•Aude (11190) • Population: 1,214 • Altitude: 228 m
Couiza is a small town (or large village) on the Salz river, where it flows into the Aude. Village commerce is scattered, without a focal point, but the terrace cafés are popular late into the summer nights.
The southwest parts of town have a somewhat "Medieval" layout, of old houses and narrow streets. The northeast section has the newer houses in modern tracts. At least a sign of growth.
Many of the town's dwellings are row-house style, either harking back to the factory-town days or perhaps more recently to vacationers.
Two days a week, Tuesday and Saturday mornings, there's a market on the Place Denis, a square that's somewhat hidden in the small streets that a visitor isn't likely to be casually strolling.
In the unfocused nature of the town, there's a grocery store, bakery, post office and pharmacy at one junction of the main D118 road. A few blocks away, across the Salz river, is another junction with two good terrace-cafés, a bakery, newspaper-magazine shop and estate agent.
There's a very nice municipal park alongside the main river, L'Aude (the namesake of the department), with a good view of the 17th-century triple-arched stone bridge across the river. The pillars at least of the bridge are original 1618.
Years ago this Haute Vallée region of the Aude suffered a decline, when the local industries of felt, hat making and formica largely disappeared. This is visible in most of the villages of the region. In Couiza, derelict factory building are along the road beside the railway: long and low, cement, white. Peering in the windows you see the old felt (feutre) machines coated in dust, bins of different colored felt and a few folded "blankets" of white felt; all as if left as-is when the doors were closed and locked. [a peek into the factory interior]
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History of Couiza
There was a Roman road through the valley a couple of thousand years ago, but the current village is only about 400 years old. Earlier names had a distinctive Roman flavor: Couzanium (1320), then Couizanum (1347), Couissanum (1377), Couissan (1503-1587), Couyzan (1571) and finally Couiza in 1781
• GPS: 42.942802, 2.252996
IGN (1/25,000) #2347 OT "Quillan, Alet-les-Bains"
A GR de pays (Grande randonée of the region) passes through Couiza and out the Salz valley to the east. This and other local trails pass beside the village of Coustaussa to the east, then cross to the south of the river and over the wooded hills. Trail markings weren't very good there, so you'll need a map for sure.
There are trails out to the west and northwest, past Montazels to Antugnac, La Serpent and beyond.
There is a hiking trail between Couiza and the hilltop village of Rennes-le-Chateau, just to the south.
The railway station in the town, joint "Couiza - Montazels" station. The train runs between Quillan (12 km southwest) and Carcassonne (40 km north). It's a one-hour trip between Couiza and Carcassonne, and there are several trains a day.