La Montagne Noir or Black Mountains are part of the Haut Languedoc Regional National Park.
They sweep through central France from the heavy mixed deciduous woodland at their northern end to olive groves in the south.
If you love Nature then the biodiversity of these mountains will lift you spirits and feed your soul. From the shadowed pine forests to the deciduous dappled light of Oak and Beech these mountains are unspoilt and rich in flora and fauna.
If you follow the winding road up from Durfort to Les Cammaze in the Black Mountains there are stables where you can arrange to trek through the unspoilt forests and meadows of this wild and verdant place. The horses are well trained and you will be led by an experienced local stable guide who like the horses knows the mountains well.
The town of revel is a 14cC bastide town fonded in 1342, beautifully lined with galleried house and shops. one of my favourites is the textile or fabric shop where there is something for every taste.
Since the 19C cabinet and furniture makers, scultors and bronzers have made Revel the capital of 'The Furniture of Art'.
In Revel is the second oldest covered market in France. It is said that it has remained open every Saturday for over six hundred years. This market is the meeting point for the local village communities and farmers who gather to sell their produce, to barter and trade goods of all kinds from beds to baskets. Here you can buy a live chicken or a fresh cooked one straight from the roasting spit.
There are fresh locally grown vegetables and herbs sourced directly from small agricultural co-ops which are the backbone of French rural life. Cheese, Fish, Wine, Flowers, Olives of every shape and size and flavour .
On the outer ring road are stalls selling clothes and baskets, ironmongery and assorted odds and ends for the house
This market is a weekly highlight of the local area, a meeting place to chat over coffee, share the news and watch the world go by. A wonderful market which truly captures the intricate and ancient cultures of this part of France.
Soreze is a village with a powerful history.
An ancient military academy has been tastefully restored and now offers a hotel and various cultural summer activies. including book fairs, classial music evenings , a dog fair and a horse fair.
Also the home of the wonderful Museum Dom Robert, whose tapestry works are famous worldwide and must be seen whilst in France.
The village is peaceful and only a short walk across the mountain from Durfort.
The boulangeries in Soreze are a great place to buy bread and croissant each morning for breakfast.
Through the mountains towards Carcassonne is the village of Monteliou, the village of books.
Books from all over the world gather here in their millions to be discovered and read.
Here they are sold, exchanged, repaired and cared for.
A stunning and very beautiful hilltop village nestled on the edge of a steep river gorge surrounded by rich grape laden vineyards its buildngs drop down the cliff face towards the cold river below.
Here you will find books galore, delicious food and a growing host of unusual artistic talents hiding amidst the rambling streets and alleyways.
If you love books and enjoy imaginative contemporary art then you will love Monteliou.
Toulouse was the ancient capital of the Midi when France was a tribal national and the capital of the Visigoth kingdom in 5th century .
Known as “la Ville rose” ( the pink city ) for its buildings of red brick it offers a rich tapestry of French culture and history.
Sitting on the banks of the River Garrone it is the fourth largest city in France.
Museums, markets, cathedral, boutique shopping, excellent restaurants and comprehensive travel links to the rest of Europe and beyond.
Toulouse is accessable by car from Durfort or by bus from Revel.
Saissac is a village rich in Cathar history, typical of many small villages in the Montagne Noir. On a promintory of rock looking out onto the plain of Carcassonne stands the remains of the Chateau of Saissac which is a runined Cather castle . Throughout the village are ancient towers and the remains of the walls which once encircled and defended it.
The village itself hugs the rocks and in places its gardens slip genlty down towards the valley floor.
There is a beautiful ancient church and a museum along with a small bar and restaraunt.
My favourite place to eat is a small vegetarian cafe "Tresors de oc" as you come into town from the direction of Cammazes - 1 Place de la Marie,11310 Saissac.
The village is small, a hamlet which lies quietly between heavily wooded hillsides.
It is a tranquil comfortably restful place, many miles and even years from the bustle of 21C life.
Built in the 1360's it replaces a much older village on the hillside near the fortified Castelar.
Durfort translates as "strong-hard" and sits as the gateway to the Black mountains.
Durfort spreads along the banks of a small river, the Sor, whose spring rises in the mountians near the village of Arfons.
There are two narrow streets filled with individual stone and timber frame houses each unique in their shape and layout.
Over centuries these houses have had many uses as craftspeople and tradesmens families have lived and worked in them as they do to this day.
Down the middle of each street runs a gulley of fresh cold mountain water, a remnant of the villages 16C copper history.
During the summer there are a number of small events in the village from the Tchachason to the Fete de leau each bringing the community together in celebration and merriment.
Above the village at Malamort is the Via Ferrata where you can climb and walk across and up sheer rock faces, all equipment supplied by the providers.
There is a small family run restaurant "La Table de Durfort" with excellent food where booking is always required.
At the edge of the village a small roman bridge leads across the Sor to a spring of fresh mountain water collected and enjoyed by locals each day.