Paraza, village on the Canal du Midi, Languedoc
Paraza is a canal town, built on the prosperity of trade and wine, set on a hill that overlooks the Aude Valley, and on a clear day one can see the Pyrenees, and the Mediterranean. The town sits alongside the Canal du Midi, an architectural and engineering achievement built in the 18th Century to link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, now busy with tourist boats and barges.
Near the center of the village, dominating the brow of the hill is the Chateau de Paraza, once the home of Riquet - the man who created the Canal du Midi. The Chateau's vineyards surround the upper land, and climb to a hill a little outside the village, that once was a pre-christian burial site, as well as being later a part of the Abbaye de Fontfoide's lands. The owners - Annick and Pascal Danglas, have created some fine wines including a lovely smooth sweet syrupy 2011 red, as well as a more oaky full bodied 2009 red - at 9 euros a bottle. For those seeking utter refinement - buy In Vino Veritas at 20 euros a bottle. Well worth the climb up from the Canal to buy.
Off to one side of the main road that winds through the village is the village church, which inside is colorfully decorated by baroque figures of saints. On the opposite side of the square on the side of a house, one can find an old sign for a barber dating back to 1873.
Neighboring villages include Roubia -with a lovely bridge across the Canal du Midi, with another English run excellent restaurant and bar, La Fourchette Folle - with draft beer, as well as Ventenac, which supports 3 canal side restaurants, as well as a castle like cave, selling local wines.
30 minutes drive is the Mediterranean, and the city of Narbonne, 20 minutes up the Aude valley is the splendidly preserved walled city of Carcassonne. Close to the north are the gorges and villages of the Minervois, sites of dolmens, castles, roman camps, ancient abbeys. Vineyards are everywhere!
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