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House diaries
A Working Holiday
Chapter 1: We Leave for France
Chapter 10: Looking for Mr. Goodstone
Chapter 11: A mission to la Clape
Chapter 12: Dinner at Château de Lignan
Chapter 13: Antiques and plunder
Chapter 14: The vintner next door
Chapter 15: The rooftops of Nézignan-l'Évêque
Chapter 2: Comes the crusade
Chapter 3: The 13 colonies
Chapter 4: Our curtains are dreadful
Chapter 5: Naked beaches
Chapter 6: A visit to Château des Estanilles
Chapter 7: A pilgrimage to Toulouse
Chapter 8: Remembering Collioure
Chapter 9: The priest and the mayor
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A Day Trip Itinerary...print this out   print the content item
Oulibo, Aigne, Minerve: Olive oil, an artists' town, Cathar tragedy depicted in miniature masterpiece

Doorway in Aigne, a snail-shaped village of artists
Three "to write home about" sights that are near each other on one short drive: a mouth-watering olive co-op; a medieval village built in the shape of a snail (and now colonized by artists); and Minerve, perched above a dry gorge and natural bridges. Time to first stop: 45 minutes.
From the house in Valros, take the N9 toward Béziers. Continue through Béziers toward Capestang and get on the D5. Follow the D5 toward Olonzac. You're more or less paralleling the Canal du Midi.Take the right for Bize-Minervois, just after a railroad crossing and just before you cross the river Cesse. Immediately you'll see l'Oulibo olive oil cooperative (tel 04 68 41 88 88).

Inside l'Oulibo: taste 5 varieties of award-winning olive oil and the
region's unique lucques olive.
Taste award-winning olive oils and stuffed olives, sample olive-based cosmetics. The region's crescent-shaped Lucques olive grows nowhere else. Also on sale: carved olivewood utensils, other specialty foods. L'Oulibo is charming, delicious, great for gifts.
Return to the D5. Cross the Cesse, turn right onto the D607 toward Aigues-Vives/Minerve. The D607 becomes the D907. The landscape becomes drier and more corrugated. Go through Aigues-Vives, turn left on the D910 for Aigne. Coming into Aigne from any direction, you'll see signs for "tennis." These signs lead to a back street where you can find parking. Get out and ramble. It's a picturesque little place with a café and lots of artists tucked up its narrow streets.Return to the D907, toward Minerve (St.Pons/La Caunette). Turn left on the D10 toward Minerve. You'll drive up a spectacular gorge that offers a fine view of the medieval landmark, Minerve, where 100 Cathars were martyred.
Minerve is a major tourist destination. It's well supplied with restaurants. There's easy, interesting hiking through the natural bridges and dry river gorges that surround the site. Even so, there's an air of desolation about this tragic place. Only 60 people still live inside the walls.

The Musée Hurepel houses a folk art masterpiece: the heartbreaking anti-Cathar crusade rendered in exquisitely detailed clay figurines
Don't miss the town's folk art masterpiece, housed in the Musée Hurepel (tel 04 68 91 12 26). Painted clay figurines depict scenes from the Cathar epic. The new owner, M. Gasc, is brother-in-law to France's leading Cathar historian, Anne Brenon. In the darkened rooms, haunting troubadour music plays. And in 16 exquisite scenes, the dark tale of the Albigensian crusade is brought to vivid life. It is a brilliant, unblinking, stirring account, in miniature. According to M. Gasc, two vintners chose the scenes, carved the figurines, and wrote the amazing text (an English translation is available).
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