Nîmes > Carcassonne
09/07/2021 - Etappe 13 - 219,9 km - Flachetappe
Sub-prefectures: Alès, Le Vigan
Surface area: 5 853 km2
Specialities: four remarkable taste sites, 9 AOC-AOP and 5 IGP: Costières, Uzège, Cévennes and Côtes du Rhône wines (Laudun, Lirac, Chusclan, Tavel, Listel...), Pélardon, Nîmes olives and olive oil, Cévennes sweet onions, Nîmes strawberries, Cévennes chicken and capon, Camargue rice and bulls, Uzès black truffles, and, soon, Cévennes chestnuts and honey. Crafts: pottery from Anduze, basketry, stone quarries, gardian boots.
Sports clubs: Nîmes Olympique (football), USAM (handball), ASPTT (table tennis), RCN (rugby). Support for young talents, objective Olympic 2024: Lucie Gauthier (table tennis), Enzo Giorgi (handisport fencing), Jean-Marc Pontvianne (athletics), Tom Poyet (handball) and Lorenzo Serres (mountain biking). Events: Etoile de Bessèges (cycling), Critérium des Cévennes (rally), Côtes-du-Rhône Marathon.
Festivals: Gard hosts many festivals, including the Transes Cévenoles (contemporary music), Jazz in Junas, Itinérances (cinema), Cratère Surfaces (street arts) and Uzès Dance.
Economy: tourism (Romanesque architecture, Europe's leading marina at Port-Camargue, seaside resorts, thermal baths), wine tourism, agriculture, wood industry, Areva competitiveness cluster, Textile Well, Perrier, CEA Marcoule.
Heritage: three sites listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: Pont du Gard, the Abbey of Saint-Gilles and agro-pastoralism in Causses and Cévennes. Four "Grands Sites de France": Pont du Gard (also a UNESCO biosphere reserve), Cirque of Navacelles, Camargue and the Gorges of the Gardon. Four "Most beautiful villages of France". Three cities of art and history: Beaucaire, Nîmes and Uzès. And also, the ramparts of Aigues-Mortes, the Duchy of Uzès. Abbey of Saint Roman, the Chartreuse and the Saint-André Fort in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Websites and social networks: www.gard.fr / www.tourismegard.com / www.climattitude.gard.fr / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/legard30/ / https://fr-fr.facebook.com/GardTourisme/
Km 2: Caveirac (Pop: 250)
Construction: between 1659 and 1666 by Jean Boisson and between 1697 and 1709 by Pierre Sartre.
Styles: Renaissance and classical
Characteristics: has 4 towers, originally 5, of which only two remain at the beginning of the 21st century with their French-style pointed roofs covered with highly coloured glazed tiles in the Burgundian fashion around 1650. In total, there are 118 rooms and 365 windows.
Special feature: considered a small southern Versailles. In 1699, a huge park of 35 hectares was created with walled gardens and outbuildings on either side of the forecourt.
Current use: the castle houses the town hall and since 2010 has been the subject of a major renovation project.
Classification: Historical monument in 1998
Km 9: Calvisson (Pop: 5,900)
Historic capital of the Vaunage, of which Calvisson was the county town.
The village grew in the 18th and 19th centuries thanks to the cultivation of vines and the wine trade.
Above the village is the Roc de Gachone (167 m). At the top are four mills from the 17th and 18th centuries. The first, the old Farinière, was destroyed in 1838 by a storm, only the base remains. The second, repaired in 1928, has a viewpoint indicator. The third, the Moulin Pointu, is called the "Cassini signal". The fourth, known as the Moulin de l'Ouest, built in 1774, was recently consolidated.
Construction: 10th century.
Styles: Romanesque, reworked Gothic.
Characteristics: striking contrast between the austere north facade, supported by buttresses, and the west facade with its ogival-style portal.
History: it suffered significant damage during the Wars of Religion and was almost entirely rebuilt from the end of the 17th to the beginning of the 18th century. Once again damaged during the Revolution, the church underwent a major restoration and enhancement campaign in 2009.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1949
Km 20: Villevieille (Pop: 1,750)
Castle of Villevieille
Construction: 11th to 18th century
Style: medieval fortress, transformed into a Renaissance building.
Characteristics: the medieval part consists of four rectangular towers. A courtyard of honour precedes the inner courtyard, which is closed off by the buildings and an enclosing wall crowned with balusters into which a neoclassical gate opens. Around 1530, François de Pavée renovated the former feudal dwelling, making the interior façade one of the oldest examples of Renaissance architecture in the Languedoc. A new wing was added at the time of Louis XIV.
History: at the end of the Cathar war, Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, and his nephews Bermond rebelled against the French king Saint Louis. The castle then entered the royal domain for a century.
Current destination: private property that has hosted a classical music festival since 1970. Also open to visitors during the summer.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1971
Km 21: Sommières (Pop: 5,000)
The first "small town of character" in Gard. Medieval town on the banks of the Vidourle river. An economic crossroads for more than 2,000 years, ideally situated at equal distance from Nîmes, Montpellier, the beaches and the Cevennes. Of particular note is its Roman bridge, which probably dates from the 1st century and is one of the few buildings from that period in this state of preservation (189 m long, and originally 21 arches).
Popular British writer Lawrence Durrell, known for his Alexandria Quartet, settled in Sommières at the end of his life, where he died in 1990.
Construction: 13th century
Style: Medieval fortress
Characteristics: The Bermond Tower, which corresponds to the castle's keep, was built directly on the rock, 25 m high. It remains the great witness of the past, the tower of Montlaur having been largely destroyed during the siege of the city in 1573.
History: it went through the Wars of Religion and the War of the Camisards, was used as a prison, particularly for Protestants, and then declined from the 18th century. Dismembered in the 19th century, the castle site was gradually abandoned in the following century.
Current destination: a place to visit, open to the public all summer. Activities related to the medieval world are organised for children (archery, treasure hunts, etc.)
Classification: listed as a historical monument in 2010
Population: 1.165 million
Sub-prefectures: Béziers, Lodève
Surface: 6,101 km².
Specialities: AOP Languedoc wines and IGP Pays d'Hérault, Pélardon (goat cheese), la Lucque (olive), Tielle of Sète (small pie filled with octopus), Ecusson of Montpellier (chocolate), Grisette de Montpellier, Berlingot de Pézenas (candy), Butter from Montpellier, muscats and sweet wines (Mireval, Frontignan, Lunel, St Jean du Minervois), Cebe from Lézignan (sweet onion), turnip of Pardailhan, small pâté of Pézenas, Zezette of Sète (small shortbread), oysters from Bouzigues.
Sports clubs: Montpellier Hérault Sport Club (football), Montpellier Hérault Rugby, Basket Lattes Montpellier, AS Béziers Hérault (rugby), Montpellier Métropole HB, Montpellier Volley UC, Arago de Sète, Béziers VB (volleyball), Montpellier WP (water polo), Entente Sétoise de Natation, Montpellier Athlétisme Méditerranée, Montpellier Gymnastique Rythmique, Entente Sétoise de Natation, Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole Taekwondo Tambourine (sport of the Hérault).
Competitions: European Club Cups in Basket Fem, HB, FB Fem, Rugby, Volley, French Elite GRS Championships, Ultra Trail 6666 in Roquebrun, L'Héraultaise ("Roger Pingeon" Gran Fondo),
Festivals: Printemps des Comédiens, Saperlipopette, Folies d'O, Nuits d'O, Sortie Ouest, Chapiteau du livre, Lire à la mer, Tournée d'été Hérault port, Festival Radio France LR Montpellier-Pyrénées, Les Internationales de la Guitare...
Economy: Agronomic and medical research, thermalism, tourism, agriculture and high environmental value, wine growing / wine tourism...
Remarkable sites: Montpellier (Place de la Comédie, Écusson old town, Fabre Museum), Palavas beaches, Carnon, Cathar city of Minerve, one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, the Hérault gorges, Navacelles cirque, cities of art and history: Lodève and Pézenas, Saint-Guilhem le Désert, Olargues (Most Beautiful Villages in France), thermal baths (Balaruc, Lamalou-les-Bains...)
Websites / FB / Twitter : www.herault.fr / www.herault-tourisme.com / facebook.com/departementdelherault / facebook.com/plaisirsdherault
Km 45 : Saint-Jean-de-Cuculles (Pop: 500)
Perched on its hill, at the foot of the Pic Saint-Loup. Cucullus, in Latin, means cape, bonnet. In the past, the cucullus was a garment made of coarse fabric with a bonnet worn by monks. It is therefore possible that Saint-Jean-de-Cuculles takes its name from the bonnet worn by the monks, who for centuries occupied the old priory in the heart of the village.
Rugby union player Fabrice Ouedraogo, flanker of Montpellier and the French national team (39 caps), grew up on Saint-Jean-de-Cuculles.
Km 59: Viols-en-Laval (Pop: 200)
Prehistoric village of Cambous. Presented as the oldest village in France. Dating from the Chalcolithic (Copper Age), a period between 2800 and 2400 B.C. Cambous has preserved the remains of the habitats of the brilliant culture known as "Fontbouisse". It was discovered in 1967 by Henri Canet, who undertook its excavation, while the construction of a housing estate threatened it. The archaeologists of the site propose many activities: guided tours, animations, public experiments, conferences, archaeological walks or thematic weekends.
Construction: 17th century
Characteristics: dominated by a square keep, proudly displaying its crenellated machicolations and watchtowers framed by four ashlar towers.
History: the castle was owned in the early twentieth century by the Marquise Turenne d'Aynac, a descendant of Empire Marshal Berthier, Pierre Leroy-Beaulieu, deputy of Monptellier, who died as a hero in the Battle of the Marne (1915). Bought by the French army, it then became the residence of General Leclerc (1902-1947), future liberator of France.
Current use: rehabilitated and converted into flats.
Classification: listed as a historical monument in 1983
Km 75: Aniane (Pop: 2,920)
Historical town because of its abbey, at the foot of the Cévennes and at the exit of the Hérault gorges.
Abbey of Aniane and Saint-Sauveur abbey church
Foundation: 8th century by Saint Benedict of Aniane
History: devastated and ruined in 1562 after the Wars of Religion, it was rehabilitated as a prison in the 19th century and was used as an educational centre until 1998. Archaeological excavations undertaken in 2011 by the CNRS have brought to light Carolingian (750-900) and medieval elements.
A special feature: the 2,000 m² courtyard of honour, bordered by a former chapel, was used as a theatre during the years 1990-2000
Current use: the Saint-Sauveur abbey church, listed as a historical monument in 2002, is still dedicated to Catholic worship.
Classification: Historical Monument in 2004 (the abbey)
4 km away:
Construction: 1030 by the monks of Gellone de Aniane.
Style: medieval bridge, one of the oldest in France.
Characteristics: made up of arches spanning the Hérault over a length of 65 m, at a height of 18 m.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1935 / listed as a World Heritage Site in 1998 as part of the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela
Km 79: Gignac (Pop: 6,350)
Town in the middle valley of the Hérault.
Every year, on Ascension Day, the town celebrates the Gignac donkey, the town's totemic animal. The 13th century Sarrazine Tower, the only vestige of the local castrum, was reused as a water tower in the 19th century.
In 2019, Gignac was the start of a stage of the Route d'Occitanie won in Saint-Geniez by Alejandro Valverde. Every year, a cyclo-sportive, the Héraultaise, pays tribute to Roger Pingeon, the winner of the 1967 Tour de France, and starts in Gignac.
Church of Notre-Dame de Grâce
History: on an ancient site that dates back to the Roman goddess Vesta (goddess of the hearth). The present building dates from the 17th century. Its Florentine-style façade was completed in 1648 by order of Louis XIII.
Special feature: sanctuary of miracles, a first cure is attested on September 8th, 1360.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1989
Km 112: Roujan (Pop: 2,170)
Made up of vines and garrigues surrounding a hill where a castrum (fortified camp) was built in ancient times. The establishment of the Cassan Abbey and its prosperity, followed by the development of the vineyards, have contributed to the prosperity of the commune over the centuries.
Foundation: 11th century
Style: successive transformations have given the priory a typical 18th century appearance.
History: In 1670, the abbey became part of the Congregation of France, which was headed by the powerful Abbey of Saint-Geneviève in Paris. After the Second World War, the abbey became a college and then a rehabilitation centre for overseas workers.
Current use: Today it is used as a place to visit and host various cultural events. The vineyard also produces vintages made from mainly Syrah grapes.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1953 and 1998
3 km away:
Château de Margon
Construction: 12th century
Style: medieval fortress, then additions in the late Gothic style.
Characteristics: surrounded by vineyards, has a beautiful perron, several superimposed terraces, a north-west façade (32 m long), overlooking a garden, with two strong towers. French garden.
History: Tradition has it that the three round towers of the castle were built in the 13th century. Badly damaged during the Revolution, it was partially restored at the beginning of the 20th century.
Special feature: of the two gates giving access to the village, only one remains, the Portalet gate, which was defended by a tower. As for the vineyards, they were already mentioned in a 16th century land register.
Current use: open to the public from June to September, by appointment the rest of the year.
Classification: Historical Monument in 2017 / "Remarkable Garden" label
Km 122: Magalas (Pop: 1,170)
Before the castle and the village that today bears the name Magals were built on the rocky and overgrown Magal in the early 11th century, the other hill to the east, Montfo, served as an oppidum for the inhabitants of the First and Second Iron Ages and the Gallo-Roman period.
The church of Saint-Laurent was used as a film location for the memorable mass scene in Robert Dhéry's film The Little Bather (1968), with Louis de Funès.
Magalas is also the birthplace of an excellent striker of the 1970s, Jacky Vergnes, who played for Nîmes Olympique, was French champion with Strasbourg in 1979 and has one selection in the French football team.
Km 130: Murviel-lès-Béziers (Pop: 3,000)
Built on a hillock and occupying a dominant strategic site, the former seigniorial castle and its terrace offer an immense panorama over the vast Orb plain. Its dovecotes are one of the original features of the village. They are relatively numerous in the village: it is the granting of liberal customs which, from the Middle Ages, gave everyone the right to build a dovecote. Nobles, bourgeois and simple peasants were not deprived of this right.
Castle of Murviel
Construction: 14th century
Style: half medieval, half Renaissance
Characteristics: located south of Pech Bellet, it dominates the Orb plain. The geometric complexity of the castral complex indicates that it has been altered or rebuilt several times. The term castrum implies a solid military occupation and the castle must have been surrounded by several enclosures.
Current use: guest rooms.
Saint-Jean de Murviel Church
Construction: 11th century, rebuilt in the 15th century.
Style: Languedoc Gothic with a Romanesque base.
Characteristics: single nave with three bays, flanked by square side chapels. Rectangular bell tower.
History: It was attacked by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion and ruined so that they could not install a fort.
Particularity: it houses many listed works, including a Burgundy blue stone tombstone.
Classification: listed as a Historical Monument in 1963
Km 141: Cazedarnes (Pop: 600)
In the 10th century, Cazedarnes was made up of two separate hamlets which were entirely dependent on Cessenon-sur-Orb and became a commune in 1850.
The beautiful church of Saint-Amans, closed to the public, is mentioned in 972. It is decorated with frescoes by the Estonian artist Nicolas Greshny, dating from 1950.
History: the Wars of Religion damaged the abbey. Sold at auction during the French Revolution, it was dismembered in the 19th century.
Special features: perfectly restored, the abbey is a jewel of Romanesque art in Languedoc.
Current destination: cultural events such as Musiques au cœur du vignoble, as well as Gregorian chant performances.
Classification: listed as a Historic Monument in 1975
Haut-Languedoc Regional Nature Park
Created in 1973, one of France's 56 regional nature parks, an inhabited rural territory recognised at national level for its heritage and landscape value. It is a medium-sized mountain area (frequently over 900 m), with 119 communes covering an area of approximately 3,060 km2.
It is located at the southern tip of the Massif Central, in Occitanie, straddling part of the Tarn department and part of the Hérault department. It is surrounded by the Lauragais plain (west), the Biterrois (east), the Grands Causses Regional Nature Park (Aveyron) (north) and the edge of the Carcassonne gutter (south). With a Mediterranean climatic influence in the south and east, an Atlantic influence in the west and a continental influence in the north, it presents landscapes that are necessarily very diverse (18 landscape units or types of landscapes including 7 micro-regions).
Sub-prefectures: Narbonne, Limoux
Number of communes: 436
Surface: 6,139 km2
Specialities: cassoulet from Castelnaudary, bourride of eels, lucques (green olives), limos (brioche), fricassee from Limoux, oysters from Leucate (shellfish), truffles, rice and apples from Marseillette, écu du Pays Cathare (goat's cheese), Limoux nougat (confectionery), Aude wines (7 AOP), Limoux blanquette (wine), micheline (liqueur), cartagène (liqueur), Caunes-Minervois marble, boudegue (Occitan bagpipes)
Major sports clubs : rugby union RCNM Narbonne and USC (Carcassonne), rugby league (Lézignan-Corbières, Limoux, Carcassonne), volleyball (Narbonne, Gruissan), women's handball (Narbonne).
Major competitions: Mondial du vent (Leucate), Défi Wind & Défi Kite (Gruissan), Junior Kitesurf World Cup (Saint-Pierre-la-mer), Grand Raid des Cathares, Cross de la Cité (Carcassonne), l'Audoise Gran Fondo (Villeneuve Minervois), Mountain biking Cap Nore / Déval' Nore (Aragon), Critérium de Quillan (Cycling)
Culture & Heritage: The citadels of vertigo, Canal du Midi, Lagrasse Abbey, Fontfroide Abbey. Carnival of Limoux, Montolieu village du livre, Scènes d'enfance (all the department), Artistes à suivre, Fête du Cassoulet, Limoux brass Festival, Jazz in Conilhac, Summer Festival (Lézignan-Corbières), festival des Barques en Scènes (Narbonne), festival de la Cité (Carcassonne), Temps de cirque (all the department), Sortie de case (all the department)
Economy: viticulture, fishing, agriculture, livestock farming, maritime trade, seaside tourism, mid-mountain tourism, thermalism, cultural tourism, oenotourism and truffitourism
Websites and social networks:www.aude.fr/ www.audetourisme.com / www.payscathare.com / www.payscathare.org / citadellesduvertige.aude.fr / www.facebook.com/departementdelaude / www.instagram.com/citadellesduvertige / www.aude.fr
Km 158: Bize-Minervois (Pop: 1,200)
Important Neolithic site with the Las Fons and Moulin caves, retains a beautiful heritage, proof of its strategic importance. It is the birthplace of international rugby player Henri Cabrol, six times French champion with Béziers, but also the home of singer Nilda Fernandez, who settled here and died in 2019.
Km 161: Agel (Pop: 250)
A large number of remains testify to the presence of Gallo-Roman villas. In 782, a villa "agellus" was given by Charlemagne to the archbishop of Narbonne, then in 1142 the possession of the alleu of Agel was confirmed by Pope Innocent II.
Castle of Agel
Construction: 12th century
Styles: medieval fortress (octagonal belfry, attributed to the Visigoths), ventilated by Renaissance style openings, then an Italian garden.
History: it was part of the fortified castles which were to prolong the resistance of the vassal lords of the Count of Toulouse at the time of the Albigensian crusade. Among them, Guiraud de Pépieux, lord of Aigues-Vives and Agel. His castle was one of the main strongholds of the Cathars of Minerve. It was burnt down by the hordes of Simon de Montfort to take revenge on Pépieux.
Current use: bed and breakfast, receptions and wine estate.
Classification: listed as a Historical Monument in 1947
Km 172: Minerve (Pop: 310)
Historic capital of the Minervois region. Perched on a rocky spur formed by the canyons of the Cesse and Brian rivers, which converge here, it is on the list of the "most beautiful villages in France". A tourist spot, surrounded by one of the most remarkable geological sites in the Hérault, Minerve tells the story of its tragic past through its stones... Indeed, its name is attached to the Albigensian Crusade.
The ramparts of Minerve
In 1209, the Knights of the North, with Simon de Montfort, arrived in the region to remind the Occitan lords to respect the faith of Rome. Béziers was sacked, Carcassonne fell... but so too were the vassal castles that dotted the Corbières and the Minervois, that hostile interior. Thus began the War of the Castles.
In June 1210, Minerve, a fortified village, had a castle belonging to Viscount Guilhem. The crusaders, with the support of the Narbonnais, set up a siege. The rivers ran dry and the only well at the foot of the citadel was quickly destroyed. After five weeks, Minerve ran out of food and capitulated despite Guilhem's negotiations. Simon de Montfort allowed the inhabitants and even the 'perfects' who had taken refuge in the village to live if they renounced their faith. Among them, 140 died at the stake. Guilhem then received land near Béziers but later resumed the fight alongside the Occitan resistance.
Km 194: Trausse-Minervois (Pop: 600)
Village known in the Minervois for its Cathar cherry festival organised each year at the end of May. Also noteworthy for its Trencavel Tower (12th century), which was intended to serve as a storehouse for goods to be protected (harvests, tithes), or even as a refuge in case of attack. Of imposing size (20m x 10m at the base, 15m high), it depended on the Abbey of Caunes. The machicolations still visible at the top of the west wall were added in the 15th century.
Km 197.5: Caunes-Minervois (Pop: 1,600)
Situated in the Minervois, amidst vineyards and garrigue, on the southern slopes of the Montagne Noire, at the foot of the Argent Double gorge.
The village is famous for its incarnate red marble, which can be found in the Palace of Versailles, the Trianon and the Paris Opera House.
Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul Abbey
Founded in 780 by Abbot Anian.
Style: Languedoc Romanesque
Characteristics: a chevet, a jewel of the first southern Romanesque art, a sculpted portal (beginning of the 13th century), a 7-bay nave with side chapels decorated in local marble. It was rebuilt in the 14th century and vaulted in brick in 1770. It has two bell towers, which makes it unique in the region.
History: the abbey was visited several times by representatives of the Pope who came to preach Catholic orthodoxy against the Cathars. In 1226, Cathar bishop Pierre Isarn was burnt in Caunes. In 1659, the Congregation of Saint-Maur was established and rebuilt the monastic buildings, including the cloister, which bears no relation to the original style.
Special feature: the only abbey in Cathar country to have a crypt open to the public (with remains of the first Carolingian church).
Classification: listed as a Historical Monument in 1916 (the church) and 2014 (the rest of the abbey)
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