A cave, books and château life!
From Villesèquelande to Montolieu… From canal du Midi to Abbey
A dozen kilometres from Carcassonne, start your day in the west of the Cabardès in Villesèquelande where you can admire the Ormeau de Sully elm tree, near the musée de la chevalerie, or knights' museum. This tree was planted in the 16th century, before the Canal du Midi was dug in the 17th century, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.
Head for Moussoulens, in Truffle country, 9 kilometres away and discover the conservatory of the so-called black diamond.
Then it's Montolieu, just another 2 kilometres (18 km from Carcassonne), where you can stroll through the little village with some twenty bookshops, art galleries, the Musée des Arts & Métiers du Livre and the Museum of Raw Art: the Coopérative-Musée Cérès Franco. Between browsing round second-hand bookshops, take a break in the place de l’Espérou for a wonderful view down the green valley.
This beautiful trip continues as you head for Saint-Martin-le-Vieil (9 km away), firstly to visit the spellbinding Cistercian Abbey of Villelongue, and then the village with troglodyte origins. There are some forty cavities (cruzels) and the medieval garden.
From Pennautier to Conques-sur-Orbiel via Aragon... From a 17th century château to a cave
This circuit begins in Pennautier, a Mecca for Cabardès wines and the château built in 1620 in the style of... Versailles. Its architect was none other than Le Vau and the park was designed by Le Nôtre. King Louis XIII stayed there in 1622 and left a baldaquin, or canopy, bed which you can see during your visit.
Then we head for Aragon (and the MTB circuit), 6 km kilometres away. Before going down into the village, enjoy the magnificent view of the houses dotted on the rocky peak, overlooking vines and hills. With its Tuscan air, it's definitely worth a photo!
A further 10 km, and it's time for a walk in the beautiful scrub landscape around Conques-sur-Orbiel. On the hiking trails which crisscross the scrubland, you can enjoy the thousand aromas and the capitelles, the dry stone shelters. The final stage of this rich day, in the heart of the Orbiel valley, is a visit to the small village of Limousis and its cave, unique in the world because of the concentration of aragonite, a very rare stone due to its crystallisation.