Sunshine, Cathar Castles, Grapes and Wine (Part 1)

Those who have read my previous blog post - The Wine of my Dreams will know that when on holiday in France this summer, we found a fantastic vineyard in SW France – Chateau Guilhem at Malvies, Languedoc. We loved the wine so much that we now import it and sell it in the restaurant where the Prestige is now our best selling red.

The lovely people at Guilhem (www.chateauguilhem.com) invited my husband and I to take part in their late harvest – vendange - at the end of September. Unfortunately , September is a very busy time on the farm so Bill was unable to go, but encouraged me to go with a friend. I asked one of my oldest friends, Lindsay and we excitedly made our plans.

We flew from Bournemouth to Carcassonne by Ryanair – and picked up our hire car at the airport, from where it was a 20 minute drive to our Chambre d’hote – Domain de Caraman (www.domainecaraman.com) – a beautiful traditional farmhouse near Montreal with outstanding views across spectacular countryside. A drink on the terrace overlooking the view and then watched a fantastic sunset – what a great start to our break.

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We had been invited out to supper by the owner of the gite we stayed in earlier in the summer. We had an enjoyable evening watching the stars and chatting with Hal and his friends at www.domainedurenne.com followed by a great wild boar casserole - wild boar from the local woods surrounding the property.

The following morning, after a fantastic continental breakfast – the best I have ever had – bread, croissants, ham, cheese, yoghurts, fruit, pancakes , omelette – so much that we could not even attempt half of it, we set off for a leisurely drive around the area.

Our host, Marianne had recommended that we stop at Mirepoix – and what a great recommendation. A 12th Century square with beautiful mediaeval wooden buildings. Sitting in the sun, drinking coffee and, listening to an accordion playing was like being in another world. We wandered around the beautiful square, watching the world go by.

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Lindsay and I have both read the Kate Mosse Labyrinth books set in the Carcassonne area and so we wanted to have a look at some of the places mentioned in the books. Mont Segur was one of the most important places in the Cathar history and so we set off to find it. A beautiful drive with stunning scenery all around us.

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It was a beautiful day in late September, blue skies and warm sunshine and when we saw Mont Segur we had to stop. We saw tiny figures walking up the side of the hill and decided that we should too. Can’t remember whose idea it was but it seemed a good idea at the time! It was hard work and not good for those with a touch of vertigo but the view from the top was worth it -simply stunning! The silence was broken only by the sound of distant cow bells clanging.

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We were so tired after our epic climb that we bought some food and took it back to our lovely B&B where we were given a huge room with bar, tv, and cd player to ourselves. We soon revived after food and wine and had a great evening, talking about old times, family and friends.

The next day was the reason for our trip – to take part in the grape harvest at Chateau Guilhem …

To be continued...