Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Pays Cathare in the South of France

A map of the Pays Cathare with all the Fortresses and most of the towns involved or of interest to anyone who wants to find out about the Albigensian Crusade led in the early days by Simon de Monfort.

 

 You can find even more information on the Cathar Fortresses and a little bit of their history using the link I have popped in here. It is an article I wrote by invitation for Answers.com

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

What's On In And Around Carcassonne 2014

It's been a while since I posted about what's going on in the South of France and as usual there is quite a bit this year. I have made a start with listing some of the main events and will add more as the information becomes available. So bookmark this post and share it on social media.

Listed by date

Jan - April 2014
You will need to be quick if you want to go to the Limoux Festival because it runs from Sunday the 26th January 2014 through to Sunday 6th April 2014. There is still a bit of time, but it is rapidly running out. You can find out more about the festival here - Carnaval de Limoux.

8th June 2014there is another big day approaching for our little village of Issel, the 'Fete Medievale Des Potiers Et De L'Artisanat' is going to take place again as each year is more successful than the last. The streets will be dressed in medieval style and the festival will be going all day. There will be a 13th century hangman, knights, fencing demonstrations and ancient crafts. Artisans will be displaying their glass, pottery, embroidery and more. This year there is also going to be a falconry display to delight the young and old alike. You can keep up to speed on the organisation and news of the fete by following their Facebook page.

May/June 2014, three days of feasts and music in the streets of Gruissan. All ages come together in this festive environment known as 'Les Festejades Gruissan'. More detail will be available via the link when they have updated it for 2014, but in French I am afraid. Still showing 2013 at the time of writing, but they will get there eventually, it's France after all.

19th June - 1st August 2014, the festival of Carcassone offers a variety of entertainment and cultural events that take place both in the medieval walled city and the 'Ville Basse' throughout the summer months. These include free modern music, jazz, circus, theatre and classical music shows. For a full program of musical and other events, the paid variety, which this year includes Elton John, James Blunt, Lana Del Rey, Vanessa Paradis, The Jackson and many more you can use this link to the Festival of Carcassonne Program. They describe the events much more eloquently than I can and it is in English.

One little problem if, like me, you were hoping to see Madness perform, I am afraid you will be disappointed. They just cancelled and refunds are now being offered on the tickets.

13th July 2014, There should be a fireworks display in the 'Grande Bassin' Castelnaudary, a precursor to Bastille Day and La Cite ablaze in Carcassonne. The fireworks start after the parade at 10.30p.m. in honour of National Day, but probably worth getting there at 10.00p.m. just to make sure, or earlier if you want to see the parade. Eventually you will be able to go to Castelnaudary Tourist Office for further details.

July 2014, Festival of the Bastide in Carcassonne, this revolves around Bastille day the 14th July. A fabulous experience for anyone interested in French culture. The festival of the Bastide runs alongside the Festival of Carcassonne well known to the arts scene for its combination of opera, dance, theater and music events that take place throughout the summer months.

14th July 2014, La Cite Ablaze in Carcassonne is the big event of the Festival of the Bastide where you can see one of the best firework displays France has to offer and it commemorates the original burning of La Cite back in 1898. The banks of the river Aude will be awash with spectators and every viewpoint available will be taken by the time the display starts at 10.30p.m. It's best to park on the outskirts of the town and walk in to facilitate a reasonable exit time when the show is over.

22nd July 2014
The Tour De France, stage 16, starts in Carcassonne this year as they head off towards Bagneres Du Luchon. I personally prefer it if you can watch them arrive, but unfortunately the day before is a rest day, so they actually arrive in Nimes before being transported to Carcassonne for the next day. You can get all the details here at the official site for the Tour de France and who would have thought they would be starting in good old Yorkshire in the UK, wouldn't it have been good if they let them ride through the Channel Tunnel :-)

August 2014
Sometime in August there is another lovely firework display that takes place over the Lac De St Ferreol, close to Revel. I am in the process of tracking down the exact date with more details and will share that informationwhen I find it. But in the meantime you are just going to have to trust me, this is an occasion worth attending. The combination of fireworks and a beautiful lake are well worth the effort.

Wednesday 27th August - Sunday 31st August 2014, the 14th fete du Cassoulet will take place around this last week of August with 7 days of celebration and eating of cassoulet, a haricot bean based casserole with Toulouse sausage, duck and pork as the usual ingredients. Everyone will be getting out their blue and white striped shirts for the festivities. This is the official website for the Fete du Cassoulet

Tourist Offices

Carcassonne: 04 68 10 24 30 email:accueil@carcassonne-tourisme.com web:www.carcassonne-tourisme.com

Soreze St Ferreol: 05 63 74 16 28 email: tourisme@ville-soreze.fr web:www.ville-soreze.fr

Revel St Ferreol: 05 34 66 67 68 email: contact@tourisme-revel.com web:www.tourisme-revel.com

Castlenaudary: 04 68 23 05 73 email: ot@ville-castelnaudary.fr web:www.ville-castelnaudary.fr

Vide Greniers

You can find all the planned Vide Greniers for Aude and any other department in France using this link. Also you can visit our other page on this blog for information on all the local French food markets that operate throughout the year.

Boat Trips & Cycling the Canal Du Midi

For a nice easy boat trip down the Canal du Midi you can hop on a 'bateau' down at the quay in Castelnaudary, the boat leaves daily at 2.30p.m. for a quiet chug along the canal and back that takes about 2 hours, but there are a number of other options available which you can find out about at Bateau Promenade "Le Saint-Roch" or by phoning +33 (0)4 68 23 49 40

Unfortunately the cycle hire that used to be next to the boat has now gone, so the nearest place for cycle hire is on the Toulouse road close to Labastide d'Anjou, going from Castelnaudary just turn left at the 'Poteries de Naurouze' and look for 'Velos Severac'. So if you fancy a morning or afternoon cycling along the Canal Du Midi, you know where to go.

If you prefer to hire your own boat for a short trip then boats can be hired from Castel Nautique for 2 to 8 people on an hourly basis or for 1/2 days. Visit the website for more details or call on +33 (0)4 68 76 73 34. they are located near to Bram which is about 30 minutes drive from Le Moulin.

Cinema

The 'Halle Aux Grains' now operates as our local cinema and they often show English language films with French sub-titles, especially when they have a British film festival on (Festival Britannique) which this year is the 11th to the 13th April with the following films on offer:
  • Saving Mr Banks
  • Mississippi Burning 
  • Fame
  • Slumdog Millionnaire
  • Mary Poppins
  • Now I Live Now
  • 12 Years a Slave
So if you fancy a bit of film buffery, French style, why not pop along. You can stay up to date on the films being shown via their Halle Aux Grains Facebook page.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Wine in Languedoc Roussillon

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Click on the map for a larger image
You don't have to go very far in Languedoc Roussillon to find a good 'degustation' where you can sample some of the wonderful varieties of Red, White, Rose and Sparkling wines of the region.

 It is after all the biggest wine producing region of the world consisting of around 700,000 acres and it produces around 30% of the total wine production of France.

The most prominent grape varieties used in the region include some very well known international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon blanc, and Chardonnay but you will find traditional Rhône grapes like Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier are also quite prominent. Particularly as the Rhône is a near neighbour of Languedoc Roussillon.

 Many people will know about Champagne from the Champagne region in the north east of France, but not everyone will know that Blanquette de Limoux, a white sparkling wine is credited by local historians with being the first sparkling white wine in the world and it is believed to have been developed by Benedictine monks around 1531, many years before Champagne became prominent.

To be honest I don't think that the locals are too worried about the Champagne region getting all the glory, because Blanquette de Limoux is a lovely alternative to Champagne and doesn't carry anywhere near the price tag of its posh cousin from the north.

So where can you get a taste of some of these wonderful wines? Here is a list of some of the better wine domaines and caves in easy striking distance of Carcassonne:

If you have a penchant towards buying your wine at low cost and are happy to take along a few plastic containers to fill up. Then you will find that the Cellier Du Lampy can offer you a few wines of good quality at a very affordable price. Perfect if you need some table wine for a party or you have a big family on holiday that needs to be wined and dined.

Your other options are of course just to head off into wine country, you can take a drive out towards the medieval cities of Minerve or Lagrasse  and before you know it, not only will you be experiencing some of the most beautiful scenery in Languedoc Roussillon, you will be inundated with lots of  different 'degustations' offering wines of all varieties from Corbieres and the Minervois. Plus with the handy map above you should be able to navigate to a few other choice appelations, no matter where you are in Languedoc Roussillon.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Waiting for the Fireworks at the Grand Bassin, Castelnaudary


The light was fading fast and everyone was getting ready for the fireworks to start from a boat in the 'Grand Bassin' of Castelnaudary. Depending on the weather, which let's face it is usually pretty good in the summer, the 13th July and the day before Bastille day is when Castelnaudary has its own fireworks display on the biggest piece of open water on the Canal Du Midi. Somehow the affect achieved by exploding fireworks over 7 hectares of water is pretty spectacular.

Of course this may still be a strategic move, because Carcassonne only 35 minutes away has one of the most amazing firework displays in France that takes place on the 14th July, which actually is Bastille day. So it would be pretty hard to compete with that one. 

But then there is no need, because having two great firework displays one night after the other means all of us expats and French locals can have the best of both worlds or be spoilt for choice if we only want to attend one firework party.

So why am I talking about firework displays that take place in July now. Well to be honest it is because this last day or so I have been writing about Castelnaudary in general as a guest writer for ww.answers.com and of course because the holiday season is rapidly approaching with our first guests due in only a few short weeks. They are going to spend a week with us before getting on a boat to tour the Canal Du Midi so this article about the Capital of the Lauragais might just be of interest.

So it's time to get in the holiday mood, which will be even easier as we have family arriving this week to test out the facilities once again and to tour the area to see a few points of interest and perhaps do a bit of sledging in the Pyrenees before the snow disappears. 

Anyway I hope you enjoy the answers.com articles, it does feel like I am being a little unfaithful to my very own blog, but at least I am still writing about the beautiful South of France. 

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Where to Go and What to See in Languedoc Rousillon


It is now approaching six years since we moved to Le Moulin de l'Argentouire in the South of France and during our time here we have been lucky enough to get out and about to some fabulous places throughout Languedoc Roussillon. We have also been recommended many gorgeous places to visit some of which we still have on our 'todo' list rather than our 'been there and done it' list. But I think it is fair to say the 'todo' list is now becoming the much shorter of the two.

So we thought it was high time that we started to share some of these fabulous places with everyone to give you an opportunity to discover exactly what is in store for anyone visiting this beautiful region of France. The map above gives you an idea but if you want the fully interactive version that allows you to view the list and click on them individually, then you can use this link to a layered Google map:- Places of Interest in Languedoc Roussillon

The layers you will find there are:
  • UNESCO World heritage sites in Languedoc Roussillon
  • Cities of Languedoc Roussillon
  • Must see places in Languedoc Roussillon

Just to wet your appetite, here are a few of the favourite places that we have already visited:

Lac de Cavayere

Collioure
Narbonne
Canal Du Midi
Pezenas
Pont Du Gard
Uzes
Collossium Nimes
La Cite, Carcassonne
Lagrasse
Montpellier
Millau Viaduct
Beziers
Bages
Perpignan

Leucate


Gruissan

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