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Carcassonne & South to the Pyrenees

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© Lonely Planet Publications
172

Carcassonne & South
to the Pyrenees
No one forgets their first, stunning sight of Carcassonne’s La Cité from a distance. Its witchhat turrets glinting in the sunlight, it seems to rise from the plain like some medieval mirage.
Within its ramparts, as you walk the cobbled streets, it’s easy to understand why the town
consistently figures as France’s third-most-visited venue after Paris and Mont St-Michel.
La Montagne Noire, a sparsely populated land of small villages, stripes the northern horizon.
To the west is Castelnaudary, where pleasure boats jostle in Le Grand Bassin, the Canal du
Midi’s only significant harbour. Surrounded by the golden wheatfields of the Lauragais plain,
the town contests with Carcassonne (while grudgingly admitting a claim from Toulouse) for
the title of inventor of cassoulet. Hereabouts, the food, like the wine, is hearty.
To the south of Carcassonne, following the reaches of the upper Aude Valley, the selfconfident provincial town of Limoux boasts Blanquette de Limoux, a scintillating sparkling
wine, and a carnival that, though small in participants, is France’s longest lasting.
Heading westwards, up and over the wild, lonely Pays de Sault, the tumbling waters of
the Ariège River cry out to be canoed, while the soft flanks and offshoots of its valley are
honeycombed with caves where underground rivers flow.
We’ve set the bounds of this chapter in defiance of regional administrative boundaries,
choosing to graft on the stirring Ariège valley, in the Midi-Pyrénées region and precursor
of the Pyrenees, plus a couple of its side shoots.

HIGHLIGHTS
„ Gasp at your first glimpse of the towers of

La Cité (p176), Carcassonne
„ Sip a drink beneath the arcades of Mirepoix’s

place Maréchal Leclerc (p208)
Château de
Lastours

„ Learn about the Ariège valley’s earliest

inhabitants at Parc de la Préhistoire (p203)
Carcassonne

CARCASSONNE & SOUTH
TO THE PYRENEES

„ Climb to the ruined castles of Châteaux de

Mirepoix

Lastours (p187), then lunch in style at Le
Puits du Trésor (p187)
„ From Homps, chug along the Canal du Midi

aboard the Saint Ferréol (p189), a traditional
canal barge
„ Scramble up to Château de Peyrepertuse

(p196), most impressive of the Cathar castles
„ Quaff Blanquette de Limoux and dine at La

Maison de la Blanquette (p191), Limoux

Parc de la
Préhistoire

Limoux

Château de
Peyrepertuse

Homps

Biert

SPAI

Pamiers

Cadirac
Burret
Ferrières
Grotte de
Bédeilhac Montgailhard

Foix

Le M...
CARCASSONNE & SOUTH
TO THE PYRENEES
No one forgets their first, stunning sight of Carcassonne’s La Cité from a distance. Its witch-
hat turrets glinting in the sunlight, it seems to rise from the plain like some medieval mirage.
Within its ramparts, as you walk the cobbled streets, it’s easy to understand why the town
consistently figures as France’s third-most-visited venue after Paris and Mont St-Michel.
La Montagne Noire, a sparsely populated land of small villages, stripes the northern horizon.
To the west is Castelnaudary, where pleasure boats jostle in Le Grand Bassin, the Canal du
Midi’s only significant harbour. Surrounded by the golden wheatfields of the Lauragais plain,
the town contests with Carcassonne (while grudgingly admitting a claim from Toulouse) for
the title of inventor of cassoulet. Hereabouts, the food, like the wine, is hearty.
To the south of Carcassonne, following the reaches of the upper Aude Valley, the self-
confident provincial town of Limoux boasts Blanquette de Limoux, a scintillating sparkling
wine, and a carnival that, though small in participants, is France’s longest lasting.
Heading westwards, up and over the wild, lonely Pays de Sault, the tumbling waters of
the Ariège River cry out to be canoed, while the soft flanks and offshoots of its valley are
honeycombed with caves where underground rivers flow.
We’ve set the bounds of this chapter in defiance of regional administrative boundaries,
choosing to graft on the stirring Ariège valley, in the Midi-Pyrénées region and precursor
of the Pyrenees, plus a couple of its side shoots.
Carcassonne & South
to the Pyrenees
© Lonely Planet Publications
HIGHLIGHTS
Gasp at your first glimpse of the towers of
La Cité ( p176 ), Carcassonne
Sip a drink beneath the arcades of Mirepoix’s
place Maréchal Leclerc ( p208 )
Learn about the Ariège valley’s earliest
inhabitants at Parc de la Préhistoire ( p203 )
Climb to the ruined castles of Châteaux de
Lastours ( p187 ), then lunch in style at Le
Puits du Trésor ( p187 )
From Homps, chug along the Canal du Midi
aboard the Saint Ferréol ( p189 ), a traditional
canal barge
Scramble up to Château de Peyrepertuse
( p196 ), most impressive of the Cathar castles
Quaff Blanquette de Limoux and dine at La
Maison de la Blanquette ( p191 ), Limoux
Château de
Peyrepertuse
Préhistoire
Parc de la
Mirepoix
Limoux
Château de
Lastours
Homps
Carcassonne
172
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