le petit rÍve

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"The Next Provence" -- Travel & Leisure, May 2002

Le Petit RÍve is the perfect starting point for exploring the natural beauty, relaxed villages, and culinary surprises of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Within a 20-minute drive from Castelnau d'Aude are a host of larger villages with weekly outdoor markets (Lezignan-CorbiŤres, Olonzac), wineries with tasting rooms (Homps, Pouzols-Minervois), and breathtaking views (the medieval village of Minerve). The nearby 17th-century Canal du Midi (right), which stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, offers the chance to see the region by pleasure boat.

A half-hour drive west from Castelnau brings you to the walled city of Carcassonne. Another half-hour drive from Carcassonne brings you to Castelnaudary, the birthplace of cassoulet, southern France's famed stick-to-your-ribs pork and sausage casserole.

A half-hour drive east from Castelnau d'Aude takes you to Narbonne, with its renowned medieval cathedral and all the shopping, restaurants and nightlife you need during your stay.

Just past Narbonne are the Mediterranean beaches of Narbonne-Plage and Gruissan - worth several visits, thanks to the region's mild climate and 300 days of sunshine a year.

In all directions you'll find villages like Minerve (right), with medieval churches and castle ruins, many of them relics of the bloody wars between the crusading Christians and the local followers of the Cathar religion.

One of the loveliest is the secluded Fontfroide Abbey, with guided tours, lovely herbal gardens, a wine-tasting room and a highly rated restaurant.

For longer day trips, Le Petit RÍve is a 20-minute drive from the major A9 and A61 autoroutes, which provide direct access to Toulouse (1hr. 15 mins.), Montpellier (1hr. 15 mins.), Perpignan and Collioure (1.5 hrs.), and Barcelona (3 hrs.).