Monday, 25 January 2010

Gallettes des Rois - a great way to find out about the Tour de France.

Just a quick word about La 'Gallette des Rois', before I talk about the real reason for this post.

Gallette des Rois, otherwise known as the 'Kings Cake' is used to celebrate the Epiphany and in this region of France the day to aim for is the 6th January for the actual celebration.

As the tradition goes, a little trinket (originally a bean) is placed in the cake and whoever gets it becomes King for the day and can rule over proceedings. The down side is that the responsibility for getting the cake for the next year falls upon this person as well. Actually it might not be a down side if you like to party.

Wikipedia have a very good account of the history and traditions of the Gallette des Rois which you can read about via the link.

From our perspective it was a good excuse for a belated new year party and to get out of the house and meet a few new people.Now the benefit of talking to a few people is that you get to find out a few things, and on occasion one or two things that we should really have known already. We definitely need to get out more and I am not even going to talk about the fact I thought the World Cup was in Spain when in fact it is in South Africa; too long a story.

Anyway I digress, what I am talking about is that we discovered that the 'Tour de France' is coming right past our doorstep this year; the 13th and 14th stages are to and from Revel. The dates for stages are the 17th and 18th of July going from Rodez to Revel on the 17th and Revel to Ax 3 Domains on the 18th; Ax being in the Pyrenees. So guess who is going to be standing on the side of the road looking out for all the freebies from the advertisers caravans as they go by.

The last time we went to the Tour de France it was when it went through the Corbieres region south of Carcassonne, which was a little bit of a drive, but well worth the effort. So having it go by about 5 minutes away from the front door is a real bonus. It is great fun and you get to chat to visitors from loads of different countries, including as far afield as Australia, and the whole event has a carnival atmosphere about it.

This year is a bit of a milestone as well, because it is the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France using the  Pyrenees for some of the stages. So all in all a bit of an event.

Now here is the thing, as I am writing this, it has occurred to me that we are not actually booked up for those dates yet, so if you are a Tour de France fan, this is your chance to get booked in and prepare for the carnival. Get the timing right and you can have the added bonus of Bastille day on the 14th July and get to see the amazing fireworks display at 'La Cite' in Carcassonne as well. What a great week that would be.

You can find out about the Tour de France here and find a map of the route here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

10 Great Places to Visit in the South of France

Number 1 - Carcassonne Castle.
Also known as 'La Cite' and found in the Aude Department (11) of France.

The best time to visit is the 14th July so that you can experience the Bastille Day celebrations and an amazing fireworks display that starts each year at Visit Carcassonne for more information.

Number 2 - Montpellier
Capital of the Languedoc Roussillon region of France and a truly cosmopolitan city with a thriving cafe culture.

A lovely place to spend a day visiting the sites of interest and taking a long leisurely lunch to enjoy the cuisine and watch the community going about its daily business in a people watching extravaganza. 

Visit Montpellier for more information.
Number 3 -  The Millau Viaduct
Simply to marvel at the splendor of the worlds tallest bridge and admire the accomplishment of this incredible engineering feat.

Just north of Montpellier on the A75 to Clermont-Ferrand. Visit Millau Viaduct for more information
Number 4 - Lagrasse
Capital of the Corbieres wine producing region and a lovely stone built medieval town. Driving through the vineyards and rolling hills of Corbieres to reach this lovely little town makes the effort worthwhile in its own right. Visit Corbieres for more information.


Number 5 - The Canal Du Midi
There are number of places to catch up with the Canal Du Midi, the one illustrated here is at Castelnaudary where there is a 5 level lock. Pretty impressive really.

A few other nice places to see it, not too far away, are Bram, Bezieres, Carcassonne and Trebes.
Number 6 - Toulouse, Ville Rose
The capital of the South of France and a beautiful city sitting on the Garonne River. Home to France's aerospace industry and host to more places of interest than you can shake a stick at. These include the Victor Hugo food market, the Canal Du Midi,
Donjon du Capitol and much more. Visit Toulouse for more information.

Number 7- Mirepoix
Gorgeous little medieval city which oozes character and interest. Not sure the kids would enjoy it, but mum will love the shops and dad will love having a beer or a glass of the local vino and watching the world go by.

Number 8 - Revel & St Ferreol
Famous for its food market, rated in the top 100 for France, and benefiting from its location at the foot of the Black Mountains national park. La Montagne Noire is an area of outstanding natural beauty and will appeal to the lovers of the out doors.Visit Revel for more information.

The Lac de St Ferreol is only 5 minutes from Revel and is a lovely man made lake that feeds the Canal du Midi.

Number 9 - Collioure
A beautiful little fishing port on the Mediterranean coast just south of Perpignan.  Well known for its famous inhabitants that were very capable of putting a brush to canvas i.e.Picasso et al.

I would recommend lunch at one of the many seafood restaurants over looking the small pebble beach.

Visit South of France for more information.

Number 10 - Minerve
Minerve is the capital of the Minervois wine region in France. A stone built medieval town which has the dubious honour of being the first town laid to siege during the Albigensian Crusade that had its inhabitants burned to death for refusing to renounce their faith.

Visit Minervois for more information.

The scenery and landscapes surrounding Minerve are quite spectacular and the town is a fabulous place to visit, possibly as part of a wine tour of the region.

If you click on the photographs you should get a bigger photograph, definitely worth doing for one or two of them.

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