the malepère and surrounds
the region surrounding montréal is known as the malepère, a rural area known for its gentle rolling hills planted with wheat, sunflowers, and grapevines. on its edges are the medieval towns of carcassonne, limoux, and mirepoix, all worthy of exploration especially on morning market days. the canal du midi cuts across the valley to the north, allowing for relaxed walks, bicycle rides or rosé-soaked boat trips, and with delightful seasonal restaurants along its banks. slightly further afield the pyrenees, the mediterranean, and the city of Toulouse all offer their own magic in the form of day trips.
carcassonne and the cathar castles
no visit to the region would be complete without a tour of the medieval citadel of carcassonne, a UNESCO world heritage site. the bastide st.louis, or lower town, is also worth a visit for its architecture and real-life scenes. in the surrounding mountains are the ruined fortresses known as the "chateaux cathar", where fresh walks bring you up close to the history of cathar country and spectacular views of the countryside.
food and markets
the bounty of independent farms is on display at weekly markets and stalls scattered throughout the region. if you think that local is better... you are right. from artisanal cheese, wine, truffles, fresh asparagus, melons and charcuterie there is no down side to this food culture.
traditional restaurants, where grandma still guards her recipes, serve local specialties like cassoulet and confit du canard. for others there is the opportunity to try one of the creative new bistros popping up.
the canal du midi
another UNESCO world heritage site, the canal is a cool and shady place to share a glass of wine on a hot summer day. explore on foot, bike or by boat and stop for lunch at one of the charming restaurants in the old lock-master houses.
brocante, vide greniers, and antiques markets... lovers of all things old and french have lots of options. nearly every weekend from easter to christmas, villages host flea markets as well as monthly and seasonal brocante fairs. for weekday and off-season shopping there are wonderful local shops and depots selling all kinds of vintage items, from humble household goods to fine antiques.