After we parked we headed uphill, not much choice really as the carpark is down at the bottom.
We didn't have to walk far before we came to the bakery, indicated initially by its smell. Being a sucker for a freshly baked biscuit I went a bought a few.
As we walked up further to the nearby windmill we passed a Salon de The and I earmarked that for later.
The windmill was locked and we walked around the town before returning to the salon. It was while waiting for someone to come, in answer to the buzzer that sat outside on a chair, that I worked out that whoever owned the salon had the keys to the windmill.
Then someone arrived; it was the same woman who had served us at the bakery just down the hill! Seems like the family has a mortgage on the tourist attractions in Cucugnan.
Below Quéribus is the village of Cucugnan. The church here has a statue of a pregnant Virgin Mary, but the town is more famous for a story, well-known throughout France, called Le Curé de Cucugnan. The story tells how the priest in the village, worried by the lack of faith of his parishioners, made his sermons into terrifying stories of hell. He conjured up such appalling visions that his parishioners were terrified into believing. Visitors to the village were henceforth struck by the piety of its inhabitants. Le Curé de Cucugnan was originally told in Occitan by Achille Mir, one of a group of 19th-century writers known as the "Félibres", dedicated to keeping Occitan culture alive. The story was popularised by another member of the group, Alphonse Daudet, in his collection of tales of Occitan life Lettres de mon Moulin, "Letters from my Windmill". (The misleading habit of referring to Occitan as Provençal has led people to imagine that Cucugnan must be in Provence). The village now houses a "pocket theatre", the Théâtre Achille Mir, in which the tale is regularly enacted. (A ticket for the theatre entitles you to enter to the Chateau at Quéribus, and vice versa).
One of the Cathar Castle that was one of the focuses of the Albigensian Crusade that started in 1208 and resulted in a complete religion and way of life being wiped out in the name of the Catholic Church.
Queribus was taken and later used by successive French generations as a fortress defending the southern border with Spain.
Drive up and park at in the car-park and then walk up the rest of the mountain to the castle perched on the top. In 2005 it is €5 per adult and less for kids. It is a vigorous stroll....
This gorge is a 2 star rated Michelin attraction so I shouldn't categorize it as an "off the beaten path" tip you may suggest but, bearing in mind the road that you have to travel on, it will only attract the adventurous.
While the gorge is spectacular in its own right, the road is unforgettable as well. Narrow, winding, cut into the solid cliff in the late 19th century by a Spanish engineer, it isn't what you'd call wide.
At several places you may have to back up to let other vehicles pass though I was lucky and was able to pull over twice while traffic went through.
The best part of the gorge was drenched in mist the day I was there so I didn't get photos until I the latter part of the canyon.
Still, it's an experience I don't regret.
Many villages still bear an Occitan name (eg Fa, Cascastel, Cucugnan, Villemoustsaussou).
The Occitan language is undergoing something of a revival. Today one in five can understand the language and it is taught in schools and universities, including Toulouse University.
Almost a thousand years after their appearance on the literary scene, troubadours still exist. They sing the songs and recite the poems of the first troubadours, and still toutch the hearts of their audiences. Scholars, researchers and artists are involved in the analysis of ancient manuscripts, the reconstruction of original melodies, and even in the reproduction of medieval musical instruments.
Fondest memory: If you want to hear them, their principal meeting point is in Pennautier, near Carcassonne, at the CREMM Trobar, European Musical Research and Creation Centre.
There are still Occitan speaking communities in the Val d'Aran in Spain and the 12 southernmost alpine valleys in Italian Piedmont.
There are also an increasing number of Occitanists in France. Occitanists campaign for the recognition and the use of the Occitan language in the administration and the media. The word refers to a cultural activity, not a political one. Many Occitanists are anti-nationalist and anti-regionalist.