Join Cathar expert and medievalist Huon Mallalieu in the country of the mysterious Cathars. Based in the elegant, walled medieval city Carcassonne, we will visit the villages and major towns of this fascinating region. In these castles and fortified townships, the Cathars enjoyed a liberated lifestyle way ahead of its time; it still resonates today. High points include the mountain fortress of Montségur, where the Cathars made their last stand against the crusaders. We will see the Cathedral of Sainte Cécile Albi, and the Abbey of Fontfroide, and walk through the remains of Roman Narbonne. We will sample the fine wines and cuisine of Roussillon and French Catalonia. Finally, we will tour the ancient heart of Toulouse, including Europe’s largest Romanesque church.
We will be staying and dining at one of France's finest hotels, the 5-star Hotel de la Cité in Carcassonne's medieval citadel.
Day 1 – Arrival Fly BA from London to Toulouse and transfer to Carcassonne.
Day 2 – Tour of Carcassonne Spend the first day in Carcassonne, a town of two halves, La Cité itself and the more modern town below the hill.
Day 3 – The Pays de Foix We visit the tiny church carved deep into a rock at Vals and then continue to Mirepoix, a perfect example of a small bastide where ancient half-timbered houses line the streets. We see one of the most impenetrable of all Cathar castles at Montségur, which was the centre of Catharism.
Day 4 – Albi A city whose buildings are made of delicately coloured pink and ochre stone. We visit the 13th- to 16th-century Cathedral of Sainte Cécile and the wonderful collection of works by Toulouse-Lautrec.
Day 5 – In Toulouse In a still undeservedly little-known city, we see the Musée des Augustins with its important collection of Romanesque sculptures and Europe’s largest Romanesque church, Saint-Sernin.
Day 6 – Narbonne Narbonne remained an important centre through to the 13th and 14th centuries when the present cathedral was begun in the ambitious northern Gothic style. We explore the old part of the city before heading to the former Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide.
Day 7 We drive back to Toulouse Airport for the BA flight to London.
PRICE £2,998 per person including flights with BA, accommodation, breakfast, all lunches and dinners with wine, all entrance fees and the tour rep. Single supplement: £496. To book: call Patrick on 020 7593 2281 or email email@example.com