A Travellerspoint blog

France

Stepping Back in Carcassone

semi-overcast 25 °C

We’ve left the glitz of Cannes and the razzmatazz of the Cotes d’Azure and stepped back in time to the city of Carcassonne in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Carcassonne is an ancient gem of a city with a maze of pedestrian friendly streets and squares overlooked by a magnificent medieval castle, But, for us, the real attraction is the Canal-du-midi – a narrow ribbon of 17th century waterway that meanders through the city and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
We are guests, (a.k.a. midshipmen and galley slaves), aboard the good ship Carmen; a luxuriously outfitted twenty-five metre Dutch barge belonging to our friend, David.
Here she is …

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Before we left the Cotes d’Azure, Jim had the opportunity to do something that he hasn’t done for decades – he got to make a birthday cake for his little boy; his son Ian, who is no longer little nor a boy. Ian is captain of an opulent yacht based in Cannes and Jim went aboard to create a cake that would epitomize the 1980s, (as requested by Ian).
Here’s Jim slaving over a hot stove in the galley…

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And here’s the piece de resistance… a Rubik’s cube…

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Now, back to Carcassonne and the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. This is the most southerly part of France so the markets and shops are already filled with the bounty of this year’s harvest. The cherries and strawberries are absolutely delicious, but all the produce here is grown for its flavor. Here is today’s haul from the market…

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What will Jim make of all this fresh food? Stay tuned……..

PS Blog followers may be interested to read our Travellerspoint interview. You can check it out at:
http://blog.travellerspoint.com/250/

Posted by Hawkson 05:27 Archived in France Comments (5)

Une Amuse Bouche

A little something to whet your appetite

sunny 26 °C

We are now on the Cotes d’Azure in Provence, looking out over the bay of Cannes. The sun shines from dawn to dusk, the sea and sky meld seamlessly into a wide blue horizon, and the golden sand beaches are already packed with sun-starved northerners getting an early jump on summer. Although we love the sun and sea we are really here for family, friends and for the food, and for the next few weeks as we travel around Provence and meander along the canal-du-midi in Languedoc-Roussillon we will bring you a culinary tour of southern France.
We will start here, in the Marche Provencal, in Antibes near Nice.

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We’ve previously drooled over the French markets in our blogs, but we can never get enough of them. The variety of produce on offer is astounding. Imagine having seventeen varieties of potatoes to choose from….

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…or fourteen different types of salad greens
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Or eleven kinds of tomatoes; or hundreds of cheeses; or dozens of sausages. The list is almost endless and we wander around mesmerized by the quantity and quality of local foodstuffs on offer.

The markets close around midday, just in time for lunch. And on the Mediterranean coast the finest, and most popular, lunch is the simple moules frites, (mussels and chips). We met our friends, Colin and Jane, in Antibes’ historic market square and, for the price of a Canadian soup and sandwich, we each had a steaming heap of moules marinieres and a pile of crisp French fries.

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But not everything here is inexpensive. We went to Monaco on Tuesday and checked out the lunch menu in the Café de Paris overlooking the Casino in Monte Carlo – Don’t ask!

Dinner is the highlight of every Frenchman’s day and although we’ve had some major disappointments in recent years, we’ve been treated to some excellent meals this time. Here’s Sunday’s menu…

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And included in the price was a delicious amuse bouche of chestnut soup, together with homemade tapenade and delicate slices of Melba toast. Here is the main course of courgette flowers stuffed with cod…

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The four course meal was topped off with fresh local strawberries and fromage frais – absolutely delicious – and just twenty five dollars including tax. A note to the British Columbian government which has just hiked taxes – the French government has dropped the tax on eating out in order to assist the ailing restaurant trade during the recession!

Posted by Hawkson 01:02 Archived in France Comments (3)

Our 100th Anniversary

semi-overcast 15 °C

This our 100th blog entry since we hopped aboard a plane for Bangkok last October and we thought we would amuse you with a few of the photos from our present trip that didn’t quite make the cut.

Norton-St-Phillip, England.
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"Hah - Hah! - Look who's got an Audi !"

Tabarca Island, Spain.
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Spanish for beginners...

Alicante, Spain.
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Jim ... "According to the guidebook it is 2nd Century Roman ..."

Santa Pola, Spain.
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"I hate hanging about like this just to get a dance."

Guadelest, Spain.
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Thumbs up for this cup....

Cuxac-Cabardes, France.
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Sheila .... "It’s your fault Jim. I told you not to argue with the Sat.Nav Gal."

Lagrasse, France.
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Sign on door of the "Insomniacs Anonymous" meeting room...

Montolieu, France.
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"Sorry Officer. I just thought he was going to pass wind"...

Argeles-sur-Mer, France.
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Nudists' beach at Argeles-sur-Mer (On a chilly day).

Elche Market, Spain.
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"I don’t know about you two, but I only came in to get my fins trimmed !"

Posted by Hawkson 06:39 Archived in France Comments (2)

Ancient and Modern

sunny 14 °C

As blog followers probably know - we love the really ancient stuff. Give us a medieval village, a ruined castle or a Rod Stewart album, and we are in our element. But we’re not complete Luddites - we have got our own blog!! And we love to fly. So today we went to the factory in Toulouse where the Airbus A380 - the World’s largest airplane - is manufactured.
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Visits are by reservation only, but their online reservation site was down - (not a good advert for a company offering to stuff 800 people into a big metal box and drive them halfway around the world). So we took a chance and amazingly arrived just ten minutes before one of the few English language tours of the week. “Zhe reservation is obligatoire,” the check-in clerk said, but after a few minutes on “Standby” we were ushered onto the bus and driven to the main factory.
Here is Sheila on the runway with our guide - Yannique.
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We’d love to show you more pictures, but after the Ruskies pinched plans of the Concorde in the ’60’s the French are paranoid about being spied upon.

Anyway, all the bits of an Airbus A380 are actually produced in England, Germany and Spain. The guys in Toulouse just plop all the pieces together and shove in a few rivets. It’s just like Meccano for grown-ups, (for those of you old enough to remember).

With a maximum capacity exceeding 800 and a minimum price tag of 327 million U.S. dollars there is no superlative too over the top to describe this monster. for instance - each of the four engine cowlings have a greater diameter than the fuselage of an Airbus A200.

Our first flight

Our first flight


Here we are lining up for our first trip - but we might queue for a very long time if we wait for Easyjet or Air Canada to get one.

Posted by Hawkson 01:54 Archived in France Comments (0)

Our Cabardes Home

A River Runs Through It ..

semi-overcast 16 °C

Plan de Ville

Plan de Ville

Cuxac Cabardes

Cuxac Cabardes

The old village of Cuxac-Cabardes is a backwater of solid stone houses in the Black Mountains north of Carcassone. It is quaint, but it lacks the picturesqueness of five-star villages like St. Paul de Vence or Eze near Nice. It also lacks the crush of tourists and flashy entrepreneurs flogging tacky knick-knacks that go hand in hand with such stardom. There is certainly nothing flashy about our baker…
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… but he bakes fabulous bread and croissants in a traditional wood fired oven.

Cuxac-Cabardes is a real village of real people, although many of the locals have sold their rustic cottages in the valley and now live in bright modern houses on the top of the hill. Most of the newcomers are summer sojourners who come here for a few weeks from Paris or London and want to avoid the razzmatazz of the pushier resorts that dot the nearby Mediterranean coast. But now, with the vacationers gone until next July, many of the houses are tightly shuttered ….
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However, life goes on for the few hundred residents, The clocks on the Mairie and the church tower continue to chime each hour - only five minutes apart - while the mayor and his staff beaver away in their offices. The French are lovers of bureaucracy - they even invented the word - though goodness knows how many bureaucrats it takes to fill a building the size of this Mairie … the town hall ...
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Cuxac-Cabardes today is an antiquated riverside village that boasts two bakers, two butchers, a general store, a pharmacy and four sets of incredibly filthy public toilets, (just what do all those bureaucrats do?). But the faded signs on many of the buildings speak of a vibrant past when the village boasted cafés, auberges and a host of other businesses. And the street names tell us that in times gone by this village was renowned for its chestnuts - marrons. Here are some of the beautiful trees near the river…

Autumn Trees in Cuxac

Autumn Trees in Cuxac

Our typical, three storey, village house on the Route de la Foret, retains much of its authenticity and ambience; with low beams, stone fireplace and wooden shutters. Its squeaky floors and narrow winding staircase speak to its age, but it has the necessitates to make us comfortable. We came for two weeks, stayed for three and we will be headed back here as soon as possible. In fact, we’ve signed up as chief cook and bottle-washer on David’s magnificent canal cruiser, the Carmen, for next June - we can’t wait.

Posted by Hawkson 06:49 Archived in France Comments (2)

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