With a population of around 1600, Olonzac is the capital of the Minervois wine region in Languedoc. With a thriving weekly market (every Tuesday) and numerous shops and services, this is where residents from around the region come to socialise and shop. Olonzac is a typical working French village. A range of cafes, bars and restaurants offer plenty of dining options should you not wish to cook your own meals. Olonzac boasts a beautiful park with its own small lake (complete with swans and ducks), tennis courts and boules courts.
Olonzac is set in the heart of western Mediterranean Europe in the Herault department of Languedoc-Rousillon. It is perfectly located being just 1.5 hours east of Toulouse, 3 hours north of Barcelona and 2.5 hours west to Provence. Italy is less than 4 hours away. Airports are located at Beziers, Carcassonne, Toulouse and Perpignan, and the nearest TGV railway stations are at Narbonne and Montpellier. Olonzac, and Castel Grand Rue, makes a wonderful base for exploring what is a beautiful and diverse part of Europe.
Favourite sightseeing suggestions (click here to see photos)
Canal du Midi
An afternoon cruise on the Canal du Midi is highly recommended. The departure takes place in Homps, 3km from Olonzac. Two hour cruises depart daily between late March and the end of October and are a wonderful, relaxing way to take in the stunning scenery whilst marvelling at the workings of the locks that raise and lower the water level accordingly. Canal-side villages like Homps and Trebes offer numerous cafes and restaurants where you can dine alfresco and watch the passing boats.
Bikes can be hired and delivered to your door if you fancy riding along the towpaths of the Canal du Midi.
Carcassonne and its famous medieval castle is a 'must-visit' site in the region. The UNESCO World Heritage listed fortified city sits above the 'new' town and you can easily spend a few hours wandering the cobbled pathways inside the medieval walls and exploring the castle itself. Numerous shops, restaurants and cafes are now housed inside the walls and there are fantastic views towards the Pyrenees from the castle walls.
On Bastille Day, 14th July, Carcassonne becomes one of the busiest places in France and hosts a spectacular fireworks display.
Lac de Jouarres
A magnificent lake, Lac de Jouarres, is only a few minutes away. Here you can fish, sunbathe, swim, windsurf, picnic or sail. There is also a restaurant and cafe overlooking the water.
The village of Minerve (seven kilometres from the house) was a strategic place for the Cathars and an important stopover for the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostelle in Spain during the medieval times. The small Musee Hurepel is well worth a visit. Sixteen scenes, complete with intricately made clay figurines, depict the story of the Cathars struggle against the Crusaders. As one of France’s 'most beautiful villages', it is definitely worth a visit.
With its colourful Medieval buildings built around the town square, Mirepoix makes a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee or a delicious meal made from locally sourced produce.
Beziers is one of the oldest towns in Europe with research showing that it dates from 575 BC. As a Cathar stronghold during the Albigensian Crusade, it is believed that up to 20,000 people were massacred at Beziers when the town was sacked in 1209. The Cathedrale de Saint-Nazaire, which sits high on a rock above the town, and the medieval bridge, Pont-Vieux, are the first things most visitors to Beziers notice. Beziers' annual bull fighting festival, Feria, is held every August and attracts 1 million people to the town.
Montpellier is a vibrant university town and was voted by the French as the best city in France. With plenty of shopping options available as well as its proximity to the Mediterranean (just 11 kilometres), a visit to Montpellier makes a great day out.
The Fontfroide Abbey, along with the abbeys Fontcaude and Lagrasse, are all less than half an hour away. The ruined, but still spectacular, fortresses of Peyrepertuse, Montsegur and Queribus are the scenes of the last desperate struggles of the Cathar rebels. The four ruined Cathar castles of Lastours are another example of the Cathars fight for survival.
Narbonne dates back to pre-Roman times and was once the capital of the Languedoc. Highlights of the city include the beautiful Cathedral, the Archbishop's Palace (now the Town Hall) and Les Halles, the covered market. The market operates from Monday to Saturday, selling a huge range of fresh produce. Every Thursday and Sunday an additional market operates on the banks of the Canal de Robine. Narbonne, just 30 minutes from Olonzac, also boasts a large shopping centre.
A further 20 minutes from Narbonne is Narbonne Plage, a beautiful stretch of beach along the Mediterranean.
Wineries and local produce
Many important wine cellars are scattered all around the region, and sampling is encouraged. On the way to Béziers (20 kilometres) stop in Bize-Minervois, a small village that has a well known olive cellar. There you can buy many different types of olive oils, olives (black or green), numerous types of jams, crafts, soaps, and much more.
The Mediterranean is in easy reach with the closest beach at Narbonne Plage. Other popular beachside towns to visit include Gruissan, Sete and Collioure. Europe's largest nudist colony can be found at Cap d'Agde.