Friday, 30 January 2009

Local Restaurants


This section of the blog is to give you a good idea of where you can find some really nice restaurants around the local area.

Over 3 million visitors travel to Carcassonne each year, so as you can imagine there are a multitude of restaurants, bars and cafes to service their needs and they are not all in 'La Cite', you can find some pretty good ones in the newer part of the city as well.

For now though I am going to limit the list to those restaurants that have been visited and recommended by previous guests, or where we have been and enjoyed ourselves with good food and a drop of wine or two.

Carcassonne

Bistro Florian One of my favorite little places that we stumbled upon when house hunting before our move to France is in Place Carnot in the center of the newer part of Carcassonne known locally as 'La Bastide Saint-Louis', that's the Bistro in the picture above.

I had a Foie Gras salad when we went for lunch and it had a dressing on it to die for. Lovely ambiance, very busy but this added to the experience in our case because the service was still pretty good and it just felt very cosy as we were all inside being a crisp November day.

Castelnaudary

Le Maison du Cassoulet  is one of our favorite restaurants in Castelnaudary, it is located on the main street through the town called the 'Cours de la Republique' just above the Marie's office. That's where I ate my very first Cassoulet, and a fine example it was; although it has to be said you need to be sure you are hungry before ordering this dish.

Le Mistral has been visited and recommended by several of our previous guests, the food and service was generally regarded as being of a very good standard and the hostess has been mentioned for her lovely warm welcome and attention to her guests. From what we have been told you won't go far wrong choosing Le Mistral for a nice lunch or evening meal. You can find it in Rue de Carmes which is just off the square where the tourist information office is located.

Little bit of an update as we recently ate here ourselves and were not too impressed with the steaks that were served, the fish looked pretty good as did the mussels but the steak, well unless you are Jack Sprat's wife I would leave it alone and sit inside not in the street.

Au Petit Gazouillis this restaurant was actually recommended by my barber (called Bob, very French) who also told us about Le Mistral and one or two others as well. He mentioned that these were the best places to go for the world famous Cassoulet. I am still waiting for feed back on this one as to whether it meets expectations, but Bob came good with Le Mistral so I am listing this on his recommendation. Thanks Bob.

La Belle Epoque this is another of Bob the barbers recommendations, so I am also still waiting on feedback about this one and the quality of their Cassoulet. It is located in a street that runs parallel to and behind the main street of the town where you can find the Marie's building and the post office.

Un Tour de Moulin, this is the last of Bob's recommendations and just in case you need a haircut I have identified Bob's shop, he only speaks French but he does a mean haircut for €14.

Lac de St Ferreol


The Lac de St Ferreol provides a lovely backdrop to the many restaurants that are located around the lake, there are a number of different styles on offer including of course French, Chinese plus a few more. I know its sacrilege but we have eaten at the Fleur D'Asie Chinese restaurant a couple of times and the food was lovely.


We have also eaten at a French restaurant there called La Renaissance with equally satisfying results, slightly better actually. The service at La Renaissance was very welcoming and the food we had was delicious, with a set menu for offer at only €15 per person for a main course and a dessert.

Fanjeaux

La Table Cathar
, this is on route to Mirepoix from Castelnaudary when you take the Limoux road as an alternative to going over the hills. My family and I have eaten in this restaurant for lunch and it is run by a lovely lady and is very popular, food is simple but very good and your hostess provides a friendly atmosphere and likes a bit of banter if you can squeeze out a bit of French.

Mirepoix

La Flambee, this is a nice restaurant in Mirepoix that was visited by guests from Ireland and comes highly recommended by them after they spent a very pleasant evening here. Mirepoix is worth a visit anyway and is a very popular tourist destination with lots of little cafes and restaurants in the medieval square. La Flambee can be found in Rue Porte D'Amont just off the square.

Hotel de Commerce, we have eaten at the Hotel de Commerce on a few occasions, I wouldn't say they catered well to vegetarians (unfortunately for one of friends) but other than that it really is very nice. We like to visit in the summer and eat in the covered courtyard which is delightful, so add this to one of your places to visit.

Well these add a few options for you and there will be loads more 'La Cite' in Carcassonne leaves you spoilt for choice and I haven't even added Revel's options yet but will do shortly. I know it's sacrilege but I really enjoyed the Chinese restaurant at Le Lac de St Ferreol which served Chinese food French style in small courses and it really was very nice and worked well with our very large family of mostly youngsters. I will dig out the name and add that one as well later so stay posted. This one is going to grow.

Of course you can also choose to eat in, Chez Nous (or Le Moulin) has proved to be one of the best restaurants around, depending on who is doing the cooking of course.

If you want some Best of British you can do a bit of shopping in Carcassonne at your British grocer in France which you can find at 67 rue Armagnac just off Place Carnot. They are open Tuesday to Friday 10.00a.m. to 4.30p.m. and Saturday 10.00a.m. to 4.00p.m. I won't tell if you don't.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

What's on in Languedoc-Rousillon 2009

There is always something happening in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, but in true traditional French style it's not always easy to find out what it is, where it is or when.

I have listed below some local events to our gite which is situated between Castelnaudary and Revel plus some more significant events for the region which may or may not be a little farther afield.

I hope you find this information useful and are able to use it to make a decision on whether to visit this beautiful region in the South of France.


Listed by date

18th January - 29th March, the longest festival in France is the winter festival in Limoux. Saturdays and Sundays are when local folk adorn different masks and costumes then parade through the streets playing music, singing songs (in the ancient Occitan language) and playing pranks while they make fun of society and the rules that abound. See Carnaval de Limoux for more details.

28th March, Peking Opera - the Tianjin national Academy presents a spectacular show of theatre, music, mime, acrobatics and martial arts at the Theatre Jean-Alary starting 8.30p.m.. Tickets from €10-€36. Tel 04 68 11 59 15.

3rd April, Cristina Branco, a Portugese singer in concert at the Theatre Jean Alary starting at 8.30p.m. Tickets from €10-€25. Tel 04 68 25 33 13

April, Jazz week, 5 evenings in the Chapelle des Jesuites in Carcassonne at a cost of €40 for all 5 performances, the Chapelle was chosen for its acoustic characteristics which are said to be perfect for listening to the music.

8th May - 10th May, three days of feasts and music in the streets of Gruissan. All ages mix in this festive environment known as 'Les Festejades Gruissan'. These dates are approximate and you should call 04 68 49 09 00 to confirm if you would like to attend.

May, Soreze near to Revel and about 25 minutes from Le Moulin plays host to an art metalwork, knives and woodworking exhibition. Soreze is a lovely place to visit anyway with its l' Abbaye-Ecole and impressive bell tower.

24th May, Vide grenier in Auriac/Vendinelle and Fendeille


30th May, Issel - Fete Locale de Pentecote. Spend Saturday afternoon watching the 'Animations de rue' (street entertainment) and if you have children there will be a bouncy castle for thier entertainment and your relief plus horse riding. Starting at 5.00p.m. there will be music in the form of 'Bandas Los Maquitos'. After a Paella has been consumed from around 8.00p.m (which is on offer at a price from Mme Guirand, details can be supplied) there is a disco starting around 10.00p.m to see the evening out.

31st May, Issel - Fete Locale de Pentecote, from 3.00p.m. to 8.00p.m you can enjoy a number of musical interludes with the 'Sympa Musette'.

31st May, Vide grenier at St Pierre de Lages and Beauteville.

1st June, Issel holds its Petanque tournament.

1st June, Festival des Vins in La Cite, speaks for itself really. So if you are a wine buff and you fancy getting in amongst some local wines of the region then what better time to visit.

7th June, Vide grenier and Foire a Tout at Saussens on the route to Castre and a Vide grenier in Le Faget, Saussens, St Papoul and Durfort.

Soreze is having a Fete des Arts and a Marche aux Livres (book sale).

9th June, Revel is having a musical production.

June,
Printemps des Comediens, Theatre festival in Montpellier. This festival presents a series of outstanding theatre events, circus entertainment, and world culture. Thousands of people attend to see the extraordinary performances.

14th June, Vide grenier in Cessales and Mas Stes Puelles.

19th June - 21st June, stage de cuisine (cooking lessons) in Castelnaudary(19th), Fete de la musique.

14th June, Vide grenier in C

28th June, Vide grenier, brocante, artisanant and products of the region in Gardouch (turn left at Villefranche de Lauragais going towards Toulouse). Also a vide grenier in La Pomarede.

July, Soirees Pyrotechniques at Cap d'Agde, It's a little bit of a trek being around 2 hours away but this is 5 evenings of some of the best firework displays in France so might just tempt you to make the trip. If you prefer a little closer then the next but one event may satisfy your need for a really spectacular firework display.

5th July to 30th, Festival of the Bastide in Carcassonne, this takes place around Bastille day the 14th July and includes up to 70+ free entry theatre, jazz, pop and world music gigs. A fabulous experience for anyone interested in French culture.

5th July, Vide grenier in Castelnaudary.

14th July, La Cite Ablaze in Carcassonne 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. You can expect the banks of the river Aude to 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.

July, Abbaye Ecole music festival, concert by l'Orchestre National du Capitole of Toulouse in Soreze.

14th July, Discover the history of the Canal du Midi and the Port of Castelnaudary on an evening tour by torchlight. €4.50 per person children up to 12 years are free. To go on the tour you need to register at the tourist office in Castelnaudary.

The tour is repeated each Tuesday on the 21st, 28th July and the 11th and 18th of August meeting at 9.45p.m. and departing at 10.00p.m. You can call +33 (0)4 68 23 05 73 for further details.

15th August, Village Fete with fireworks in the Abbaye Ecole, Soreze.

3rd week in August, book fair, bric-a-brac,antique fair, art in the streets, craft work, local produce, horse fair in Soreze.

August, the 10th fete du Cassoulet will take place around the 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. The fete was made famous when Rick Steine visited Castelnaudary on his trip along the Canal du Midi tasting local dishes and wines from the area as he went. The Marie of Issel was featured in his BBC series of the trip dressed in the traditional blue and white strip adorned for the festival. Lots of music, dancing and fun for the whole week.

September, 15 days for the Autumn art exhibition of paintings and sculptures in Soreze.

November, Bavarian evening with music and beer in Soreze. I know !!!! wierd or what.

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


Boat Trips

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.

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.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Registering a Car in France

Car Registration in France

This is the 4th lens in a series of lenses produced to help people in the process of moving to France.

Registering a car in France is generally considered to be quite difficult, but if you have a relatively new car for which you can obtain a European certificate of conformity and you have owned it for more than 6 months then it is actually relatively straight forward.

Once you know what documentation you need and where to get it, registration becomes a half hour visit to the prefecture.

Finding a House in France

Finding a House in France

This is my second Squidoo lens in a series produced to help anyone in the process of moving to France find a house.

French houses come in all shapes and sizes, this lens is intended to help you decide exactly what you want and how to go about getting it.

Moving to France

Moving to France

This is my Squidoo lens which is the first in a series of lenses produced to help you if you are considering or in the process of moving to France.

Since I moved to France, things have definitely got more difficult with changes in exchange rate, the credit crunch and the collapse of the UK property market.

These are the reasons why it is more important now than ever before to plan such a move properly from the outset.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Pyramid Blogging

Can't quite believe that I have decided to do this as life is very hectic at the moment but I have to admit I was intrigued to find out what actually happens. I used to do network marketing (some people call it pyramid selling) and grew to hate it but I don't believe this is anything like that, this could be a bit of fun or could turn into a monster time eater.

So what is this exactly, well basically it is answering some questions and then setting some questions for anyone that wants to be interviewed. I have to set the questions for anyone who comments on my answers and then requests to be interviewed.

These are the questions I have been set, courtesy of FrogBlog, with my answers: -


1. Difficult times for expats, with the pound sterling suffering, the financial crisis deepening, people reluctant to splash out on holidays abroad. Are you prepared to tough it out, and how prepared were you for the crisis?
Yes I (we) are prepared to tough it out, the decision to move to France was not taken lightly and we are not going to roll over at the first sign of trouble. It does help that we created a buffer fund in case of unexpected occurrences that would see us through if needed, although it is not easy watching your hard earned savings being eroded as a result of third party incompetence over which you have no control.

2. Are you an English expat community, or integrate into French life and mix with the locals, kind of guy?
I hope we are both, I see no problem mixing with like minded people from my own origins and background, although I recognize that is the easy option, whilst at the same time trying to integrate into our new local community and mix with local people, probably the only way you can truly develop reasonable language skills as well.

3. Since moving to France, other than the effects of the crisis, what unexpected problems have you had to confront?
The true difficulty of dealing with the most mundane and routine problems everyone encounters in everyday life in a new language. When you are advised to learn the language before you come I would say that is the best advice anyone could give you although I would not agree that you shouldn't come if you haven't done that, it just makes it more difficult to function routinely

4. Describe your most pleasurable and your most awkward encounters with French locals since your arrival.
Just talking to people and enjoying a little time with them however brief. The most significant would be when we had a French family for dinner, parents and children, where we could experience the differences in behavior and culture first hand whilst very much enjoying their company a very rewarding encounter.

Most awkward for me is when I have not been able to communicate on any level due to a lack of language skills, not so frequent now but there are still bad days when it seems your brain just won't work. There is nothing more frustrating and awkward than having to walk away not having conveyed the information you wanted to.

5. What do you love most about France, and what makes you most mad?
The scenery, the architecture, the history, most of the people, the culture and the fact they are proud to be European, the mountains, the light (have you ever just stopped and looked at the sky around 5 in the evening on a clear winter's day) and the simplicity of life.

At the risk of contradicting myself, it is the speed at which bureaucracy rolls around, just cannot believe sometimes how long it takes to get a response on some fairly significant issues, such as health care, insurance etc. there is relaxed and there is slooow!!! Thankfully once you have got answers then you no longer have to concern yourself with it too much on a routine basis.

Well that's me and my answers, not really ground breaking but I hope honest and I actually quite liked doing this, it's been a tad therapeutic.


So... would you like to be interviewed?!

Just follow these instructions:
  1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Places to Visit in France

Places to Visit in France

This one speaks for itself, but it is essentially a photographic record of our trip back to the UK from the South of France and home again via Scotland, England and Germany.

A pretty long trip all in all, hope you enjoy the piccies.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Ski or Snowboard in the French Pyrenees

Ski or Snowboard in the French Pyrenees
Having had a lovely Christmas and New Year with family, it's time to get back to work.

So here is my latest article on skiing in the Pyrenees a much under rated and maligned skiing region.

Something to think about is that there are a number of hot springs and spas in the Pyrenees as well as the ski resorts, so you can have a very nice combination of strenuous exercise which you can follow with a hot bath to ease those aching limbs, well if you are as old as me they will be.

The last place I found that was in Banff Springs in Canada, another famous ski resort which was famous for its hot tubs, a pretty good recommendation I think.

Hope you find the information useful.

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