Travel History of Languedoc

I'm travelling to Languedoc next summer (10 nights self catering by the coast near Beziers in June) and am interested in finding out a bit of the history of the region before I go.

I am starting from a baseline of almost complete ignorance. All I know is what is mentioned (briefly) in the guidebooks.

Can any of you learned gentlemen recommend some books on the subject I might read over the coming months?

Tha rise and fall of the Cathars and the unification of Languedoc with France sounds like an interesting period, but I'll check out anything that looks interesting.

Dan
 
First of all, think twice about staying on the coast near Beziers unless you mean in Sete. It ain't great.

Secondly, "The Yellow Cross" is a good book to read about the Cathar episode. Books on the Templars are also worth a read. They were big down here. The most famous novel on the region is probably "Labyrinth" but IMO it's a bit in the chick-lit category. Da Vinci Code and the conspiracy theory books, notably Holy Blood Holy Grail, that formed its framework, are actually worth a read. Rennes-le-Chateau is pretty atmospheric if you know the history.

You will get a feeling from the area from visiting the great Abbeys of the Aude, Narbonne cathedral, the Cathar castles of Peyrepertuse, Quillan and Montsegur as well as the nicely restored towns of Carcassonne and Aigues Mortes.
 
Thanks for the tips.

The most important thing for me about where we've booked is that there's lots of activities to keep our 2 1/2 year old busy!

I plan on making a few day trips to see some of the interesting historical sites. Carcassonne was on the list already, but those castles sound good too. Maybe we could do a couple in one day as they're a couple of hours from where we'll be staying.
 
Carcassonne is well worth seeing, but do be aware it is a "recreation" by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in (I think) the 1850s. That restoration, as with many of his other works, has been criticised as a "fantasy". However, as a fantasy it is pretty impressive.

The Holy Blood... book is one load of twaddle and hogwash. However, it's a great read and contains much about the region, the Templars and the Cathars which is fascinating. I enjoyed it. The story around Rennes-le-Chateau is in that book and is also very odd, even stranger that a church has a slightly scary statue of The Devil in its porch. The village is pretty much like Glastonbury for New Age shops etc.

All the Cathar castles are worth a look, perched high on rocky crags.

Some of the most beautiful abbeys in the region are close to Jon, in the foothills of the Pyrenees - St. Michel-de-Cuxa and the working abbey (silent order but the choir sings) of St. Martin de Canigou, which is reached on foot (assume that's still the case).
 
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