Carcassonne to St-Amans-Soult

Time to see Carcassonne. So we packed and headed into town. But instead of going up to the old town inside the walls, we crossed the ancient bridge and entered the new town. Here we had breakfast outside a boulangerie and then headed out along beside the Canal du Midi. Our target for lunch was Caumes Minervois, some 15 miles away across rolling, hot, scrubland.

This turned out to be a wonderful village, packed with history. We had a very extended lunch stop. The place was known from Roman times for its pink marble, and there were modern sculptures everywhere.

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There was a beautiful abbey church and museum that we visited.

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before lunch in a shady courtyard.

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One reason for not rushing away was that we knew that the afternoon had a serious climb up and over the Black Mountains that loomed over the village.

As it turned out we both really enjoyed the afternoon. The approach to the climb was up a narrow valley, with apple orchards, onions and adverts for the produce of the terroir.

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The road was tiny and almost car free, but the gradient was easy and there was plenty of shade and lots of hairpins with views. After about an hour, and halfway up, we stopped for coke and ice-cream in a tiny village store. The locals were in the middle of dinner and thought we were mad. We were tiring towards the top, but there was a great reward. The scenery changed instantly from the Mediterranean scrub maquis that we had had since near Carcassonne to a lush, green mountain scenery reminiscent of alpine foothills. We screamed down the descent into a beautiful green valley.

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The municipal campsite was quiet and we picnicked almost alone as evening fell.

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