A holiday with Bespoked offers more than just the bike. Chalabre is one of the oldest French villages and has a rich history as well as being a short distance from Chateaux and fortresses throughout the Cathar region.
Nestled in the foothills of the great Pyrenean mountain range we are lucky to have the Lac de Montbel just 3 Kilometres away, great for sailing, fishing, swimming, and all water sports. The Mediterranean is a 1 ½ hour drive away as is the Principality of Andorra (in the other direction).
Explore the region
There are many things to explore in the region. All within an hour’s drive or cycle from Chalabre.
There are the Niaux caves which have examples of pre-historic paintings. Also, underground river tours as well as miles and miles of public walking and mountain bike paths and historic castles, dating back to before the crusades. Such as Chateaux de Montsegur and Peyrepertuse and the world heritage site of the great Cite de Carcassonne. The castle in the center of Foix was once home to the King of France (who kept a close eye on the comings and goings of the great Crusades).
Close by, the town of Limoux is known to be the birthplace of Dom Perignon and it is reported it was the place he first put the bubbles into the white wine he produced before moving onto more famous pastures in Champagne. The wine is still produced in Limoux and is called Blanquette.
Chalabre’s history goes back many centuries, with proud historical references to be found all around the village.
A leisurely stroll down the narrow streets to see Chalabre’s historical buildings and locations. There are many information plaques, describing the buildings and what they were once originally used for. The earliest ones date back to the 15th Century.
For example, part of our house was a factory where shoes and hats were made. The first ‘Vulcanised rubber safety work boot’, in France, was developed and made within the factory which is now our house. The factory closed after the Second World War and relocated to bigger premises on the edge of the village. It was once the village’s biggest employer.
Captain Jean Danjou
Captain Jean Danjou, one of the most famous commanders of the French Foreign Legion, was born in Chalabre in 1828, he not only has a plaque outside his house but has a street named after him too.
Around the 30th of April, the date of his most famous battle, members of the modern-day French Foreign Legion celebrate his life with a parade through the village.
Chalabre is also in the middle of Cathar country, surrounded by the ancient Chateaux and fortresses.
There are a number of non-fiction books available about Cathar:
- Understanding the History of the Cathars by Claude Lebedel
- Cathar Castles, Fortresses of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209 – 1300 by Marcus Cowper
- The Treasure of Montsegur by Sophy Burnham
The small hilltop village of Rennes-le-Chateau is only a few Kilometres away from Chalabre (a lovely day out on the bike with lunch and a meandering peddle back, calling in for some wine tasting on the way). The village made famous as one of the possible, final resting places for the Holy Grail (so mentioned in Dan Browns ‘The Da Vinci Code’). However, a good light, historical read on the subject is Rennes-le-Chateau, Sauniere’s Secret by Jean-Luc Robin.
In more recent history, during the Second World War, Chalabre was part of Vichy France and saw much Resistance activity. A good, factual, read on the subject can be found at http://www.midi-france.info/1016_ww2.ht.
Kate Mosse, British author
Much has been written about the area and Chalabre’s involvement in both World Wars and can be easily found in the public domain. Well worth the read is Kate Mosse’s trilogy. Mosse lives in Carcassonne, and the fictional stories are set in the region of the Languedoc (of which Chalabre is nestled), and in the 3rd book, ‘Citadel’ Chalabre is mentioned.
Several talented artists live in Chalabre and examples of their original works can be seen around the village.