The Lauragais region
À la campagne
This region is not very well known yet. The daily life in the villages and small towns is basic, pure and provincial. It really is France ‘à la campagne!’ Endless fields with sunflowers, grain, vineyards, rivers, canals, forests, hills and mountains. A varied landscape, sometimes charming and then again tough and robust with often a view of the Pyrenees.
The Lauragais is in the south-west of France and is named after the former ‘capital’ Laurac. The Lauragais covers a large area, on both sides of the Canal du Midi, between cities like Toulouse in the northwest and Carcassonne in the southeast, between Castres in the northeast and Pamiers in the southwest. After the French Revolution, the Lauragais was separated into 4 departments: the Haute-Garonne, the Aude, the Ariège and the Tarn.
The Lauragais is an agricultural area also called the Granary of the Languedoc. When the Canal du Midi was dug in the 17th century by order of Louis the 14th, the grain export brought a lot of economic prosperity to the area. It is sometimes called the ‘Tuscany of France’ or ‘the land of a thousand hills’.
The region is famous and infamous for its rough history and especially because the Lauragais was the scene of major religious conflicts. In the 12th century, the south-west of France was also known as the ‘land of the Cathars’. Catharism was a religion that refused to accept the Old Testament, the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. This led to crusades, sieges and wars in, among others, the Lauragais. The ‘Cité of Carcassonne’, a medieval fortified city, also played an important role in the battle between Catholics and Cathars.
The Lauragais is situated very centrally. The Mediterranean Sea, Toulouse, ski resorts in the Pyrenees and the Montagne Noir, as well as several lakes and rivers are all within easy reach. The most famous dish from this region is ‘Cassoulet’, with Castelnaudary as its worldwide capital, although this is still disputed with Toulouse and Carcassonne.