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All arrive in Caracssonne on Friday 26th July 2019 (pick up & hotel for the night)
Saturday 27th July
Neil will begin the tour talking about the ‘beginnings of catharism’, the Aligensian Crusade and the reasons behind it and the relevance to the castles of this region.
An unusual arrangement of three castle towers (Las Tours, The Towers), this fortification belonged to the Lords of Cabaret, who held them in fief from the baron Trencavels. The Lord of Cabaret during the Cathar period was Peir Rotgiers (Peter-Roger) – or rather he was the most important of the Lords of Cabaret. Find out why with Neil. The Cabaret castles and village sheltered Cathar ‘Perfects’ (Parfait) during the Albigensian Crusade and Cathar priests are known to have stayed in Cabaret, including Arnaud Hot, Pierre Isarn and Guiraud Abith.
Sunday 28th July
Château de Peyrepertuse & Château de Quéribus
Neil will tell the story of his dreams and visions when he first walked the Cathar routes in the 90’s and why he has a connection to this region of France. He will also talk about the background to these castles and the region at the time of the Albigensian Crusade.
The name Peyrepetuse is derived from Pèirapertusa, Occitan, meaning Pierced Rock.
Queribus and Peyrepertuse were deliberately built within sight of each other so that they could signal to each other. The lower part of Peyrepetuse was built on a strategic location by the kings of Aragon (Spain) in the 11th Century and the higher part by the French King Louis IX later on, after the area was annexed to France. The two castles are linked together by a staircase. The castle lost importance as a strategic castle when the border between France and Spain was moved in 1659, causing the castle to be abandoned. It was never subjected to attack during the Crusade against the Cathars.
Please note : the coach can’t get access to Chateau de Peyrepertuse, it has to stop and wait on the way to the castle. We will walk 1.1 km (and 1.1 km to return to the coach after the visit)
Lunch in the village of Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse or Cucugnan
After Lunch: Château de Quéribus
Here Neil will tell the story of the ‘last Knights’ that ‘protected’ the Cathars against the crusaders During the Albigensian Crusades (1209-29).
There will also be time to comtemplate at these locations.
Château de Quéribus was sometimes regarded as the last Cathar stronghold. In a sense it was. After the fall of the Château of Montségur in 1244 surviving Cathars gathered together in the Corbières in another mountain-top stronghold on the border of Aragon (The present border between the Aude département and the Pyrénées-Orientales département). Quéribus is high and isolated. It stands on top of the highest peak for miles around. From a distance it can be seen on the horizon, sticking up into the sky.
On our return to the hotel we will drive through Gorge De Galamus.
Monday 29th July
Rennes le Chatêau
Neil will talk about the history and mystery of this location and the symbolism connected to the secret society networks and the land locally. He will also talk about the symbolism contained within some of the features, art and doorways at this unusual place.
We spend the day at the hilltop hamlet of Rennes le Chatêau, the centre of the Da Vinci Code story; the Holy Bloodline, the Magdalene and some intriguing sacred geometry and mystery that surrounds the now infamous priest Berenger Saunière.
Neil will talk about the background of the Saunière mystery, in the out-door cafe overlooking the Rennes le Chatêau church and then have plenty of time to look around the church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and the ‘Saunière Domain Museum’.
Tuesday 30th July
Chatêau Puilauren & Bugarach (The mystery extends)
Neil will talk about his experience in this location, his trekking and the ley line alignments (Geneset for the geometry). Bugarach is one of the most important landmarks of the Aude. The Bugarach Mountain is a real Gruyère. There are galleries, caves and chasms everywhere, hence the mystery attached to it.
The peak of Bugarach has been shrouded in mystery, with various claims that it houses aliens in cavities beneath the rock. There is talk of the area, near to the Cathar castles, holding the Holy Grail or the treasure of the Templars. A visit to Bugarach is said to have inspired Steven Spielberg in his film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind – although the actual mountain he used is Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (a place I have also visited).
Wednesday 31st July
Walking the route of the Cathars: Labyrinthe Vert de Nebias
Hidden near the small village of Nebias, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, we find the Labyrinthe Vert (Green Labyrinth), a mysterious maze of limestone, roots, and moss, and the source of many local legends. The place looks like the Fangorn Forest of Lords of the Rings fame. Nature in this location will enchant you and give you the feeling of ‘going back in time’. Something in the geology of fault lines, old forest growth, limestone rocks on this ancient path, speaks of the spirit of this ancient land.
The Sentier Nature whose green-and-yellow markers (or blazes) define our itinerary on day 5. We will walk a small circuit of around 2 hours around the Green labyrinth, where we will have lunch amongst the trees.
Please note that the route on foot (will need appropriate foot wear, and a small walking rucksack and 1 litre bottle for water, packed lunch, etc.
The walk will be no more than 4.82 miles. Altitude gain/descent:+580m-514m
Mid Afternoon: To Puivert Castle
On this part of the tour Neil will talk about the art and ‘spirit’ of the troubadours, the knights and their veneration of the goddess at places like Puivert. We will be able to ’emerse’ ourselves in nature as we experience what it was like to walk the ancient paths to this amazing castle.
Thursday 1st August
A day of rest at the hotel, exploring the village of Alet-les-bains
A well earned rest day and an opportunity to explore the town of Alet-les-Bains, including the ancient Abbey remains (above right), the Nostradamus House (above left) with its esoteric carvings.
Neil will be able to spend more time going over what has been ‘seen’, ‘experienced so far’ and have time to explore a little art-meditation-workshop on the grounds of the hotel.
Friday 2nd August
Chateau Montségur & Mirepoix
The spectacular Castle of Montségur sitting high up on a mountain peak called the ‘Pog’ was the place where the Cathars faced their infamous last stand. We will have the opportunity to climb up to the castle, take in the awe-inspiring atmosphere and visit the ‘Cathar memorial’ to this tragic day.
Neil will tell the story of the events that led to the mass burning of the Cathars and the background to a wider Gnostic belief. He will also lead a Meditation in the castle grounds. There will be plenty of time to really ‘feel’ this spectacular place.
The site of Montségur, the very bastion of the Cathare resistance certainly requires an additional day for exploring. The village itself is quite unique, the houses and buildings are in long curved lines one after another. They flank the mountainside in a well-defined pattern and are linked by small streets and pedestrian walkways. There is a museum and some art and craft shops. From the museum a pathway leads to the foot of the pog, a high rocky buttress, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to walk up to the summit where you arrive at a sumptuous belvedere. It’s a long steep trek, so wear appropriate footwear.
In the afternoon we will spend a few hours in Mirepoix.
The town was captured in 1209 by Simon V de Montfort and given to one of his crusader lieutenants, Guy de Lévis. The town, originally on the right bank of the Hers-Vif, was destroyed by a violent flood in 1289. It was rebuilt by Jean de Lévisin 1290, on an elevated natural terrace on the other side of the river. The layout of the town center has not changed since the time of the Cathars in the 13th century and the wooden creatures on the old ‘Framework House’ At Main Square are a work of art. The cathedral of St-Maurice has the second widest Gothic arch in Europe (after Girona in Catalonia, Spain).
Saturday 3rd August
Caracassonne (the Citadel or La Cité’)
The medieval citadel at Carcassonne, known as ‘La Cité’, dominates the area. The citadel, like Béziers, fell to the crusaders in 1209.
It encompasses no less than 53 towers, within two enormous concentric walls, surrounded by a moat, and punctuated here and there by heavy barbicans, portcullis and draw-bridges. Within these fairy-tale fortifications sits a castle, a basilica (church), and a small town, giving superb views of the modern city of Carcassonne to the west, the Aude river and Canal du Midi to the north, and the often-snow-capped Pyrénées to the south.
Neil will talk about the history of the Citadel and give recommendations of what to visit and where to go. We will also visit the ‘medieval museum of the Inquisition’ (Le Musee de la Torture de Caracassone) and also walk the ramparts of the city.
Other places to visit are the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus, whose original foundation and church is thought to have been constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Theodoric the Great, ruler of the Visigoths.
Mid Afternoon onwards there will be plenty of free time to explore at at your leisure.
Note: Lunch time food is not included while in the Citadel (but we will find somewhere to eat as a group).
Sunday 4th August
Tour Ends. Transfer to Carcassonne airport or railway station after breakfast.
Ryan Air flights usually depart after lunch from Carcassonne airport. Any further nights needed to stay over to make your connection must be arranged yourself.
IMPORTANT TOUR INFORMATION
Our hotel for the majoirty of the tour will be L’Hostellerie de l’Evêché. We will aim to be back at the hotel every evening for around 6.30 to 7pm, for dinner. Here we can chat more about our experiences and what we have seen during the day.
L’Hostellerie de l’Evêché
Avenue Nicolas Pavillon
Full Tour price includes:
- All accommodation, breakfast & evening meals (including wine) at the hotel. Vegetarian menu options can be asked for*
- All transportation while on the tour, including being picked up from Carcassonne on the 26th July and being dropped off at Carcassonne on the 4th August.
- All admission into castles and museums mentioned in the tour schedule above.
- Some lunches will also be included on day’s 1, 2, 6 & 7.
* Vegetarian in France is not a common eating requirement.
The Tour does not include;
Air travel and rail travel ‘to and from’ Carcassonne (or to any other loaction).
For international travellers:
Arriving by air – The nearest airport is Carcassonne, which is 32 km (20 miles) from the hotel we will spend our evenings. Carcassonne is served by Ryanair from the various EU cities. There is also a bus service from the airport into the centre of Carcassonne, which leaves after the arrival of each plane.
Toulouse airport is 119 km (74 miles) from our hotel and there are plenty of trains from Toulouse to Carcassonne. Rail tickets can be booked here.
Ryanair flies into Carcassonne from – Manchester, London Stanstead, East Midlands, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dublin, Cork, Brussels, Porto.
Toulouse is served by rail from all over Europe and there are frequent connecting trains to Carcassonne.
Any other questions or queries can sent to email address; firstname.lastname@example.org
Full Tour Price
For two people ‘sharing’ a double room: £2,499 per person (each)
Full tour price for ‘single supplement’ occupancy of a double room: £2,9950 each