Hiking the Sentier Cathare, Episode 480

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Categories: Active Vacations in France, Occitanie

Welcome to today’s episode where Annie Sargent and Christian Chauret  embark on a journey through the rugged landscapes and rich history of Southern France, exploring the Sentier Cathare, or the Cathar Trail (aka GR367).

This historic path takes us deep into the heart of the Languedoc / Occitanie region, tracing the footsteps of the Cathars, a medieval Christian sect whose beliefs set them apart from the Catholic Church, leading to the brutal Albigensian Crusade in the 12th and 13th centuries. We discussed this in detail in episode 387 (Cathars Beliefs and Lifestyle) and 388 (The Crusade Against the Cathars) of the podcast.

The Path of the Heretics: Hiking the Sentier Cathare

The Sentier Cathare stretches approximately 250 kilometers, winding through the picturesque foothills of the Pyrenees, from the Mediterranean coast near Port-la-Nouvelle to the historic fortress of Foix. It’s not just a trek; it’s a journey back in time, offering a unique window into the tumultuous period of the Middle Ages, the architectural marvels of Cathar castles, and the breathtaking beauty of the Occitanie region.

As we navigate this trail, we'll uncover the stories of the Cathar people, their beliefs, their struggles, and the legacy they left behind in the form of majestic castles perched atop strategic vantage points, overlooking the vast, green expanse of the region. These fortresses, now in ruins, were once the last stands of the Cathars against the Catholic crusaders.

Today’s episode will delve into the historical significance of the Sentier Cathare, the cultural impact of the Cathar belief system, and the modern-day experience of hiking this trail that not only challenges the body but also stirs the soul with its deep historical echoes. Whether you’re a history buff, an avid hiker, or someone fascinated by France’s diverse cultural tapestry, this journey along the Sentier Cathare promises to enlighten and inspire. So, lace up your hiking boots, and let’s set off on this remarkable adventure through time and terrain.

How to Organizing this Hike

Help finding accommodations, you can use SentierCathare.FR or you can get the guidebook from the Fédération Française de Randonnée Pédestre called Itinérance sur le Sentier Cathare. You can use services like La Malle Postale to carry your backpack from place to place.

  • Put lots of miles on new footwear before you come
  • Plan your trip but be flexible because things happen

Ranking on the best places to live in France

Here are the top 10 in the 20214 ranking:

1: Angers (Maine-et-Loire)
2: Bayonne (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
3: Biarritz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
4: Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)
5: Annecy (Haute-Savoie)
6: Lorient (Morbihan)
7: Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine)
8: La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime)
9: Brest (Finistère)
10: Rodez (Aveyron)

You'll notice that there are lots of places on the Atlantic coast, one in the French Alps and another in Occitanie. Paris is at #103 in this ranking and Toulouse is at #63.

Accommodations Recommendations

Perpignan – Hôtel de la Loge: A simple hotel, but clean and great location in the old town near all the restaurants and sights. The shower was tiny.

Padern – Gîte d’Etape de Padern: A simple hostel with a large common area and a large bathroom. Perfect for hikers. Nobody else was there. Great location in the village.

Duilhac – Gîte d’Etape de Peyrpertuse: A simple hostel, which is perfect for hikers. The dormitory room was a bit small and felt a bit crowded with 6-7 people. They had “lost” my friend’s reservation, but we got it figured out eventually. Otherwise, it was a great location in the center of the village.

Gîte de la Bastide (near Camps-sur-l’Agly): This was more of a chambres d’hôte B & B type of place. It was a beautifully restored farmhouse owned and operated by a very friendly couple from Belgium (who served Belgium beers and local wines). Compared to the other gîtes, it was quite “luxurious”.

Aigue-Bonne (Lapradelle): Gîte chez Colette (farmhouse with a functioning farm). Colette (with her husband) has been operating this farm and gîte since the 1980s (or 1990s?). It is cozy and comfortable. Colette is so welcoming and friendly. She made us feel at home right away. Her cooking is excellent.

Axat – L’Echappée chambres d’hôte. Great comfort with individual rooms and nice beds!! A luxury after 6 days of hiking. I even had a sauna in my room. Great views of the surrounding mountains from our rooms. Our host was very friendly and welcoming.

#SentierCathare, #ActiveTravel, #MedievalFrance, #HikingAdventures, #CatharCountry, #FrenchHistory, #TravelInspiration, #AdventurePodcast, #HistoricTrails, #ExploreFrance

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Discussed in this Episode

  • GR367
  • Port-la-Nouvelle to Foix
  • Sentier des Bonshommes from Montségur to Spain
  • Semi-itinerant hiking
  • Vineyards in Vingrau
  • Chateau of Aguilar
  • Tuchan
  • Staying in Padern for the night
  • Using walking sticks
  • How much water to carry
  • Using the Komoot App
  • The eSIM card not working but getting 5G with Verizon's international plan
  • Best times to hike are May and October
  • Favorite part of the trip: hiking between Padern and Quéribus
  • Getting a ride from a local to the next town because of a storm
  • Dinner in Cucugnan
  • Spending two nights at a Gîte in Duilhac
  • Another favorite: Chateau de Peyrepertuse
  • La Malle Postale
  • Easy walk to the Gorges du Verdouble
  • Hardest day: Duilhac to Camps-sur-l'Agly with a detour to Gorges du Galamus
  • Camps-sur-l'Agly to Caudiès-de-Fenouillèdes
  • Peak of Bugarach a place where the end of the world did NOT take place
  • Best preserved: Chateau de Puilaurens
  • Last destination on the trail: Axat
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If you enjoyed this episode, you should also listen to related episode(s):

Christian Chauret (right) and his friend Eric Bain-Selbo: Sentier Cathare episode
Christian Chauret (right) and his friend Eric Bain-Selbo
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Transcript Guest Notes 

Categories: Active Vacations in France, Occitanie