La Pierrée,

Cuxac-Cabardes, Southern France

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Canal du Midi, Carcassonne

The department of Aude is one of Franceís best-kept secrets, with dramatically varied landscapes it is gaining interest for travelers who want to visit a less touristy yet interesting and historic area of southern France.

Many people first learn of the area by hearing about or seeing pictures of the old city of Carcassonne. This fairy tale-like citadel perched above the Aude River was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It is a must-see for any visitor to the area.

The Aude River Valley is home to extensive wine grape cultivation. Bordered by the Montagne Noire to the north, the Pyrenees to the south and the Mediterranean Sea on the east, the valley has a warm sunny climate for the better part of the traveling season. The area has many opportunities for enjoying nature; vast caves, salt marshes, and biking through the vineyards. The wines of the region are highly regarded but are not expensive.

The Canal du Midi, built in the 1600ís, was a mammoth engineering project in its day. It is possible to cruise by boat from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, or to take day trips walking or bicycling along the ancient towpaths.

The history of the Cathars makes a significant impression on the area to this day. Castles perched on rocky outcrops throughout the area preserve the fascinating history of the first crusades .

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