On the road
Population : 350,200
Prefecture : Carcassonne.
Sub-prefectures : Limoux, Narbonne.
Website : www.cg11.fr
The department, with a population of 350,200, owes its name to the coastal river which flows through it. It is located between two mountain chains, the Pyrenees to the South and the Montagne Noire to the North but its is also popular for its 47-kms coastline with the famous seaside resorts of 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 are 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.
Prefecture : Foix
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”.
Km 6 : Alet-les-Bains
Alet was noticed by the Romans for its thermal springs. Later, the history of the village coincided whit that of the local abbey, founded in the 6th century. Very prosperous in the 14th century, it was ravaged in 1577 by the Huguenots while the Romanesque cathedral was totally destroyed. It was never rebuilt. The old Benedictine dining hall was used since as a replacement cathedral, which suffered in turn from the French Revolution. Sheltered behind neighbouring hills, Alet is similar to many Languedoc villages, untouched by the passing of time. The medieval village is nestled behind its ramparts and the life is organised around the star-shaped square from which start several narrow streets lined with half-timber houses. The cathedral of yellow and red sandstone is remarkable for its subtle Romanesque architecture. Just past the nave, the altar is especially striking with its beautiful capitals decorated with acanthi. Just by the abbey, the 14th century St Andre church displays the blazons of the successive bishops between 1333 and 1363.
In LUC-SUR-AUDE (KM 10.5), the Castillon tower was the summer residence of the bishops of Alet. The most famous of them, Nicolas Pavillon, is buried in the local graveyard and so is novelist Roger Peyrefitte. Alet-les-Bains mineral water is one of the oldest in France as it has been bottled for more than 120 years.
Préfecture : Montpellier
Site web : www.laregion.fr
Si la région Languedoc-Roussillon, baignée au sud par la Méditerranée et de grands étangs, montagnarde au nord et rurale ailleurs, est d'une grande diversité géographique, elle bénéficie d'une homogénéité climatique qui fait d'ailleurs sa force. Son climat méditerranéen et ensoleillé a fait pendant des siècles la richesse de son agriculture et attire désormais touristes et nouveaux arrivants, qui ont bouleversé en un demi-siècle la démographie de la région. Si l'agriculture, essentiellement viticole, connaît la crise en dépit de l'amélioration constante de la qualité de sa production, le tourisme est devenu la première ressource de la région, troisième destination en France. Plus généralement, le tertiaire a supplanté les activités traditionnelles et est responsable du flux migratoire qui transforme le Languedoc-Roussillon chaque année. Montpellier et l'Hérault sont les plus touchés, mais c'est l'ensemble de la région (à l'exception de la Lozère) qui connaît la plus forte croissance démographique de France. Languedoc-Roussillon pourrait ainsi compter jusqu'à 3 100 000 habitants en 2030, soit une augmentation de 34 % par rapport à 2000.
Jersey wearers after the stage 9
Receive exclusive news about the Tour de France