Nestled in the foothills of the Black Mountains, Caunes-Minervois is a storybook French village, with cobbled streets too narrow for cars, one beautiful door after another, stone walls adorned with climbing roses and ivy.It also has lots of life. Although it doesn’t even have 2,000 residents, it has EIGHT restaurants! They are really good, too. The Hôtel d’Alibert, for example, is beautiful and delicious. The Cantine de la Curé (the priest’s canteen–it’s across from the abbey) has tapas in a garden. La Mangeoire (manger, as in away in a) and la Marberie (the marble works–Caunes is known for its quarry for red marble) have lovely interiors as well as shady terraces. In the summer, outdoor classical concerts on Fridays animate the lovely garden behind the abbey. In winter, jazz concerts in the abbey’s caveau, or wine cellar, take advantage of the great acoustics.The monastery was the heart of the ancient village, although it was inhabited since neolithic times, and later had a Roman villa. The abbey was started in the 8th century, when the town was becoming rich. You can visit the church, sumptuously decorated with local marble, and go under the altar to the crypt. There’s a cloister, and a small museum of archaeological finds.
Mostly, though, it’s a pleasure just to stroll around Caunes. Some of the streets turn into stairs, and most in the center of the village are just too narrow for cars to pass. Which means the soundtrack for your walk is the wind and birds.
There are some beautiful homes, not just from medieval times but also Renaissance, including Hôtel d’Alibert. Most of the Renaissance buildings are near the mairie, or town hall.
The doors range from majestically imposing to extremely small. I saved most of them for another post just on doors.
Near the abbey is an old lavoir, or communal laundry, which still gets used.
Its location on a hill offers views across the plain that extends to the Pyrénées. Gorgeous.
And the views of the roofs are wonderful, too.
Charm is everywhere.
Though it’s not without its challenges.
I hope you enjoyed Caunes-Minervois. If you ever see wine from here, buy it (there are several wineries). You won’t be disappointed.
Caunes is a great daytrip from Carcassonne. I haven’t finished with it, either. We will go out of town the next time, plus I have to visit the marble quarry, since our kitchen counters came from it.