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The Saintponais
Le Saintponais en français
park
In Roman mythology Janus (who gave his name to the first month of the modern year) was a god with two faces, enabling him to look both ahead and behind, a great help in his work as divine gate-porter. In much the same way, the Saint-Ponais (the area around the town of Saint-Pons de Thomières) is Janus-faced, one aspect turned towards the Atlantic and the other towards the Mediterranean. In whichever direction one cares to look, from the pine-forests of the Verreries de Moussans to the arid plateau of St Jean de Minervois, from the Lake of the Saut de Vésoles to the moorland that surrounds the gorges of the Cesse, what one sees is two co-existent worlds. Beneath the land that meets the eye there exists a further parallel subterranean world, where a maze of caves and gullies guards an intriguing hoard of remarkable geological treasures.

This duality is the origin of a great diversity of landscape, a veritable paradise for walkers and nature-lovers. The district is made up of nine communes: BOISSET, COURNIOU-LES-GROTTES, PARDAILHAN, RIEUSSEC, RIOLS, ST JEAN DE MINERVOIS, ST PONS DE THOMIÈRES, LES VERRERIES DE MOUSSANS et VELIEUX.
Old Town-hall
SAINT-PONS DE THOMIÈRES
Benefiting from a choice position on the crossroads of several important thoroughfares (roads to Piémont, Béziers, Narbonne and Mazamet), nestling in the valley of the river Jaur, at the foot of the mountains of the Somail and of the Avants-monts, the town makes an ideal base for all lovers of the countryside. The wooded slopes which surround it are an invitation to the walker or to the would-be gatherer of mushrooms or chestnuts. Its varied landscape, well-conserved environment and impressive architectural heritage attract more and more visitors with each year that passes. Those who care about tradition and enjoy local produce will not wish to miss the fête de la châtaigne, held during the last weekend in October, and la fête du cochon which warms the heart (and fills the belly) in the depths of winter during the last weekend in February. Walks around the town bring one to the cathedral (and its world-famous organ second only in quality to that of Notre-Dame de Paris), the Tour de la Gascagne, the Source of the Jaur, the Rues des Pénitents and de l’Empery or the Entre-deux-villes bridge and the Musée de la Préhistoire devoted to the various palaeolithic and neolithic civilisations that flourished in the area.

COURNIOU

In 1886, the workmen who constructed the railway-line to Mazamet unearthed, with the aid of copious picks and crowbars, a vast cavity of great beauty - the geological treasure that would make Courniou famous. Three years later the excavataion of the Grotte de la Devèze commenced to general wonderment in the face of this remarkable "palace woven in glass". It has been open to the public since 1933 and a tour round the Musée français de la Spéléologie makes a perfect complement to the visit.

Walks around the capitelles (characteristic stone shelters), cycle-routes, fishing...
PARDAILHAN situated on a plateau at an altitude of 500 metres this village boasts a local speciality to be found nowhere else whose taste is wholly unique: the black turnip.
ST JEAN DE MINERVOIS
In the midst of a vast expanse of white limestone, in a patchwork of small walled plantations a particularly robust vine has succeeded in establishing itself, producing a very special and much-prized local wine. This is the land of the famous Muscat de St Jean. The grape (a particular "petit grain" muscat alone capable of adapting to these difficult conditions) produces a quite exceptionally perfumed "vin doux naturel" (sweet dessert-wine) that has been classed as an AOC ("appellation contrôlée") since 1949.
Situated in the depths of a gorge, the church of St Jean de Dieuvaille was built in the 12th century on the foundations of an ancient hermitage.

INFORMATION:

MAISON DU TOURISME DU PAYS SAINT-PONAIS : 04 67 97 06 65
Email : st-pons-de-thomieres@wanadoo.fr
Website: www.saint-pons-tourisme.com

COMMUNAUTE DE COMMUNES: 04 67 97 39 34
Email: infos@payssaintponais.com
Website: www.payssaintponais.com
Click on the image for 3D tour!
The bridge Entre-deux-villes
Click on the image for 3D tour!
Marble-works

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Summary:
1 The Natural Regional Park of Upper Languedoc
2 The Sidobre
3 The Montagne Noire (Dourgne, Sorèze...)
4 Mazamet and region
5 The Monts de Lacaune - Brassac du Tarn
6 The Lakes and the Salvetois
7 The Valley of the Thoré
8 The Montredonnais

  9 The Valleys of the Orb and the Jaur
10 The Saint-Ponais
11 The Monts d'Orb

Following the wine trail:
12 The Faugérois
13 The Minervois
14 The Saint-Chiniannais
Clouds

View of Saint-Pons
   
© Photography, Thomas Hallbert
© English translation, David Bond.
© 2000-2008 vivrehautlanguedoc

thomas@idaeus.com