Capendu is in the Occitanie region of the south west of France, close to Carcasonne. (Occitanie is formed by the former regions of Languedoc Rousillon and Midi Pyrénées merged into a new super region.) Flat, sunny beaches, a wealth of historical towns and villages, and a wide range of outdoor pursuits for all ages make this a wonderful vacation spot that is far less crowded than neighbouring Provence.
Historically, Languedoc was an independent state with its own language: Occitan. It still takes pride in its own traditions and heritage, and the language itself has experienced a recent revival and is taught in some schools. Roussillon was a Spanish possession until 1659 and is equally proud of its Catalan heritage. You will notice the Spanish influence in its food and architecture. The region is a charming mix of the ancient and the modern, from the medieval fortified Cité of Carcassonne to the smart bustling metropolis of Montpellier.
Our village, Capendu, is a typical Languedocian ‘village circulade’ or ‘spiral village’ with its medieval streets winding around in an ever-narrowing spiral like that of a snail’s shell.
Situated between the river Aude and Montagne d’Alaric, Capendu is only a few minutes’ drive from the castle and medieval Cité of Carcassonne and only 2km away from the peaceful Canal du Midi.
Capendu has the ideal climate for a perfect holiday thanks to the sheltering protection of the Montagne d’Alaric, and gets over 300 days of sunshine each year.
The ruins of the fortified 14th century Chateau Capendu preside over the village from the heart of the spiral, although it is documented that a castle already existed in Capendu as far back as 1063.
Close by stands the Montagne d’Alaric, a long, humpback whale-shaped mountain which dominates the Aude valley between Narbonne and Carcassonne. Only 600 meters in height, it has well-worn, ancient summits with broad, rounded shoulders. In comparison to the nearby Pyrenees, a few hours to the southwest of here, it is really more of a large hill than a mountain and is great for hiking and rambling.
Perhaps the Montagne d’Alaric was more impressive in the 5th century when it was named for the fearsome Visigoth King, Alaric II, who fought here against the Franks. But what it might lack in altitude, the Montagne d’Alaric makes up in ambiance and lore. Rumor has it that Alaric’s tomb, filled with a rich treasure, is hidden in a cave beneath the mountain. The Montagne also sits on one of the ancient pilgrimage trails that leads to Compostelle in Spain, and the surrounding mountains are full of medieval Cathar strongholds and fortified hilltop towns – places like the UNESCO World Heritage Site La Cité of Carcassonne.
Today Capendu is a lovely mix of sleepy tradition and lively modern life. There is a friendly bar which has a shaded garden with tables & chairs. A short walk away are two restaurants, L’Idiot du Village and Le Top du Roulier, both serving good quality, regional dishes. Every Tuesday and Friday Gino’s pizza van arrives and cooks delicious pizzas to order.
There are two boulangerie-patisseries (bakeries) in the village. There is also an excellent small supermarket, Vival, which stocks a wide selection of food, including fresh fruit and vegetables and has a superb butcher and a fantastic cheese and deli counter with a wide range of products. They even sell hot-roasted chickens to order. Capendu also has a handy pharmacy, a post office, and a newsagent as well as a modern medical practice and dentist’s surgery.
We will recommend and can book other local restaurants for you. For an amazing gastronomic experience, why not try the local 3-star Michelin restaurant in the nearby village of Fontjoncouse, the Auberge du Vieux Puits.
During the summer there are lots of different things to do in the village. Capendu celebrates Bastille Day, 14th July, in style with fireworks, a disco and cabaret show. Throughout the month of August you can picnic in the delightful grounds of the ‘Maison de Retraite’ (a former Chateau) and enjoy the open air Saturday evening cinema showings. Regional Boules competitions are held throughout the summer in the boulodrome just opposite Domaine des Hirondelles.
The village also boasts a Cultural Centre which has a library and a small concert hall and theatre which hosts good quality performances throughout the year. There is also an indoor swimming pool on the edge of the village which is open all year round too.