In recent times, it has become the focus of attention
dwelling on the history of a persecuted religious sect known as the Cathars;
Pay Cathare’ and the numerous ‘Routes du Pay Cathare’ are actively
promoted by the local tourist offices. Dan Brown instigated a landslide of
interest through the Da Vinci Code, but it is arguably Kate Mosse’s
award-winning Labyrinth and its sequels, Sepulchre and Citadel that
make the history of this fabled land of troubadours, knights and blaggards come
superbly and imaginatively alive.
The département of Aude is sub-divided into five slightly amorphous regions. Facing out onto the Mediterranean is the Pays de la Narbonnaise, the littoral, a long sandy stretch of coastline backed by large lagoons and fronted by popular, modern holiday resorts like Narbonne-Plage and Gruissan. The focal centre here is undoubtedly Narbonne itself, a very easy-going and bright city at the heart of the wine-producing business. In its time, it has seen a Roman presence – parts of the Via Domitia are visible in the square in front of the Hotel de Ville – and a Visigoth dynasty. But the charm of the River Robine lined with mini-cruisers, the narrow streets and elegant boulevards make Narbonne a most agreeable and laid-back place.
Although Aude is undoubtedly the setting for some of the most enjoyable wines produced in France, there is, of course, much more to the place. Mountains in the north; mountains in the south; the Mediterranean to the east, and a superb canal driven right through its middle. Throw in the superb heritage, the history, the mysteries and intrigue, the puckered landscape like crumpled paper, the heady scent of broom, sweet cicely and thyme, the villages and hamlets tucked neatly into hillsides, and Aude provides you with a vastly different perspective on all the good things of life in France.
And when the sun shines (and even if it doesn’t), there is no more relaxing place to wile away hours, days, weeks…a lifetime, maybe.
A place with international renown
The extreme western part of Aude centres of the town of Castelnaudary, arguably the cassoulet kingdom of the world, while the final segment of Aude’s jigsaw is the Pays Carcassonnais, the region of Minervois wines.