[LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLION | FRANCE] — I first came to the Aude region in Languedoc, never having heard of it before, nor that I was even going there! But realized I was in Aude during a four day stop at a cool friend’s place outside Carcassonne. I thought I was in greater Languedoc, but turns out Aude is the appropriate subregion in Languedoc. I spent most of my time hanging at my friend’s super cool gîte, so I didn’t get everywhere, nor get to spend great bits of time, but these are the coolest places I found in the southwest of France.

And now that I have the lay of the land, I can’t wait to go back.

The Aude Region

This area used to be called Languedoc-Roussillion and for reasons unknown to me, they up and combined it with another region to the north and it’s now called the département of Occitanie. The Aude region is a sliver of a within Occitanie located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountains. It is a big broad river valley created by the Aude river, bookended by mountains.

This is Cathar Country, small hilltops towns with eeegions of Cathar castles and great restaurants hidden in the rolling hills and golden farmland. There are Cathar ruins and castles all over this region. I knew the name Cathar, but never knew much about them, but they were impressive builders. (I think I must have slept through the Cathar history chapter in school!) The Catholic Church ran them into the ground as competitive heretics, wiped out their heritage and destroyed much of the great castles, but the ruins remain all over Languedoc.

How I Came Here

I came to Languedoc for the first to meet a longtime Instagram friend. Annie Moore and I had exchanged comments, DMs and Likes for years but had never met before. I drooled over the amazing posts of her super cool Camellas-Lloret guesthouse she’d restored with her husband Colin, rescued from ruins. And so did LOTS of other people, nearly every design magazine has showcased their place or sent photographers to shoot her amazing decorating style and perfect touch.

Camellas-Lloret was something else and an experience I’ll never forget. I had a giant post about it before but, alas, they are serial renovators, sold it and moved on tackle other cool places in France and Mallorca. Not to tease you, but look how cool this place was:

Camellas-Lloret was somethin’ else. More than a guest house, it was an experience. Like staying with cool friends in the country. Okay, I gotta stop now or I’ll start crying…
camellas-lloret girl on stairs
This is the genius 3D OG map that Colin gave you to take around, mounted on a hunk of plywood you’d take in your passenger seat.
LOVED THIS. Very Old School, non-GPS.
“You really get a sense of where you are.” — Colin
He was right. You can see the L’Aude region, in the river valley saddle of the Aude river, bookended between the Pyrenees and the mountains past Carcassone.
Cap Leucate is the marshy area down by the sea.


I’ve wanted to see Carcassonne since I saw these fairytale castle walls on the cover of my French book in high school. Unfortunately, I’ve only had time as a drive-by to and from other locations. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know it’s good. I hear it is beautifully restored and thronged with tourists, so best to go off-peak to avoid all the bus tours.

Luckily, there’s a great Autogrill rest stop directly opposite with these great views from the parking lot with your cappuccino and croissant. It’s almost surreal looking, you want to rub your eyes and clean your glasses. It’s very touristy, but beautiful, from what I hear. It’s on my list for future visits.

Cité de Carcassonne airplane
Cité de Carcassonne


Saissac views
The tiny hilltop town of Saissac and its Cathar castle ruins, overlooking the vast plains of Languedoc. From here there are a string of mountain villages you can tour, one after the other, with views over the whole Aude valley.


In the same hills near Saissac, the town is known for its bookstores, dozens of them. And you can wander from shop to shop then stop for lunch on the main square in Montolieu. Great restaurant, beautiful square. Great exploring.

Montolieu main square

Montolieu on the eastern edge of Aude is known for its dozens and dozens of bookstores and cute streets. There’s the cutest cafe I drove here for that has amazing food and is picture-perfect — Colin said it’s one of their favorites. But come early in the day because they shut for siesta. I missed out by 15 mins, so check the times. Worth driving to town for.
restaurant Montolieu

Market Day in Revel

Staying on the east side of the Aude valley, but a little further north towards Toulouse, you should definitely plan around Market Day in Revel. The town has been around since the 1300s and is just like a painting. The market is busy and draws people from all over, with great restaurants that line the square to dip into.

Dive in to Market Day in Beautiful Mirepoix

Heading back down into the middle of the Aude valley, Mirepoix is another town you should plan your visit around Market Day, the big antiques brocante every Monday. This one is especially known for its antiques and brocantes and especially cutlery. It dates to the 1100s or earlier, suffered a flood in the 1290s and they moved across the river.

It’s really old… and it has an super English feel to these buildings — almost Shakespearean — which I’m sure is why it also attracts a lot of British expats to load up their houses with cool things. The town is also known for its ancient covered arcades lining the main square.

Mirepoix building arcade
Mirepoix Languedoc brocante


Lagrasse is one of The Most Beautiful Villages in France and sits in a valley, nestled into hills. Unfortunately, I only got to stop there on the way back from the beach so it was the end of the day and pretty sleepy except for kids running around. But go on Market Days or early in the mornings to get the best sunlight. This website has some fantastic information about Lagrasse. The village is also a certified arts and crafts villages, so lots of handmade genuine goods, ceramics and glass in artists’ shops. Here’s a cool new boutique hotel that just opened in Lagrasse.

Lagrasse cathedral
Lagrasse is another cool town to visit in Langedoc. I believe market days are popular and the morning light strong. I was there are the end of the day and it was quiet as can be. Just real people living there, allowing you, as a tourist, to just sidle up in there and drink it all in. Wine’s good, too.
Lagrasse city hall
City Hall, Lagrasse
Lagrasse main square
Lagrasse market stall
I believe this market stall dates back to Roman times…or else it is nearly that old.
Lagrasse main square
Tuchan trees
Tuchan, another cool town, way up in the foothills before the Pyrenees. I ran out of time in the day so only got a chance to do a quick stop.


Montréal is a sleepy little town about ten minutes outside the fortress town of Carcassone. It’s mostly just people who live there or farm nearby fields.

Camellas-Lloret Languedoc
Camellas-Lloret was located in the middle of Montréal, a sleepy little village in Languedoc. Surrounded by rolling hills of farmland and vines, Montréal suddenly pops up on a rise like a prairie dog. And quiet is the point. Somewhere to dial back, lower the blood pressure and not be on your phone.

It’s just a beautiful drive up to Montréal, with plane trees lined up like soldiers.

A Walk Along the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is an incredible engineering feat. A 150 mile canal carved in the late 1700s connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Amazing feet for the times. It was a short cut to move freight on barges without having to go around Spain and Portugal. One side of France to the other.

It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you know it’s good.

Nowdays you can rent houseboat/barges and putter along at your own speed,
stopping at small towns and restaurants along the way.

I’ve always wanted to rent a bareboat and putter along this canal. You get out and open your own locks. Amazing feat of engineering from the 1800s. My friends have done it loved every bit. You can rent a converted barge or more modern houseboats, complete with bikes on board for exploring each town you pull into.

But even if you don’t do the boat thing, pick up a lunch or stop at one of the cute cafes and bars along the river.

You can walk along the canal, stop at cool restaurants or enjoy a picnic along the banks.

Here’s a website on chartering a boat. And a good article in Frommer’s that shows some of the boats. And a great article on Condé Nast Traveller that shows ho you can really go upscale on new charters.

Fine Dining on Cap Leucate

Leucate beach

Beach bars are A Thing in Leucate. It’s a rustic coast, but during summer dozens of funky places pop up on the sand. You should definitely check out the Biquet Plage beach bar, which I wanted to go to but they were already closed for the season. This looks insane and friends that have gone have rave reviews. It’s a summer pop-up restaurant and bar every season, with great food, amazing music and late night revelry.  

Nobody can build permanent places on the beach, so every summer it’s a ritual for the bartenders and servers to build the stands up for the season, carrying everything down to the surf. Then breaking it down again. It’s a raucous vibe, with DJs and partying into the wee hours. Amazing food, too.

(photos from the Leucate Tourism website)

My friend Colin told me I should build my day around lunch at Le Grand Cap. “It’s supposed to be very good, we haven’t been yet. Annie, can you book Dan a table?”

So, expecting some beach shack and a possible nearby nude beach, I put on my hiking boots, cargo shorts and tshirt and headed out for Cap Leucate. I set the GPS and took off. I set the wrong beach, got lost and finally found the restaurant…an hour late. 

Not realizing it was a near-Michelin star restaurant, all fancy and clean, I walk in, sweaty, in shorts and hiking boots. 

Not flinching a bit at my appearance, “Monsieur Dan, we have your table ready” But instead of treating me like the rube I was and sticking me in the way back, they welcomed me, like Forest Gump, giving me the best table in the house. Table for One, right along the windows, overlooking the glorious cliffs and sea. And then… the amazing food….

Le Cap Luecate

More Information on the Aude and Languedoc Region:

Here are some amazing pictures of Camellas-Lloret by the famous photographer (and one of my fave Instagrammers) Jamie Beck. And a listing on Secret Places. And a great review by the talented Bon Traveler, look at her amazing shots.  A great article on the amazing design in Architectural Digest.

Here’s a great overview on Langedoc from Conde Nast Traveler. And a UK Traveller’s guide to Secret Places in Languedoc. And you can always count on quality when Vogue does travel articles, here’s their guide to why you should go to Langedoc.

— Last visited October 2016 — 

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