Exploring Cathar Country and the Pyrenees-Orientales (April 28 – May 7, 2018)

A Photographic Journey with Harold Davis

What and Where: In the twelfth century in the part of the world that is today southwestern France, a new set of religious beliefs coalesced and came to be known as the Cathar heresy. The Cathars believed in a supreme being and god of light, utterly unconcerned with matters of this world, and in a direct individual interaction with this god with no need for inter-mediation by the hierarchy of an established religion.

As one would expect, this view was anathema to the Catholic Church. In the early 1200s the church unleashed the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heresy under the aegis of the notorious Simon de Montfort. Power, religion, spirituality, and politics mixed, and by the end of the crusade the formerly independent country of Languedoc was firmly under the temporal sway of the King of France and the religious sway of the Catholic Church.

Pont Vieux, Albi © Harold Davis

Against the backdrop of this romantic and dramatic history, we will explore the ancient centers of Catharism. In Albi, the birthplace of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, we will walk across the bridge that spans the River Tarn and has been in continuous use for a thousand years, and marvel at the Basilica of Saint Cecile, built as a symbol of religious intolerance. In Carcassone, we will spend time exploring the incredibly romantic reconstruction of a medieval citadel by Viollet-le-Duc.

Carcassone © Harold Davis

Moving into the mountains, from a comfortable base we will explore the crags and remote fastnesses of the Pyrénées-Orientales. No one will ever forget a visit to the melancholy Montsegur, where following a devastating siege, hundreds of Cathars hurled themselves into the abyss or were burnt at the stake rather than renounce their faith, or to the Château de Quéribus, where the last of the Cathars eked out their wilderness survival against a world that seemed to have gone mad.

Château de Quéribus © Harold Davis

Wild, craggy peaks and deep canyon valleys dominate the Pyrénées-Orientales in scenery somewhat reminiscent of parts of the American West. The Pyrénées-Orientales and old Languedoc is a region where the wildness of the landscape and the flavor of Spanish cuisine mingles with traditional French culture to create a unique and very special world apart. 

While the primary emphasis of this journey will be photography, we’ll also take the time to learn more about Catharite beliefs, enjoy the unique culture, wild scenery, and cuisine of Cathar Country and the Pyrénées-Orientales.

Château de Saissac © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, April 28, 2018 (leave US Friday, April 27) to Monday, May 7, 2018 (nine nights and ten days).

Group Size: This is an exclusive, small photo workshop (non-photographer significant others are also welcome) with very limited space availability (the minimum group size is six and the maximum is twelve). We’ve heard quite a bit of excitement about exploring Cathar Country and the Pyrénées-Orientales with Harold, so this group will fill quickly.

How to Register: Please send us an email expressing interest right away; a completed registration requires a $1000 deposit, the trip Reservation Form, and a copy of your currently valid passport page.

Cost: $6,350 per person (single supplement $875); $500 early-bird discount for completed registration by September 15, 2017.

Inclusions: Nine nights lodging (one night in Toulouse, two nights in Albi, two nights in Carcassone, and four nights in the Pyrénées-Orientales, all breakfasts (9), many meals, private transfers from Toulouse to Albi, Albi to Carcassone, and to our base in the Pyrénées-Orientales and then back to Toulouse, professional licensed guides throughout, excursions to the Gorges de Galamos, Alet-les-Bains, Montsegur, the Château de Quéribus and other Cathar fortresses, and service charges. Photographic guidance, discussions, and one-on-one tutorial sessions with master photographer Harold Davis are also included.

Exclusions: Airfare and transportation to Toulouse, France (Toulouse is easy to reach by plane or train from Paris and many other points in Europe), meals except as indicated, wine and spirits (complementary wine will be provided at included group dinners), admissions except as indicated, and personal items such as laundry and souvenirs.

Assisting with air travel arrangements: We’re happy to consult and advise regarding air travel arrangements to Toulouse on request. 

Travel Insurance: Very highly recommended. More info.

To Register: Please send us an email expressing interest right away; a completed registration requires a $1000 deposit, the trip reservation form, and a copy of your currently valid passport page.

Carcassone Outer Fortifications © Harold Davis