Carcassonne & the Canal du Midi
Save up to £75pp when booking on or before 31/10/2018.
Save up to £75pp when booking on or before 31/10/2018.
From timeless vineyards and sundrenched, rugged hills to imposing Cathar castles and historic abbeys, join us on a remarkable tour showcasing the very best of Languedoc. We explore the iconic walled Cité of Carcassonne, enjoy an excursion to the 'Ville Rose' city of Toulouse and immerse ourselves in local market life.
We meet at our exclusive Departure Office at St Pancras International in London, where we board the Eurostar for Paris. We continue to Narbonne, where we take a coach to Carcassonne, checking into our hotel, the 5-Star Hotel de la Cité Carcassonne MGallery Collection.
We explore the incredible Cité of Carcassone on a guided tour today. Carcassonne is renowned for its impenetrable city walls, which still encircle the citadel entirely. Defensive towers and drawbridges - all original features, have led to the city being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Accessed by an ancient bridge which crosses the former moat, the Cité is the archetypal icon of romantic medieval France.
Our tour today covers the key sights, attractions and monuments of the Cité and includes entrance to the impressive Château Comtal, an incredibly wellpreserved fortress which dominates the Cité. Dating back to the 12th century, inside is housed a fascinating museum dedicated to the siege of Carcassonne from religious crusaders. The rest of your day is at leisure. You can remain in the Cité and discover the network of cobbled lanes and sloping pathways adorning the citadel, or take in one of the museums or art galleries.
Across the water, Bastide St Louis, which despite its status as the 'New Town' was actually established in the fourteenth century and also boasts many hidden charms. This town is essentially where the people of Carcassonne live and represents an excellent opportunity to watch the pace of French life in this region, perhaps you'd like to settle down in a quaint café and indulge in a spot of people watching. Another option is the towering Basilica of St Nazaire, modelled after St Denis cathedral in Paris as a symbol of the Crown's victory over the south. The Basilica as we see it today was completed in 1330, although certain elements of the cathedral predate the fourteenth century.
This morning we travel by coach to the handsome city of Toulouse. Known as the 'Ville Rose', or 'Pink City' due to its red-brick buildings, which seem to subtly change colour throughout the day. Toulouse was once a city that inspired medieval poets; today it has become a pioneering centre of technology and aerospace development. Toulouse is now home to Aérospatiale, the national Space Centre, the European shuttle programme, a selection of leading aeronautical schools, and a ground-breaking electronics industry. Despite its many faces however, Toulouse hangs on to a resolutely old-fashioned French soul, with its markets, regional cuisine and cafés interspersed between secondhand book stalls and antique shops, making it a pleasure to explore.
We do so on a guided walking tour of the medieval city, taking us along the winding, narrow streets of the elegant Old Town, seeing the Capitole (Town Hall) building in the vast, open Place du Capitole one of France's finest squares. We also see the Basilica St-Sernin, an 11th century church regarded as a Romanesque masterpiece, as well as the extraordinary architecture of the Jacobins Convent and the Renaissance Bernuy private mansion.
Your afternoon is free, and there are many options open to you. Perhaps you'd like to visit the excellent Musee de Augustins de Toulouse. This fine arts museum houses a collection of sculptures and paintings from the medieval period through to the early 20th century. The convent was eventually secularised in 1793 and subsequently opened to the public in 1795, making it one of the oldest museums in France. Another suggestion would be the interesting Muséum de Toulouse, a museum of natural history that contains over 2.5 million items. Opened to the public in 1825 this museum was the first in the world to open a gallery of prehistory.
The museum is also home to the Henri Gaussen Botanical Garden, the garden spans 7 hectares containing thousands of different varieties of plants. Tonight, back in Carcassone, we enjoy a traditional cassoulet dinner. This celebrated dish is traditionally made with pork and duck then cooked with haricots beans.
Travelling by coach, our first stop today is one of Languedoc's most famous sites, the historic Châteaux de Lastours area. Set in the heart of the Cathar countryside, this is a region famous for its fascinating web of sun-drenched fields, luscious vineyards, and rugged hills dotted with tranquil villages - crowned by its wealth of scattered Roman ruins, medieval castles and fortified strongholds. It is also home to a collection of four former Cathar fortresses, magnificent chateaux that are seemingly impossibly perched atop, and built into the hillsides, that were once a significant place of refuge for the Cathars during the religious crusades of the thirteenth century.
This is followed by lunch before we continue east through the scenic countryside to the enchanting village of Caunes-Minervois and its remarkably well-preserved eighth-century abbey.
This morning we travel by coach to Mirepoix for the town's weekly market. Located in the Old Town's medieval square, here you can sample and purchase fresh, local produce as well as home-made crafts and wine.
Today we enjoy a leisurely cruise along the famous Canal du Midi, a true feat of engineering designed by Languedoc's own Pierre-Paul Riquet from Béziers. The canal is a particularly scenic waterway framed by rows of trees and makes for a serene cruise. At times it almost feels like you are sailing on a waterway through a forest. Such is the extent of foliage on offer, the trees create a 'tunnel' in places and the banks are usually frequented by avid walkers.
Our farewell meal tonight is taken in a restaurant situated in the grounds of Château de Pennautier and is accompanied by a wine tasting of vintages produced in the castle's own vineyards. Nicknamed 'the Versailles of Languedoc', this opulent residence was built in 1620 and once played host to King Louis XIII himself.
Checking out after breakfast this morning, we transfer to the station for the train to Narbonne. Here we change for the high-speed service to Paris, boarding the Eurostar service for our return journey back to London.
We offer a Standard Class and First Class rail options for departures on this tour. You can find out which class each departure is by clicking on the information button in the pricing grid.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 19 verified reviews
Excellent itinerary, fantastic hotel, first rate tour manager and great weather!
Everything from the weather, hotel, location and travel was 5 star from start to finish.
I had an excellent experience.
Great historical place to visit. So much to see and do. The hotel was excellent. We treated ourselves to dinner in the hotels Michelin starred restaurant which was fantastic. Quite pricey but well worth the expense. Our trips out were very good and our tour guide Ros Adley was excellent too.
Excellent itinery, tour manager, and hotel
It was an excellent holiday that fell just short of 5 stars. The Canal du Midi return trip (about 2 hours altogether) was pleasant but a little underwhelming, involving a cruise along the canal including some of the suburbs of Carcassonne (i.e. perhaps not the most scenic one might have hoped for). Also the trip to the vineyard for a tasting and dinner (also on the last day) was not memorable (neither were the wines), although our local host and his team were very good. The meals included on the trip (apart from the superb breakfasts) were also not too special but the 'self catering' meals of local produce were wonderful as was our hotel in the old city of Carcassonne and the city itself!
“Wow” the hotel and holiday itself. The hotel was the best we have stayed in with GRJ.
We had a most enjoyable holiday in Carcassonne and everything within the control of Great Rail Journeys ran smoothly. The hotel was excellent, the excursions enjoyable and there were no delays on the journeys to and from Carcassonne.
Weather diabolical, but hotel, staff, guide and excursions great. Think that you ought to employ a sun dancer who could guarantee good weather. Look forward to next year's holiday.
We found the organised excursions disappointing.
A beautiful and captivating region of France