Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Fete Du Cassoulet

It's under-way, the biggest cassoulet event in the country. Eating a very rich haricot bean cassoulet during the hottest time of the year. The festival in Castelnaudary goes on all week ending next Sunday. There is a Beatles cover band and water jousting on the Canal du Midi, amongst many other things, with lots of food and wine stalls plus various others selling tins of cassoulet. You can book on line here http://www.castelnaudary-tourisme.com/html/1-15184-Fete-du-Cassoulet.php for a very nice meal in a marquee - providing you like the famous cassoulet of course. I do but it can get a bit Autan-ish. :-)

We have all been melting for several weeks now with temperatures up in the mid to high 30's, so the water jousting might just be enough to tempt a few people to join in, whether the organisers want them to or not.  It looks like it is set to continue through the rest of the week at least, so investing in one of those hats that looks like a parasol might be a good idea.

Anyway we can't complain about the heat and sunshine, that is after all what most of us came here for. I bet there are a few people in the UK that would give their right arm for a bit of that right now. Well except those enjoying the pool and sunshades at Le Moulin. What a great couple of weeks to come on holiday.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

French History Books – The Lauragais Story

Many people, that regularly read this blog, will probably be aware that Le Moulin, our holiday home here in France, is located only ten minutes from Castelnaudary and that Castelnaudary is the capital of the Lauragais region.

But what many people will not know, is how important a role the Lauragais played in the creation of France as we find it in modern times.

The Lauragais Story reveals this and much more about the region. It is an absolute mine of information regarding the history and places of interest that abound in this part of the Pays Cathar and a perfect travel companion for those that visit the area. It is for anyone interested in how the Lauragais came to be, where the wealth and prosperity of the region came from, who and what drove the construction of the Canal Du Midi, about the persecution of the Cathars and the role played by Simon De Montford. I could go on because there is plenty more information beyond the snippets provided, but then I might spoil a few more of the surprises the book throws up.

All I will say is that the story starts with a discussion about how crocodile bones can be found in the Montagne Noire and ends with how some young men had the interesting experience of finding a mushroom growing upside down in the Ariege. That last statement was never really properly explained other than to say it was in the local news as the book was finished. In other words this history story had found its way right up to the present day. Of course there has been more history created since then, but I suspect that will be the subject of another book.

About the Author

So then Jewels of French History Books - The Lauragais Storyis a brand new book written by a local historian, Hugh Nicklin. Hugh studied history at Oxford and has travelled the world working in England, Wales, India and the Balkans. He decided however to settle in the South of France in order to research and understand how the Roman Empire met its demise, yes there is a Roman connection here as well. Since he arrived he has written both his first book 'The History of Limoux' and now this second, even more comprehensive, book 'The Lauragais Story'.

The latter, albeit a history book, has been released on Amazon and with various other distributors as an eBook which you can read on a Kindle, iPad or any other eReader you happen to own. If you want to see distributors other than Amazon have a look here French History Books or if you want to buy it on Amazon then have a look here Jewels of French History Books - The Lauragais Story or you can buy the alternative version now available in French - Histoire Du Lauragais


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Castres in Tarn and the Midi-Pyrenees

Its funny that you can live so close to a town but for whatever reason hardly ever visit it. Or when you do it is because you need to do something or are just there shopping.

That's how Castres has been for us until just recently, when the arrival of family visitors prompted us to have a proper look at the town. It was actually quite a pleasant surprise. The day was sunny and warm and the River Agout looked like a mill pond.

As you explore you discover all sorts of things, for example that Castres has the second most important Spanish art museum in the country, second only to the Louvre. That the town started to get established around the 9th Century and that it has been a stopover for the pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostella for hundreds of years. The pilgrimage starts at Arles which is the furthest south of the pilgrimage routes.

Actually I discovered there was so much to share with you that I decided to make it a stand alone article on a publishing platform I use. I called it a Region of the Midi Pyrenees and you can have a look at all the other things I discovered about Castres following the link. You will find a few more photos as well, including the Goya art museum based in the Episcopal Palace designed by Louis XIV's principle architect. Another little project he worked on was the Palace of Versailles. Not so shabby really, so go take a look.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Best Attractions in Toulouse

It's always nice to have a guest writer post on your blog, esepcially when you think the information is going to be useful for your visitors and you don't really have to do any of the work. Other than getting it posted that is. This is an offering from Catherine Johnson who is informing you about some of the best attractions Toulouse has to offer.


Located in the South of France in the Midi-Pyrenees region is one of the most stylish cities in the whole of France, Toulouse. It is the fourth largest city in France and is one of the economic powerhouses of the country which is primarily due to Airbus which is the largest employer in Toulouse. While the city is benefiting from this economic uplift the aesthetics and soul of the city have remained unchanged, the world famous French style and culture are still deeply entrenched throughout the charming labyrinths of Toulouse. In France Toulouse is known as the "Pink City" because many of its historical constructions were built using pink brick which can be found in the area.

Toulouse is a city steeped in history with lots of fun things to do, whether you are travelling alone, as a couple or on a family holiday in France you will find something to suit all demographics. Below is a list of the most popular attractions and things to do in Toulouse, depending on your length of stay you may not be able to do them all:

Le Capitole. 
In its previous life this building was the Town Hall and was built over 250 years ago. This is popular tourist spot and guided tours of the Le Capitole run throughout most of the day. Not only will you get the chance see the most amazing ceiling paintings but outdoors in the square you can sample local food such as Cassoulet, a haricot bean dish that originated from the capital of the Lauragais, Castelnaudary which is some 40 miles south of Toulouse when heading for the Mediterranean.

St. Sernin-Basilica
This isn't just another old boring church. St. Sernin-Basillica is a renovated Roman church, with its own organs and unique French charm which must be witnessed to be believed.

City of Space
Toulouse isn't just full of old buildings, oh no. The City of Space is modern place of worship for all things space related that includes rockets, satellites and even the weather. The coolest thing about this place is the life size space rocket which stands proudly in the gardens, we have lift off!

Chateau Bellevue
While France is renowned for having some of the best castles in the world, Chateau Bellvue certainly holds its own amongst them, you will not find a better preserved Chateau in Toulouse. While the building is no longer used as a school, the gardens can still visited and are the worth the trip alone.

Musee de l'Histoire de la Medicine
Something a little lighter hearted albeit gruesome is the Museum of the History of Medicine. One of the great things about the museum if you're on tight schedule is that it won't take up your whole day. With exhibitions from renowned doctors, graphic medical books, odd looking jars and historical medical instruments this museum will certainly leave its mark on you. You'll be glad that you weren't around in those days.

Friday, 24 February 2012

La Cite - Carcassonne

Lady Carcas
We recently had occasion to visit again the famous walled city 'La Cite' in Carcassonne. It had been a while since our last visit and we were immediately struck once more by how spectacular the whole of La Cite is. It really is no wonder that it has been identified as a world heritage site. But you can after living here for a while get quite laid back about exactly what it is you have on the doorstep.

We were actually visiting to show our friends the famous walled city and were not at all thinking how nice it would be to spend a few hours there from our own perspective, having done exactly that quite a few times before.

The first thing we noticed at the main entrance, or the Narbonne Gate as it is officially known, was the sculpture of 'Lady Carcas'. We must have walked past that very spot at least a dozen times, but had never once spotted her before. It just goes to show how you can convince yourself that you have been there done it and seen it. Where in fact there is so much to see that you do actually have to make more than one visit and take the time to stop and take in what you have in front of you. In our defence most of our previous visits were done in the summer months when the whole area is teeming with many more tourists. On this occasion it was a gloriously sunny day in February with far less people to obscure the views.

So what of 'Lady Carcas'? her fame comes from the story of when 'La Cite' was besieged by Charlemagne’s troops back in the 9th century, and the inhabitants of the city, facing starvation after nearly 5 years of incarceration , were instructed to feed the last of their wheat to a pig. The pig, it is rumoured, was then thrown from the ramparts down onto the besieging army.

This single act was supposed to be enough to convince Charlmagne that the inhabitants still had so many provisions they were happy to feed wheat to a pig. Signalling to him that continuation of the siege was pointless; on that basis he ordered his troops to withdraw.

Lady Carcas then commanded that the city bells should be rung as they withdrew, prompting one of Charlmagne's men to say to his emperor 'Sire, Carcas sonne!', which roughly translated means 'Carcas is ringing'. This is supposedly how Carcassonne was named, although there are conflicting stories to this. One of them being that the city was named by the Romans after one of their own 'Julia Carsaco' and then later they called it Carcasum. Personally I prefer the pig story.

Anyway the bottom line is that we had a very nice day out, sitting outside in the sunshine in February for lunch,that can't be bad, and we had a good look around La Cite again. Reminding ourselves in the process just how fabulous it is even after numerous previous visits and especially the Basilica of Nazaire and Celsus, which no doubt will be the subject of another post.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

An Amusing Tale on Learning French

Spotted this video on Facebook courtesy of the Survive France Network. Very amusing for anyone that may be struggling to learn the French language and an invaluable insight into how to immerse yourself in the French language and culture. I hope you appreciate all the help that is being provided here.

All you have to do is watch the video to be enlightened. Hope you enjoy it.

But remember there are always alternatives for Learning French



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