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Cities in the southwest France: history, tourist sites, activities.

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Eight suggestions for touring the southwest of France.

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Traditional dish recipes from southwest part of France.

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France in facts and figures! Interesting less known facts about France

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"I Love Mysteries - Enigmatic and Legendary Sites in the Southwest of France" Suggested Travel Itinerary

1
A dolmen is defined as "a structure usually regarded as a tomb, consisting of two or more large, upright stones set with a space between and capped by a horizontal stone".
The word dolmen comes from the Breton language: daul signifies table and moen means stone.
This etymology led some to believe that the dolmens were druidic altars built in open air. Most probably however the dolmens were Neolithic common funeral chambers - since usually many skeletons were discovered inside.
The "Morel dos Fados" dolmen - the dolmen of the "Fairies Hill" in Occitan language - is located on a little pine trees covered hill on the territory of Pépieux commune at the border between Aude and Hérault departments of southwest of France,...

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2
Arles-sur-Tech Holy Tomb
Arles-sur-Tech is a small town at the feet of Canigou Mountain in the eastern Pyrenees region or more precisely the "Pyrenees Orientales" department of southwest France.
The town's Benedictine Sainte-Marie abbey was founded by Charlemagne in the beginning of the 9th century after he chased away the Moors to the other side of the Pyrenean Mountains - in nowadays Spain.
The priory is famous for its gothic style cloister and the church's remarkable 12th century frescos.
But what brought an international fame to the Sainte-Marie abbey and indeed to this little town is a marble carved paleochristian sarcophagus, dating from the 4th or 5th century AD, known by the name of the "Holy Tomb...

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3
Bugarach - The Sacred Mountain
Bugarach is a quiet charming little village - population 180 - at the feet of the peak with the same name, in heart of the Corbières region.
The Bugarach Mountain – that with its 1231 meters height dominates the region – is an “upside down” mountain meaning a mountain where upper layers of rock - dating from the Jurassic age 135 million years ago - are older than the lower ones - dating from the Cretacic age 75 million years ago. One explanation is that millions of years ago, at the time of the Pyreneean chain creation, a powerful explosion propelled the mountain's tip that landed afterwards upside down. Because of this geological anomaly the magnetic poles of the site...

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4

Capendu and Alaric Mountain

For treasure hunters!
Capendu and Alaric Mountain
Capendu is a little town - population just over 1,500 - situated some 20km east of Carcassonne, at the feet of the Alaric Mountain, on the north side of the Corbières massif. This positioning close to the mountain gave the town its name that was initially Campendut which means steep hill; cam: hill and pendut: steep.
Capendu is, like many urban communities of the region, a circular defensive town. Its center is marked by a little rocky outcrop on which stands the ruined choir of a 13th century chapel, all that now remains of Capendu’s medieval castle. Surrounding the town's centre is a defensive wall and houses - built outside of this fortified line - disposed in rings around the...

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5
Castela Underground Galleries of Saint Sulpice
Situated exactly halfway on the road between Toulouse and Albi, Saint Sulpice is one of the first off built "bastide albigeoises".
A bastide is a town built in the late Middle Ages after a new, at the time, urban plan with a central square and houses surrounding it. There were between 300 and 500 bastides built in the southwest of France between 1222 and 1373.
Saint Sulpice was founded towards 1240 by Sicard Alaman a liegeman of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse.
On a knoll overlooking the l'Agout River, inside the bastide, Alaman erected a fortified castle equipped with living quarters for him and his family, his officers and the town's bailiff, armories, a watching tower and a chapel.
The castle was...

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6

Cénevières Castle

Mysterious
Cénevières Castle
Cénevières castle is considered an epitome of the Renaissance architecture in Quercy region of the department of Lot. Hanging from a cliff 50 meters above the Lot River the castle was built between the 9th and 14th century as a defensive fort by its first two successive owners: the La Popie and Gourdon families.
In the first half of the 16th century Flotard de Gourdon, Viscount of Cénevières and Gaiffier and his wife Margueritte de Cardaillac, Baronne de Saint-Cirq Lapopie transformed the castle in a Renaissance palace. They added a central building with a gallery with nine Tuscan style columns, painted ceilings, an alchemy room, opening large carved windows.
Their son Antoine de Gourdon, a Calvinism convert, was one of the...

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7
La Lanterne des Morts
The "Lanterne des Morts" - The Dead Souls' Flashlight- cone topped cylindrical building is located next to a little old cemetery - templar according to some opinions - on the east side of the Saint Sacerdos Cathedral of Sarlat.
The structure was built in the 12th century.
Its role has defied historians.
Some believe that it was used in olden time as literally a "flashlight" for the guidance of the souls of the deceased buried in the cemetery.
According to another legend Bernard de Clairvaux - a leading figure of the Cistercian religious order - passing through Sarlat in August 1147, on his return from the Albigensian crusade, found the town in the grip of the plague. He...

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8

Montsaunès Templars Church

Esoteric Drawings
Montsaunès Templars Church
A Templar commandry was set up in the village of Montsaunès, in what is now the department of Haute-Garonne of southwest France, in 1146 and its chapel - which is now the village's church and the only remaining building of the compound - was built in 1180.
The Templars' presence in Montsaunes lasted until 1312 when all the order's properties were transferred, by the order of King Philip le Bel of France, to Knights Hospitallers.
Event though it went through an extensive restoration in the 19th century the Montsaunès church, dedicated now to Saint-Christophe, keeps traces of its initial Romanesque architectural style.
The church is remarkable due to its entrances' sculptures as well as its interior esoteric murals.
The north entrance (now on the...

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9

Montsegur Castle

Cathar Castle
Montsegur Castle
Richard Wagner has celebrated it in Parsifal:"In a remote country, far from your steps//A castle exists that is called Montsalvat" and according to the legend the cathar Grail - a stone that fell from the sky and illuminates the whole world - is still hidden in the bowels of the mountain the castle sits on the top of.
This legend was taken to its face value - and it is maybe true! - by the German writer Otto Rahn, who spend several years in the '30s in the search of the Grail. He did not find it but his travels and actions seem to be, according to some, the inspiration for the "Indiana Jones" movies by George Lucas!
Montsegur Castle is...

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10

Pierrefitte Menhir

Mysterious
Pierrefitte Menhir
The menhir of Pierrefitte, situated on the Dordogne valley on the territory of Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens village some 42km (26mi) east of Bordeaux, is one of the biggest in the southwest of France. It has a height of 5.20 meters, a maximal width of 3 meters and a thickness of 1,5 meters. Its estimated weight is 50 tones.
Because the region was populated since Neolithic times the menhir is most probably between 4600 and 4300 years old.
On one of its sides at about 70cm above the ground there is a circular "offerings" hole dug during the Middle Ages. At the time this standing stone was marking the limit of the jurisdiction of Saint Emilion
According to the legend the menhir is bringing happiness...

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11

Sidobre

Mysterious
Sidobre
The story started around 300 millions years ago when liquid magma was buried under a huge mountain chain. In time the mountains have been eroded by wind and water and what remains of them is the central France mountainous structure called Massif Central. The lava has cooled down during millions of years and gave birth to a granite block - around 15 km long, 7 km wide and 10 km deep, one of the biggest in Europe - that forms now the Sidobre region, part of the Natural Park of Haut Languedoc.
Situated between the towns of Castre at west and Brassac at east, Sidobre offers extraordinary, unique in Europe, landscapes with huge masses of granite, sometimes strangely carved by nature...

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12
The hill-top village of Rennes-le-Château
A reader interested in a book making a reference to Rennes le Château will have a hard time choosing among the more then 100 books offered only by Amazon.com on this subject. Of course the best known are: "The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail" by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, "The Sion Revelations, Inside the Shadowy World of Europe's Secret Masters" by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, for the more pragmatic Umberto Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum" and of course Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" - that even though does not make any direct reference to the village it is still related to it by the names of some key character names like Jacques Sauniere and a man called...

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13
The Intermittent Spring of Fontestorbes
The intermittent spring of Fontestorbes is a natural wonder.
It was already famous during antiquity and throughout the centuries it was attributed magical or divine powers.
Its name Fontestorbes comes from the Latin "fons turbatus" which means "enraged fountain". During the dry periods between the middle of July and middle of November the spring becomes intermittent.
A cycle starts with the water gushing noisily from the bottom of the cave with an impressive speed, and then it calms down and flows normally during 10 minutes until it reaches the maximum level from where it forms a cascade that feeds the river l'Hers. Subsequently the water starts to recede to finally disappear through a breach in the right part of the cave.
The whole cycle...

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14

Villandraut Castle

Mysterious
Villandraut Castle
Villandraut castle is a still impressive structure located in the town of Villandraut some 60km south of Bordeaux (near the famous Sauternes wine region). It is listed as a Historic Monument since 1886 and along with Roquetaillade, Budos and Blanquefort is one of the so called "clementin castels" built by different de Got family members the most famous of whom was Pope Clement V.
The town of Villandraut is the birth place of Raymond Bertrand de Got (1264 - 20 April 1314) successively canon and sacristan of the Cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux, vicar-general to his brother the archbishop of Lyon, bishop of St-Bertrand-de-Comminges and private secretary to Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and archbishop of Bordeaux begining in 1297.
In 1305 with...

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