It’s amazing what you can discover on walks around the villages in Languedoc! (I know that the area has now been renamed Occitanie, but I refuse to call it that!!) A village which is full of interesting things to discover is Montouliers. It is perched on a hill in the hinterland, not far from Bize Minervois and Argeliers. Walk the narrow streets of the old part of the village up towards the chateau, and with a little imagination you could picture yourself transported back in time.
The narrow streets are paved with stones, a surface which is called calade. Calade is a word that you’ll not find in a French dictionary – it has its roots in the old Gaulish word cal, meaning stone and height. Calades were built using the materials to hand – stones which had been cleared from the fields to make them arable. Skill was required so sort the stones and to place them, so that they would form a durable surface. Mortar was not often used as that would have raised the cost.
Steps were built to shore up the steeper slopes and to allow humans and animals (donkeys and horses in the main) to walk up and down more easily.
In most villages, the calades disappeared with the advent of tarmac in the early 20th century, the old making room for the new. However, in some villages you can still find calades. I know of two small patches in Saint-Chinian.
Here are a few more images from Montouliers – along with the Calades, the exteriors of the houses in the old part of the village have also been carefully renovated!