoc, home to several events.
Pignan is particularly noteworthy for its town hall, set since 1895 in the Turenne Castel, built by architects Gabriel d'Hebles and Henri de Baschi du Cayla in the 17th century to replace a ruined medieval castle. A severe construction, it was refurbished several times to soften his appearance. The castle gardens are now a public park. Nearby can be found the 30-metres-high quare Tower, the keep of a 13th century castle. The village also keeps some remains of the Vignogoul abbey.
Montpellier’s spectacular growth was followed by a geographical expansion and the city is currently spreading towards the sea and the area known as Port Marianne, including the sites of Parc Marianne, Jacques Coeur, Richter, Lirondes gardens, Consuls de mer, Odysseum, and Hippocrate. Some 20,000 houses will be built in the area, moving Montpellier’s centre of gravity to the South. The new modern and ecological town hall in Port Marianne should be inaugurated soon. The Avenue de la Mer, linking the old town to the sea, is being renovated to become the town’s Champs-Elysees. The most spectacular undertaking is arguably Odysseum, a huge commercial and leisure zone, in which recently opened an enormous commercial centre, the Mae Nostrum aquarium, an ice-skating rink and a planetarium.
The project at first angered shopkeepers in the Polygone market-centre, which already transformed the city 30 years ago. But the global project involves the current centre with the building of a 100 metres tower with offices and business.
The presence of France’s oldest university, its pleasant location by the Mediterranean coupled with an economic boom have made Montpellier the French champion for demography. The town’s population tripled in a century, rising from 76,000 in 1901 to 250,000 today. The population grew by 2.2 pc per year since 1954. The first big step forward was between 1962 and 1968 when masses of Pieds-Noirs – French Algerians exiled by Algeria’s independence – settled in. Spanish immigration was also important. The renovation of the university and the implantation of IBM’s French headquarters also rejuvenated the city’s image and boosted its reputation. With a third of its population composed by students, Montpellier is a young city with only 18.4 pc inhabitants aged 60 or more. Montpellier is also a young town historically being the only French city of such importance without a Greek or Roman past. Its current growth recalls the one that followed its creation in the year 1000.
Montpellier’s position halfway between the Alps and the Pyrenees always made it an ideal stage finish for the Tour. In 1930, Chalres Pelissier won the fourth of his eight stage victories in the edition, which is still a record.
The most beautiful battle on the road to Montpellier took place in 1951, when Hugo Koblet, involved in the winning move initiated by Abdelkader Zaaf and Raphael Geminiani, took Fausto Coppi, Gion Bartali and Louison Bobet off their guard. Koblet won his fourth stage on his way to final victory while Coppi had one of his worst days ever on the Tour. Since then, sprinters regularly stole the show, Robbie McEwen in 2005 and Robert Hunter in 2007 taking the laurels while a team time-trial took place in 2009.
Chance also accounted for a strange statistic – Montpellier was the finish of the Tour’s 500th stage in 1936, won by Belgian Sylvere Maes. In 1963, another Blegian, Edward Sels, won the 1,000th Tour de France stage, also in Montpellier.
|985||Count Bernard of Mauguio gave knight Guilhem lands between the Via Domitia, the Lez and Mosson rivers. Its descendants built a fortress which became Montpellier.|
|1202||End of the Guilhem dynasty with the death of Guilhem IX.|
|1204||The town is ruled by the Kings of Aragon after the wedding between Peter II of Aragon and Marie of Montpellier.|
|1220||Foundation of the Montpellier medicine school by cardinal Conrad, legate of pope Honorius III.|
|1276||Montpellier passes under the rule of the kingdom of Mallorca under James II and until 1349.|
|1289||Montpellier’s medicine and law schools become universities under Pope Nicholas IV.|
|1349||Montpellier is sold to France. It is at the time the second biggest city in the kingdom but several epidemics kill a third of the population.|
|1440||Merchant Jacques Cœur revives the economy.|
|1536||The bishop see leaves Maguelone for Montpellier. St Peter’s cathedral is built.|
|1576||Montpellier is a stronghold of Reformation and rises against royal authority. The Edict of Nantes leads to a short truce.|
|1622||Louis XIII imposes Catholicism by force.|
|1755||Place de la Comedie (Comedy Square) is built.|
|19th century||Wine becomes the town’s major resource.|
|1962||Strong wave of immigration by Pieds Noirs, French Algerians exiled after the country’s independence.|
|1977||Ricardo Bofill builds the Antigone quarter.|
Built in the 18th century and surrounded with cosy and elegant townhouses, it is closed to its end by the Comédie Opera House, built in 1888. In the centre of the square stands the Fountain of the Three Graces and the Egg, drawn on the pavement with a red marble line. The square is today entirely pedestrian and is prolonged by the tree-lined Charles-de-Gaulle esplanade, a huge open space and the site of several events.
Closes in 2003 for renovation, the most famous museum in Montpellier reopened in 2007. Over 9,200 m2, it exhibits some 900 works from the 15th to the 21st century.
The Galileo planetarium is one of the main realisations in the Odysseum complex. It includes mysterious stones, a stellar crossword, a wall of constellations, the solar system, asteroids floating in the air and meteorites on the ground.
The peloton rides through the Corbieres, a small limestone chain to the north of the Pyrenees which sprang during the collision between Europe and Iberia. The riders later tackle the Mouthoumet Massif, an offshoot of the Pyrenees identified on the route by bumpier roads and darker terrain. The race goes from bright limestone to brown rocks. In the plain of Languedoc, the peloton rides through Pezenas, from which the Agde volcanoes are visible and especially Mount St Loup (112 m), extinct 250,000 years ago. Five kilometres further down the road, in Montagnac, the riders are close to one of the largest sites for dinosaur eggs in Europe.