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Chapter 10: Looking for Mr. Goodstone
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A Day Trip Itinerary...print this out   print the content item
The Last Cathar Bastion (and a visit to a 450,000 year old man)

The commanding view from Quéribus. The Pyrenees appear to be in your lap.
Today's destination: "the last bastion," Castle Quéribus. The siege and surrender of this mountaintop fortress in 1255 concluded the military phase of the Albigensian Crusade, launched in 1210 to eradicate the Cathar heresy. The crusade also crushed southern France's independence and its rich, cosmopolitan courts, replacing the native lords with northern nobles. Once impossibly remote, today Quéribus is easy to reach by car. The views of the Pyrenees from this windswept spot are truly spectacular. Another major Cathar castle, Peyrepertuse, is a few miles away as the crow flies. Time to destination: about 1.75 hours.
From the house, jump on the A9 toward Narbonne. Take exit 41 (Perpignan centre). At the first roundabout, take the D12 toward Vingrau. This is the scenic route, as you'll see when the road crests and a glorious valley opens before you. At Vingrau, follow the signs to Tautavel (D9). You will pass a sign for the Caune de l'Arago and a gorge. You can stop here for a swim in a wide mountain stream. At Tautavel, follow the signs toward Estagel. (D9 to D611). Just after some railroad tracks, you'll encounter the D117, a wide two-lane highway. Turn right, toward Maury/Foix. At Maury, turn right onto the D19. This road winds up out of the village, taking you directly to the turnoff for Quéribus. At the turnoff, you can park and hike the last 2 km, for some extra exercise. Or you can drive up to the castle itself. Quéribus can be busy, as it accessible by tour buses. At the ticket booth you can also purchase drinks, postcards, and ice cream. Admission for adults (2002): 4 euros.

Tautavel's 450,000-year-old man, looking for a snack. This tiny, wine-growing village has an unusual number of restaurants, serving visitors to the Musée de la Préhistoire.
Maury is famous for an elegant, powerful sweet wine of the same name. The vineyards of Mas Amiel, the AOC's leading producer, cover the slopes beneath Quéribus. Finally, a note about Tautavel. During the 1970s in a cave near this village scientists discovered the oldest human remains in Europe, the skull of a heavy-browed prehistoric hunter. Tautavel is now home to a large museum dealing with prehistoric humankind and his/her world. Its dioramas and audiovisual shows bring the period to life. But it's a bit like having your 450,000-year-old relatives over for dinner. They're dirty. They're ill-clothed. All they want to do is crack open deer bones and suck the marrow. And you really have no interests in common. An excellent English-language narration accompanies the exhibit. The museum is exhaustive and academic. Prepare to be lectured.
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