The old thermal baths - now closed
The old thermal baths – now closed

Situated in the Aude valley and surrounded by mountains is the lovely town of Alet-les-Bains. It is approximately thirty kilometers south of Carcassonne and an hour  east of the Mediterranean Sea and well into the “Pays Cathare”.

Once, Alet-les-Bains was a walled city. It had its own abbey, bishop and cathedral. All of this was fortified by ramparts and a moat in 1197. Today, it is a quiet village of five hundred but the remnants of its glorious past remain. You can still walk among the ruins of a medieval Jewish ghetto.

The natural springs remain and water from the springs is bottled and sold commercially. Yet, if you know and plan ahead, there is a spring fed fountain near the old spa where you can fill up any bottles you might have and there is no charge. The town has been famous for its thermal waters since Roman times. Today, the spas are closed. A victim to these hard financial times, the funds for badly needed restoration and changes that would bring it up to date are not available.



Don't forget an empty bottle of two...
Don’t forget an empty bottle of two…

Despite closure of the spa, there are well preserved ruins that are well worth a visit. Many “belles demeures à colombages” or half-timbered houses, grace the steets. The medieval square features traditional medieval houses and one of these in which it is believed that Nostradamus had lived. Also among the ruins are a 12th century cathedral, the Episcopal Palace, the 14th century Chapter House, the Medieval town and more.

Le rivère
Le rivère

The natural springs were well known in ancient times attracting the Romans who had seized much of the lands. It is reported that Nostradamus and Charlemagne took the waters here. One of the oldest of bottled waters in France, it has been available for purchase for over 120 years. Furthermore, The French Ministry of Health recognized its intrinsic worth bestowing offical authorization to bottle the spring water back in 1886.

Bonne année, bonne santé et bisous!


Through the cathedral window, you might catch a glimpse of the Star of David from the old ghetto.








Wrapped in history!
Wrapped in history!
Living with history



L’époque médiévale

Just outside the city of Narbonne, on the Mediterranean, is the beautiful beach village of Gruissan.  Besides being my favorite swimming beach in the area, it also plays host to numerous events such as this Medieval re-enactment .

For the fifth year there is on offer a weekend commemoration of  the Days of Heritage. Participants in the ceremony and most of the vendors that I observed were dressed in period costume. All kitted out with bows, arrows, crossbows, swords, shields and more were the twelve troops of riders, knights and of course their ladies fair and other members of their communities. The Trencavel family faced off the armies of the Knights of Templar. The Cathar or Albigensian Crusades lasted from the 11th to the 13 century. The Cathars having their own beliefs and not conforming to the dogma of Rome were tortured, slaughtered and believed to be annihilated.

The Days of Heritage is a vibrant pageant of troubadours, dancers, jugglers, fire-eaters, twelve troops of riders, knights in full regalia. Across the estuary, spectators crowded in to watch the story unfold. It was clear as the re-enactment of   XIII century events that the loyalties of the spectators were with the Cathars and not with the Inquisitors. There were no cheers for the victors and the silence of spectators during the battle was erie.

Visitors quietly dispersed and moved into the center of the town where there was exhibition of Medieval life and vendors selling items related to the re-enactment and more. There was a woman making chain maille (a type of metal fabric used in several historical periods) and soldiers gave tips on sword-fighting.

Making Chain Maille



Deux demoiselles
Toy sized bows, arrows and shields for sale
Sword fighting tips
Simon de Montfort
Chain maille examples