Explore the Cathar Castles on the Spanish border via our B&B in Languedoc

Peyrepertuse Castle is a ruined fortress and one of the Cathar castles of the Languedoc located in the French Pyrenees just over an hour from La Souqueto B&B.

The name Peyrepetuse is derived from Pèirapertusa, Occitane meaning Pierced Rock.

The castle ruins are impressive, set high on a defensive crag.  From the approach road it is difficult to see where the rock stops and the castle starts.

The castle was built in the 11th century on a site dominating the Corbieres and the sea.  The main part, resembles the prow of a ship, running along the top of an 800m (2,600 ft) high crag.  It houses the church of Sainte-Marie and the governor’s residence.

The lower part of the castle was built on a strategic location by the kings of Aragon 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.  Nevertheless, it was surrendered to the French Crusaders 22nd of May 1217, reclaimed again as the balance of power changed. Guilhem de Peyrepertuse, was excommunicated in 1224 because of his refusal to submit to the Catholic Crusaders. He surrendered after the siege of Carcassonne (the Viscount of Carcassonne, Guilhem’s suzerain, having failed to retake Carcassonne from the French invaders in 1240). Peyrepertuse became a French possession the same year.

Visit the Chateau Queribus from our B&B in Languedoc.

Near neighbour to Peyrepertuse, the castle at Queribus started life around 1000 as a ‘Spanish’ castle, being on the northern frontiers of Aragon / Barcelona territory. In an extremely dramatic location on top of a rocky pinnacle in Languedoc-Roussillon, the castle comprises a donjon (keep) and a chapel, and various other rooms and remaining defensive walls.

The castle was one of the last refuges of the cathars, who arrived here after being driven from Montsegur in 1244, and lived under the command of cathar leader Chabert de Barbaira. It was 11 years later in 1255 that they were forced from Queribus. Even at that point they avoided the army sent to defeat them – the surrender of Chabert was accepted instead – and many escaped quietly across the border to Spain, thus avoiding the terrible penalties exacted on cathars elsewhere.

Later it was to become one of the five defensive castles in the region that defended the border with Spain – a role that continued until the border moved southwards, following the 1659 Treaty of Spain.It is important to note that a significant part of the defences that we now see at Queribus castle date from this later role, and did not exist at the time of the cathars.

Use our B&B in Languedoc to explore the Gorge de Galamus

It is told that Galamus comes from the Latin word “gaudeamus”, “let us enjoy”.

The Gorge de Galamus is a photographers dream. It has something for everyone and it takes just over an hour to get to from La Souqueto our B&B in Languedoc.

The water erosion in the gorge has created a beautiful place to visit. There are natural pools to swim in and wonderful walks down paths that lead to waterfalls. It is possible to walk along the road through the gorge but we decided to take the path to the stunning Ermitage Chapel…just look at these pictures.

For directions to the Gorge follow the D7 from Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet (on D117 from Perpignan)

B&B accommodation South of France

A morning by the sea…30 mins from La Souqueto B&B

A very good reason for booking B&B accommodation South of France is witnessing some of the most beautiful and peaceful coastline in the Languedoc with villages dotted along it.

We took an early morning trip to find this small fishing village on the Island of St. Martin.

A small inlet off the Etang (lake) is surrounded by fishing shacks stacked full of nets and bouys. In the little harbour fishermen were unloading their early morning catches to sell on the make-shift harbour sides. We bought some beautiful sea bream for our evening meal.

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Later that morning we drove a mile or so towards Gruissan stopping off at the salt flats and had lunch at a fantastic restaurant La Cambuse du Saunier.

 

Canal du Midi boat tours

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Explore the Canal du Midi from April through to the end of October on Bella Mia.

At La Souqueto B&B we offer a unique experience for our guests. We can combine a few days relaxing at our Award winning Chambres d’Hotes enjoying the vineyards for wine tasting, Cathar castles for exploring and crystal clear rivers for swimming or kayaking in, with a bespoke cruise on the stunning Canal du Midi.

The canal du midi boat tours itinerary can be planned around our guests. Some prefer to base themselves from our B&B and take one of our three hour day or evening trips. Others prefer to stay on our boat moored to the banks of the Canal a few minutes from La Somail and use it as a self catering mini gite.

During 2015 we have planned two, three and even four day trips for guests who want to fully explore the jewel that is the canal du midi. We pilot the boat on behalf of our guests, moor it up at various towns and villages such as Capestang, Paraza or Pohiles, leave the boat at the end of the day and return the following morning to continue the journey.

Luxury bed and breakfast Languedoc

La Souqueto – 2015 highlights!

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We can’t quite believe that our 2015 season at La Souqueto B&B is drawing to a close!

We have been spoilt by the weather…January was lovely February and March rather dull but from April through to today (October 7th) has, on the whole, been fantastic! We hope we have helped our guests to enjoy their bed and breakfast accommodation Languedoc!

Our profile thanks to TripAdvisor (winning the Travellers Choice Award) has meant that we have been busy and more importantly, our guests are moving away from one night stays to using La Souqueto B&B as a destination for their holiday. The average stays increased to 3 nights whilst two families used our Apartment on the top floor (with lounge and sun terrace) for their annual two week holiday. Both mentioned that they had not quite completed their list of things to see and do!

We have helped to celebrate 40th, 50th, 60th and 79th birthdays…wedding anniversaries and Honeymoons too!! Guests have arrived at La Souqueto luxury bed and breakfast languedoc by foot, bike, car and boat! Our evening Cruises for our guests on our boat Bella Mia on the Canal du Midi have been well received and our first season renting Bella Mia out as a mini-gite has been a great success too.

Unique to La Souqueto B&B is the combination of B&B and canal du midi boat hire. This includes stay overs on our boat as well as La Souqueto. During the summer we organised bespoke trips where we piloted Bella Mia to a destination where there was a restaurant. Our guests had a meal, stayed over and we returned the following morning to pilot the boat back. Bespoke trips can be arranged to suite the needs of our guests.

We are now all set for receiving guests for the 2016 season!

 

La Souqueto B&B wins Award. B&B South of France

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We are delighted to announce that La Souqueto B&B South of Francehas won the ‘Travellers’ Choice’ Award for outstanding reviews and opinions from guests during 2013 and 2014. This has been awarded to the top 1% of Hotels and B&B’s on TripAdvisor.

The two rooms that ‘sold out’ in summer 2014 were our double en-suite ‘Emelie’ and our top floor ‘Family apartment’ with lounge and Sun Terrace. We are currently re-furbishing our other Double en-suite room called ‘Anne’ and twin room ‘Isolde’. La Souqueto is open for business to offer B&B South of France .

Unique to La Souqueto B&B is our restored classic boat called Bella Mia, available for day and evening cruises along the Canal du Midi. A typical trip would include leaving the Tapas bar at La Porte Minervois near La Somail and then pass through famous La Somail and onto Ventenac for a wine tasting before turning back cruising through the wonderful vineyards of the Minervois.

For those who really want to sample Canal life, we offer Bella Mia as a Gite (sleeping up to 4 people) moored to the bank just a few minutes from the Tapas bar at La Porte Minervois, or two day piloted cruises. Please refer to our website for details or contact us directly. jon@lasouqueto.com

Our Award. TripAdvisor’s ‘Travellers Choice’. B&B South of France

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Award. B&B South of France

 

DejaVu…Reunited with Bella Mia after 50 years!

This is a bit strange! Here I am, nearing 70, and cruising down the Canal du Midi in a lovely wooden motor cruiser built on the Norfolk Broads for my father over 50 years ago and it’s now been operated for Canal du Midi boat tours! The sense of  DejaVu is immense, as this boat was the scene of many holiday moments when I was 19, ‘courting’ my wife who is now sitting beside me, and our home for six months when we both came to live and work in Norwich all those years ago.

Bella Mia is based on a 35ft Captain class cruiser built by C.J.Broom and Sons of Brundall near Norwich.  Brooms, perhaps the most highly regarded of the Broads boat builders, ran a successful hire fleet in the post war years when the Broads were starting to gain holiday status, and well before glass-fibre was ‘invented’.

As a family we had lots of  holidays on the broads in various ‘makes’ of boat, but Brooms became the favourite fleet – with maybe a nod to Windboats and Jack Powles and later Ernest Collins.

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My father was heavily into motor racing both with his job – PR for the BRM team and as a hobby driving single seater racing cars such a Bugatti, HWM and Cooper.

Lots of people in the racing scene were attracted to boats and  in 1961 my father commissioned Brooms to build Bella Mia.  Private ownership of such boats on the Broads was a bit of a new thing then, and  Brooms were leading the field.  In arriving at the exact specification for Bella Mia, one boat  that Brooms had recently built for a private owner stood out as an example to follow,  and that was  Tertia, another Captain class. Thirty years ago I bought Tertia and she is still a big part of our life today.

 

Bella Mia. Available for day trips, 2 day cruises and as a gite on the Canal du midi

Bella Mia. Available for boat trips canal du midi

Bella Mia has oak frames , Iroko bottom and Mahogany topsides and was originally fitted with a BMC six cylinder side-valve engine for smoothness.  The wheelhouse originally had collapsible windows so that the whole top could be taken down for going through really low bridges, but my father had other ideas and had Brooms make a fixed wheelhouse with a small sun deck just aft of this. An outside helm position was considered too difficult and expensive.

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The forward cabin arrangement included a small double bunk and  washbasin ‘en-suite’, and a separate compartment  with sea loo and washbasin..  The generous aft saloon  doubled as the other cabin , and the galley led out onto the aft cockpit  or ‘backyard’ as we called it.   Always berthed at Brooms yard, we spent many a year cruising the Broads and when my wife Margaret and I  moved to work in Norwich we lived on Bella Mia for six months in the summer of 1963 whilst we were looking for a house to buy.

Eventually my parents decided to sell Bella Mia, downsizing to a two berth wooden boat built originally by Jenners of Thorpe, eventually ending up on the river at Stratford on Avon, close to where they lived.

Bella Mia passed through a number of hands through the years and having bought our own boat by then we kept a watchful eye on its progress.  When it appeared on the moorings at our Barton Turf  boatyard we started to get to know Jon and his almost obsession with returning Bella Mia to its former glory. How good to know that he has eventually achieved this.

We first saw Bella Mia in July 1999 but it was nearly a year before Melanie my wife and I finally bought her. Moored at Ferry Marina, she looked tired and unloved but what a fantastic looking vessel.

To us GRP boats have always looked the poor relation and as Bella Mia sat alongside her modern plastic counterpart aptly named ‘BeeJay’ we were initially surprised by the relatively small sum it cost us to be buy this piece of Broads history. Little did we know how much we would be spending on her over the years to bring her back to life!

Our purchase coincided with a very busy part of our lives, bringing up our three children in a village near Saffron Walden. Bella Mia quickly became part of the family and we would find ourselves escaping to another era as often as we could.

The curved ceilings, rich mahogany bulkheads, chrome fittings and bakerlight switches made Bella Mia feel like a cosy Gypsy caravan, but our views were of the stunning Norfolk Broadlands. To us it seemed perfect that Bella Mia and other classic boats were all contributing to maintaing the timeless landscape of the stunning Norfolk Broads.

Many hours were spent playing cards or Ludo or reading books with the children in the aft saloon. And come the evening we would turn off the lights to save the batteries and turn up the oil lamps.

This escape from the day-to-day and early family memories of simple living aboard Bella Mia  fuelled my obsession with our wonderful boat. I would end up doing whatever it took to restore this old lady to her former glory but oh did she push me to my limit.

The straw that nearly broke the camels back was a phone call I received in April 2005 when I was on holiday in Ireland. The boat was sinking…once out of the water and in the marinas wet shed we found that years of neglect and poor maintenance meant that we found rot in many crucial places and our options were clear, make it right or put the chainsaw to it! Many thousands of pounds later we had replaced most of the hull under the waterline.

We enjoyed the next few years cruising the Broads and making great use of our almost water tight boat. In December 2008 I put Bella Mia on the hard-standing area at Cox’s boatyard and there she stayed for nearly five years as I gradually put to use my own rather rusty cabinet making skills to restoring the interior of the boat. (I trained as a Product and Furniture designer) with the help from our family and friends.

I met Peter and Margaret Rivers-Fletcher at Cox’s. I had no idea that their Broom Tertia (sister ship of Bella Mia) was also moored there. Peter introduced himself one day and that was the start of a great friendship.

 

Brooms clearly built their boats to last. Structurally Bella Mia was very sound. We replaced all roofs to make the interior water tight. The decks were replaced too. Cox’s then helped by installing a dedicated wet room with shower and separate heads. Then I set to restoring the Mahogany interior. All the mahogany doors and drawers were removed and taken home to our barn for sanding and re varnishing. At one stage I was sure that most of the boat was in bits in my barn.

In April 2013 Melanie and I decided to buy La Souqueto a B&B South of France .We bought a place very near the Canal du Midi. Bella Mia was far from finished and so a rush was on to complete her and then take her down to France by low-loader. We were lucky enough to book a space in Cox’s shed so I could work on her under the boat builders supervision. It took the Cox’s team a further 3 months to complete her!

By mid july 2013 our beautiful boat was sitting on its mooring at La Porte Minervois just a few minutes from La Somail. Our stretch of the Canal is just so wonderful. We are approximately 50 miles from the nearest lock and so we can cruise all year round. It’s still a novelty to enjoy over 300 days of sunshine!

Bella Mia for hire as a gite moored to the bank or for boat trips on the canal du midi

Bella Mia is available for Canal du Midi boat tours.We offer cruises from March through to the end of October. The boat is also rented as a mini gite moored to the bank. Contact us for further information and availability.

Skiing the Pyrenees…less than 2 hours from La Souqueto B&B

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In less than 2 hours from La Souqueto B&B South of France, you could be skiing the remarkable Pyrenees.

One of the many great things about the Pyrenees is that it’s an easy place to get to. We drive up from the coast from Narbonne but if you’re travelling from the UK you have a significant choice of airports, Carcassonne, Beziers, Toulouse, Perpignan, Biarritz, Pau and Tarbes. From London the flight time is usually less than 2 hours and none of them are more than 2 hours from the resorts. The roads to the Pyrenees resorts can be really steep and this always makes the last part of the journey the most interesting.

It’s worth going just for the drive! Your journey will take you past the swooping foot hills, along huge u-shaped valleys with stunning mountains on either side and through lovely mountain villages. For me, the most exciting part is reaching the snow line. That’s the moment when you know it has been worth it.

The Pyrenees is divided into three areas: the Pyrenees Atlantiques (the section to the West, closest to the Atlantic coast), the Midi-Pyrenees ( in the middle) and the Pyrenees Orientales (the East section, closest to the Mediterranean). There are plenty of resorts to choose from. What you go for depends on what your prefer. Many of the ski stations in the Pyrenees are purpose built – unlike in the Alps – so expect apartment blocks instead of chalets. On the positive side this means it’s all laid on for you: bars, restaurants, ski facilities are all within easy reach. It can make for a really easy, laid back skiing experience. It can also be cheaper than the Alps because it’s less popular. But who minds that?

If you’re looking for something a little more ‘alpine’ you’ll find it here too. For more traditional resorts just head back down the mountain. You’ll have to get a bus to the lifts but it’s worth the extra hassle. The lower you go, the more traditional the resorts will be. So if you want to wake up to a magical winter wonderland among old wooden houses or spend your nights in authentic bars and restaurants with old skis and fading pictures on the walls, this is the way to do it.

So, where to begin? There are 38 resorts in the Pyrenees but here are just a few to get started!

Saint-Lary Soulan: Saint-Lary Soulan covers 700 hectares and has 100km of pistes, including the 3.6km “Mirabelle” run. At 2400m there is a snow park and half pipe. Lots of tree-lined runs, powder bowls, moguls and plenty of off-piste opportunities. There is even a luge piste, as well as a kids’ park with its own toboggan run. The pistes are reached via a winding road or by taking the cable car direct from the village. Here you’ll find shops, bars and restaurants, a modern thermal bath complex and other sports facilities.

Les Angles: This is a huge ski area with loads of piste choice and lots of trees if you decide to venture off-piste. This resort is probably better for more experienced skiersas half of its runs are red flagged.

La Mongie/Bareges: At the foot of the Pic du Midi Mountain, the du Tourmalet area is the largest resort in the French Pyrenees. It comprises of the villages of Barèges and La Mongie and has a total of 69 pistes and 42 lifts at altitudes of between 1400 and 2500m. The resort is extensively equipped with snow cannons and the excellent snow park has a big air, boarder cross, tables and rails.

Peyragudes: This friendly, purpose-built resort rises to 2400m and has 37km of pistes that offer a variety of activities for skiers and snow-boarders plus a children’s activity area.

Piau-Engaly: At nearly 2600 metres this is the highest resort in the French Pyrenees, with snow virtually guaranteed all season. It is just 10km from St Lary and provides 40km of pistes (also the longest blue piste in the Pyrenees at 7km) in a skiable area of 300 hectares. Stunning scenery.

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What about when to go? As with all ski resorts it’s going to cost you less and be much less crowded during term time. And the conditions will always be better in the middle of the season – January, February and March – with a good base of snow and low temperatures. ”

Visit Carcassonne with our canal boats for hire in the Languedoc

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There is certainly no shortage of fascinating attractions to be discovered by those taking advantage of canal boats for hire in the Languedoc. There are many popular stop-off points along the full length of the Canal du Midi. Either enjoy your holiday on our Broom Mahogany Broads cruiser moored to the bank near La Somail or enjoy a three or five day piloted tour towards Carcassonne.

There is one location that will always enter the conversation concerning trips across ‘Cathar country’, and that is Carcassonne. This fortified town in the Aude department is certainly a major draw for history buffs, being home to the remarkable architectural treasure, the Cité de Carcassonne.

 

A medieval fortress that was restored in 1853 and became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Cité de Carcassonne is certainly the focal point of any visit to this remarkable settlement. It was founded during the Gallo-Roman period and played an integral role through the ages of the Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders.

Since the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, the town has lost its military significance and the citadel has instead resumed the status of an infinitely fascinating historical monument. However, it is far from the only reason to visit Carcassonne, with other must-see sights including Carcassonne Cathedral, the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse and the Church of St. Vincent.

While the Cité de Carcassonne dominates the city – indeed, it practically is the city – there is much else to see and do here for those stopping off from one of the many canal boats for hire in the Languedoc. To get a rundown of the history of the city, you may want to take one of the many tours available in various languages, which will also draw attention to other points of interest.

Alternatively, you could simply while away the hours contentedly strolling the medieval cobbled streets, perhaps helping yourself to a traditional cassoulet – a hot dish akin to a stew, consisting of pork, sausage, white beans and occasionally a hunk of duck. The modern city around the Cité de Carcassonne is known as Ville Basse, and is well worth investigation when the tourist crowds within the fortress itself become too much.

For those who are nearby on Bastille Day in July, there’s an extra treat on offer in the form of the Festival de la Cité, which serves up special music and theatre performances as part of a city-wide celebration. Here at La Souqueto B&B, we certainly couldn’t think of many better ways to spend your time away from our  canal boats for hire in the Languedoc.

 

Enjoy the unique experience of our Boat hire on Canal du Midi

We love living and managing our B&B in the Languedoc! The region has many beautiful and fascinating attractions. It is, after all, one of the parts of France with the richest historical and cultural inheritance. Much of that revolves around the region’s centuries-old status as a winemaking centre, although it was another trade – wheat – that motivated the construction of one of the present day area’s most remarkable assets.

The Canal du Midi is one of the oldest European canals still in operation.  Snaking some 241 kilometres (150 miles) through Southern France, this long canal was built between 1666 and 1681 – during the reign of Louis XIV – under the supervision of Pierre-Paul Riquet. It is a spectacular feat of 17th Century Civil Engineering and the result was nothing less than remarkable.

While the Canal is no longer used by commercial barges to transport goods such as wheat and coal, it remains a star attraction for almost anyone exploring the Languedoc and surrounding areas.

Until now, boat trips and tours have been restricted to expensive weekly self-drive hires and low quality hourly trips. La Souqueto B&B have created a variety of boat hire canal du midi services. For Canal du Midi boat tours we offer our restored Classic Mahogany Broads cruiser Bella Mia.

Boat hire Canal du Midi

boat hire canal du midi

glamping on the Canal du Midi

Why not experience canal life first hand by renting Bella Mia as mini gite moored to the bank. You will be a stones-throw from the restaurants of La Somail or our local Tapas bar. Swim in the river Cesse or sun bathe on the decks. Or, simply choose from a selection of day and evening trips.

The locks on the Canal are closed from November through to April, but we are moored on a section that has no locks for over 50 miles. This means that we are free to cruise the Canal at any time throughout the year.

Some of guests who have enjoyed our boat hire on the Canal du Midi.

 

 

Day trip on the Canal du Midi

Day trip on the Canal du Midi