|Chateau de Queribus (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)|
And yet it has much to offer. This article simply aims to provide some hints, some tips, at the cyclist and cultural level.
|Chateau de Peyrepertouse (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)|
Watching the Cathar castles (and not Cathars) on top of impossible cliffs is a constant in the area of Maury. One next to another, it is very easy to design a cycling stage in which you climb them all. Peyrepertouse, Puilaurens and Quéribus, all very close together, are spectacular castles even more impressive when you climb the very hard roads leading to them. Peyrepertouse, 800 meters above sea level, is the most spectacular castle with two fortifications, joined by a few remains of stones, extends more than 300 meters in length. The cliffs that protect the Castle are impressive. Nearby is the castle of Quéribus, again . Its origins go back to the XI S. Quéribus was border between the kingdoms of France and Aragon, and strategic point of control of the area. The castle is very visible, far from the highway D-117 and is perfectly blended with the environment and in the top of a rock, 730 metres above sea level. Puilaurens Castle lies 697 meters above sea level at the top of the Monte Ardu. The ascent to the Castle are 3.5 km at an average of 5%, but in two very different phases. The first very soft, skirting the mountain, and the second part really steep rising towards the parking area, from where you can climb to the castle in about half an hour walk.
Two more Cathars castles, a little farther away, complete the six most famous Cathars castles. This is the castle of Puivert, beside the road and not a great challenge to reach. The second castle is Lastours, which in fact is a medieval ensemble with four castles. Lastours, however, is a little more distant, north of Carcassone (you can see the map enclosed where the most important castles Cathars are).
Obviously, the visit to Carcassone (capital of the Aude department) is a must if we are moving around the area. The medieval citadel of Carcassone and its alleys are a true gift for those who enjoy medieval history or simply for those who appreciate ancient beauty. With its 26 towers and two walls for more than 3 kilometres in length, the medieval city of Carcassone was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1997. It is listed as Grand site National, and its castle and ramparts as a historical monument by the French state, being one of the most visited tourist centers of France.
There is another town that is really curious to visit, very close to Quillan. It is Rennes le Chateaux. This small town has received a lot of tourism, almost always associated with the paranormal and the esoteric, due to a modern legend about the former pastor Berenger Saunière. Thanks to the success of Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code, that interest has only increased since the argument of this novel has many connections with the legend of the parish priest of Rennes. Legend states that the Parson Berenger Saunière (1852-1917) would have found a secret treasure in one of the pillars of the altar of the church while carrying out a reform of it. At the same time that the priest discovered the secret hidden in the church, his standard of living soared, and financed a series of peculiar constructions in the village, such as the Torre Magda-dedicated to Mary Magdalene-as well as the reconstruction of the parish church.
You see that the tourist possibilities are multiple, but also the cycling. Approaching Carcassone offers the opportunity to try the hard climb to the Pic de Nore (1200 meters high, and included in the BIG Challenge). Hard climb with a TV antenna on top, visible from many miles around. South side is 25.5 kilometers long. It is certainly worth it, and also its north face that begins in Mazamet, home town of Jalabert. In the southern approximation of the Pic de Nore is the cave of Cabrespine, another place that is worth stopping.
Another very interesting climb in the area is Mont Sant Louis, characteristic for its tie knot (a curve of 270 degrees with a small tunnel). Include Mont Sant Louis on the route we make in the area of L'Aude guarantees us magnificent views over the Rocky Mountain called Pech de Bugarach. Spectacular.
|Gorges de Galamus (Picture by Sergi Ros de Mora)|