Travel in Languedoc France: France gite vacation rentals, Languedoc-Roussillon region, Cathar castles

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Travel Article on Languedoc-Roussillon France

Three Cathar Castles - Languedoc, France

Excerpt from Ockham's Razor - Part 5
by Wade Rowland

Most of all, we found ourselves unanimous in our awe of the men who had done the initial construction work back in the tenth century: how many of them had died or been horribly injured in terrible falls while putting in place hundreds of thousands of stone blocks to make these massive, dizzying walls rising out of the sheer, native rock? Their work was well done: the castle withstood several attacks during the Albigensian Crusade and finally surrendered only in 1255 or 1256, when all hope had been lost.

Southern France Languedoc region Cathar castles In this exclusive excerpt from Ockham's Razor: A Search for Wonder in an Age of Doubt, author Wade Rowland, his wife Christine, and their two teenagers explore the romantic ruins of Cathar castles in southern France's Languedoc region.

At the end of the century Puilaurens was to become, with Peyrepertuse, Quèrebus, Aguilar and Termes, one of the Five Sons of Carcassonne, a string of mighty military outposts guarding the southern French frontier. Puilaurens was captured by the Spanish in 1636, but when the treaty of the Pyrenees was signed between France and Spain in 1659, establishing the boundary along its modern demarcation, the fortress reverted to France, and lost its strategic significance. It was for a time a prison (its huge courtyard and many chambers suited it admirably for the purpose), and then slowly fell into ruin.

Back on the D-117 highway, we followed the Maury River Valley east a few miles to the tiny town of Maury itself, where we turned north on a narrow blacktop road that quickly began a steep ascent out of the rich, alluvial farmland to the fortress of Quèrebus.

The vistas, once again, were awe-inspiring. To the east, we had glimpses of the distant Mediterranean beyond the broad Rousillon Plain with its market gardens and vineyards. To the northwest, we could see the silhouette of Peyrepertuse castle and to the south, across the river valley far below, beyond a range of chalk-white limestone ridges and still another broad valley, Canigou Peak near the Spanish frontier, its 2,780-metre summit dusted with snow.

A compact structure of roughly cylindrical shape, Quèrebus in its geometric precision erupts out of a pinnacle of bare limestone like a massive mineral crystal. So unexpected is it that it seems an optical illusion and we stopped several times on the drive up the steep approach road just to confirm our senses.

From the parking area, we sweated out a half-hour climb, much of it on steps hewn into the living stone, before reaching the entrance gate, where a sturdy length of chain has been bolted to the stone wall. It is there because when the wind pipes up it can funnel through the gate with enough force to blow people off their feet, preventing them from entering even on all fours.

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World Travel Guide .com - Travel article about travel in Languedoc-Roussillon France: long-term vacation rentals in France, gite rentals, Carcassonne France hotels, Cathar castles, and essential advice for travel in France and worldwide travel.

In this World Travel Guide .com exclusive excerpt from Ockham's Razor, the author Wade Rowland and his family explore the romantic ruins of Cathar castles in southern France's Languedoc region.

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