Aude - France Property

The department of Aude is located in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon in South West France with a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Aude borders the departments of Ariege and Haute Garonne to the West, Herault and Tarn to the North and Pyrenees Orientals to the South.

Climate

The coastal areas of Aude have a dry, arid, Mediterranean climate where as inland tends to be a more temperate Mediterranean climate. The Aude benefits from the sun being reflected on the mountains to the north (Montagne Noir) and the mountains to the south (Pyrenees). It rarely rains, which improves the produce of grapes and hence the quantity and quality of the renowned wines of the region. As well as being hot and dry as is expected this far south the area is also well known for strong winds. Perhaps as a consequence of the hot summer temperatures, Aude is noted for its very relaxed pace of life.

Department Capital

Aude is probably best known for the Roman fortified city of Carcssonne. Carcassonne is the department capital and famous as the only fortified town in Europe that is still inhabited and as Europe's largest fortress city with more than 50 towers. It is one of the most visited sites in France. This medieval city has been meticulously restored and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.

Other Areas

Aude has a varied landscape rich in historical diversity. Along the Mediterranean coastline are 60km of sandy beaches complete with lagoons and pink flamingos. The coast has modern tourist areas alongside old fishing villages. Shell breeding and fishing are thriving industries in the old villages and are still more important to the locals than tourism. For the tourists the attractions on the coast are the nightlife, sports, promenades, long sandy beaches and the hot climate to go with it.

Also on the coast is the small region of Narbonnaise and the old city of Narbonne. Narbonne was the former capital of the Roman province and one of the most important ports in the Roman Empire. Narbonne hosts museums, abbeys, impressive ports and a medieval palace and cathedral that are visible from miles away. Inland from the coastal resorts are the vast vineyards of the Corbiere and Minnervois region. These foothills of the Pyrenees are a mix of agricultural countryside, deep gorges, rolling vineyards, picturesque villages and ancient ruins. This is Cathar country. Here you will find impressive abbeys of Lagrasse or Fontfroide and the many feudal castles which bear testament to the battles that have raged throughout the region.

Another of Aude's famous masterpieces is the Canal de midi. The canal was built in the 17th century and links the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. This has also been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The landscape flattens around the canal giving a narrow plain that cuts across the middle of Aude. The A61 motorway, the 113 main road and the rail travel along this natural route. South of the canal, foothills ascend into the dramatic peaks of the Pyrenees and the area north of the canal rises towards the Montagne Noir which themselves are the southernmost hills of the Cevennes. This area is full magnificent forests, lakes, caves and again more feudal castles.

Lauragais and Le Pays De La Haute Vallee (the country of the high valley.) are the two western most regions of Aude. Lauragais, closest to Toulouse is traditionally known for its windmills and corn fields and is the centre of Aude's poultry producing area. Its main town is Castelnaudary which lies on the Canal du Midi. Le Pays De La Haute Vallee lies south of Lauragais. Its centre is the city of Limoux, a vibrant city famous for its carnivals and its first class Chardonnay.

Recreation

For the explorers there are 2000 kilometres of well maintained, marked out pathways crossing Aude. Travel along these on foot, horseback or cycle to discover the diversity of this region. In particular the Cathar Trail is one of the most famous trails in France The Cathar Trail traverses through the Pyrenees passing through Aude from East to West and continuing on into the department of Ariege. This trail follows in the footsteps of Bonshommes and Goodmen. It starts at the sea and passes through the low foothills of the Pyrenees as far as Montsegur. On route you can visit amongst others the famous citadels of Queribus, Puilaurens and Puivert.

The Aude is a perfect area for cycle touring. There are many circuits that have been marked from the city of Carcassonne, Limoux and Narbonne. It is one of the best ways to visit the castles, abbeys and churches of the Cathar country.

The Aude provides sailing enthusiasts with their ideal environment. With a choice of natural lakes, marine lakes and Mediterranean beaches it is suitable for beginners or the more experienced sailors. Strong reliable winds mean that many of the resorts are known world-wide as the best locations for both sailing and wind-surfing.

The water flowing down from the Pyrenees is regulated by the Matemale and Puyvalador dams and means that the river Aude provides ideal conditions for white water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, rafting, tubing and canyoning. It is 170 km in length with varying grades of water, from big white water for thrill seekers or quiet waters without any risk for family canoeing.

Around Carcassonne and in the Haute Vallee you will find ideal natural cliffs for rock-climbing. There are rock faces to suit beginners or the more experienced and climbing is possible all year round.

For the winter sports enthusiasts Aude hosts the ski resort of Camurac, This area has all the charm of a Cathar Country mountain village and boasts 16 downhill ski runs of all grades and 50km of ski touring tracks.

For the keen horseriders, Aude provides many suitable paths along which to discover the diversity of landscapes. Audes many riding centres will lead you from Queribus to Puivert, along the Cathar trail or along the Transequestre route from where one can again view spectacular cities, abbeys, and castles.

Finally fishing and the Pyrenean Rivers, managed lakes and the Canal du Midi are just a few of the numerous popular fishing spots.

Property

As expected in such a diverse region the styles and prices of property are extremely varied. Available homes includes traditional stone farmhouses, bergerie, small villas, properties that need complete renovation and newer properties but still with traditional features.

Property in Aude is cheaper than further along the coast in Provence and Cote d'Azur and within Aude prices in the southern part of the Corbiere and into the Pyranees are the slightly cheaper still. This is because there is less commerce and the area is more rugged and less easy to access.

Getting there

It is possible to fly direct to the regional capital Carcassone by Ryanair from London Stansted. Ryanair also fly to Perpignan in the neighbouring department of Pyrenees-Orientals.

BMI Baby and Easyjet fly to Toulouse in nearby Haute Garonne.

It is also possible to fly to Barcelona in Spain and drive north from there. It's only about three hours. Closer still Easyjet fly to Gerona in Northern Spain.