are two typical Alsatian towns. The architecture, is fairytale, meets living history, with the added benefit of French dessert! There are little towns like these scattered all over Alsace, exploring, (note Jupiter near clock tower) and eating, here is a delightful way to spend your days! Cheers to you from beautiful Alsace~
Due to a number of photos I wish to share, we are still in Narbonne. I do hope you find them worthwhile. Alas, I had to dodge a number of workmen, vehicles (yes, even in the park) scaffolding and a number of the earlier tourists. Yet here in the area, our tourists can be found in any season. Within another week or two, the crowds will swell in all these locations.
The sun dial is directly behind Place de ville seen in part one. It is a small but lovely park with flowers, benches and oh what a view!
Turning left as you exit the park and a right turn onto the street ahead you will find the the haven for tourists with questions. In a city the size of Narbonne you will be welcomed in several languages and the latest in information offered. You might guess that the Canal de Robine is just behind the bureau.
Of the many shops lining the street, this one seemed to sweep me inside. I do hope you will understand?
If you haven’t had your minimum daily requirements of chocolate, this may be the time… the aroma of chocolate permeates everything in the shop and I believe that I smelled it for awhile after parting.
While I’ve been to Holland and Belgium a few times and their chocolate is unbeatable. The Swiss and German chocolate is lovely but do not imagine that France’s chocolate cannot compete. For those, yes I am aware there are a few of you out there, that are not chocolate lovers we have something else that is very French.
Now I must admit to trying a few macarons in the eight+ years in France. Yet none have come even close to these delectable clouds of perfections! They should be sold with a warning that they are habit forming…
I do promise that the next post will be from a different location. However, if Narbonne is on your vacation list you won’t be disappointed and try to stay over for the market day, visit the museums just footsteps away for the square.
Yes, we just went down these same paths last week, but I went back on Market Day and thought you might like to see it for yourselves. I hope you don’t mind re-visiting so soon.
The vendors commence right up to the road and to the canal. There are many vendors on both sides of the canal and most anything is on offer. How is your French? You can haggle down a price on some goods and some of the vendors speak more than one language.
As you can see from this photo, table coverings must be sufficiently weighted down or clamped. When the Mediterranean winds kick in, things can become airborne.
While Les Halles is only closed about two or three days in the entire year, it’s vendors are finished and closed up by noon. The restaurants serve lunch but close up afterwards and do not serve any other meal.
Until you have bought and used fresh spices in your cooking, it is hard to know what you are missing.
I do love Lavande (Lavender). There are sachets in several drawers and with the linens. Once I read that if you put it under or next to your pillow it would sweeten your dreams and it can be comforting if you are lying down with a headache.
Yes, these are on mens sport socks and I’m afraid that I just couldn’t resist including the photo.
I keep telling myself to buy one. Alas, I wear them so infrequently. They do provide a lot of colour for the price.
The clothes are a big clue as to the season. The next few photos leave no doubt.
After all that shopping it is time for an aperitif…or perhaps lunch? There are many restaurants that would be happy to serve you.
Despite the plaza being filled with items for sale, this is only a small part of the Thursday market. Not far off there is a parking lot that is set aside each Thursday morning for Marché and in addition to what is offered here, there is also have fresh produce, cheeses, and other assorted foods.
The city of Narbonne looked nothing like this when Roman troops descended on it. Yet they left their mark as did others. Today, you can still walk along the Via Domita and it is the heart of this city. As you travel through these photos, be sure to click on and really take it all in.
From this side of the canal you can proceed to the first small street to the right. There are shops on both sides and from some of them you can look out over the canal. At the end of the street is the heart of the village and VIA DOMITA lies directly in front of you.
Les Halles has been in this enclosure since 1901 and is only closed a few days of the year. There are stalls all around and in clusters in between. On offer is fresh seafood, breads and pastries, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, olives and so much more. There are restaurants inside but they are all set up as bars and the food cooked to order. If you want to have lunch there, don’t wait too long as they get crowded quickly. Different seasons and festivals will have specialties on offer. Of course, there is plenty of wine. Do your shopping early as it closes up at noon except for the restaurants.
Just after Les Halles is l’estagnol restaurant. It has changed little over the years I’ve been here. A few menu changes and decor but the biggest change is the additional space in front. As the season progresses, additional chairs and tables will be brought out to the newly tiled area between buildings and the canal. Thursdays is market day in Narbonne and as large as the extended plaza is, the vendors and café’s fill it so you can just about make your way through.
A light but delicious lunch at l’estagnol was just the thing.
l’estagnol like many of the other restaurants and shops have begun displaying are by local artists. I prefer to sit outside, weather permitting, or a window seat. However, I had not seen this work before so decided to take the rear view.
It is my hope that these photos will give you an idea of just how large this area is. Make sure you are clicking on each photo to get an enlarged view. To the right you may notice the elevator to provide improved access to the canal.
A view of the other side of the canal with the heart of the city in the back right corner.
The canal is still a bit quiet but that changes rapidly as the tourists stream in. Narbonne is a very popular destination here in Europe. Often I’ve sat at a table in Place de Ville and practically made a game out of the variety of languages coming from the nearby tables.
This little street opens out to the heart of the village . If you turn right you go back to the grand plaza. Left will take you to the tourist office.
Soon many more café tables and chairs will encroach on the center of the city. You could not choose a lovelier place to have a café or glass of chilled rosé. On sunny days I will spend an hour or so at my favourite café reading and people watching.
Yes, you can actually walk on the VIA DOMITA. There is a plaque on one end and a map on the other. The next photo and a few others were shot while standing on the ancient road to Rome.
Hôtel de ville
Behind the windows where you see the flags is a very large room, ballroom size. It is hung with elegant tapestries and filled with ornate chairs and other such furniture. The mayor’s office is also inside as are other offices.
Once you enter this arch way, it is much like walking on the Via Domita.
Saint-Juste is one of the most impressive cathedrals. Alas, no photos were allowed inside. I’ve taken many photos from other cathedrals, including Notre Dame de Paris but not here.
There are a few more photos of this cathedral but with all the other photos I’ve taken, I’ve decided to do a part II so we shall return to Narbonne soon.
When I began putting this post together, I had made many historical notes but then decided to just show you around a city I spend so much time in. If you come to Narbonne one day, you may see me out on the Place de Ville with a book or journal and a glass of rosé.
Carcassonne will always have a special place in my heart. When I first visited France it was with a backpack, rail-pass with eyes and heart wide open! I was privileged to stay within the fortified cité for a week. That six weeks traveling France went by in a flash. The lovely bridge leads you into the heart of the town and all that lies beyond. Between the ancient fortress and the river Aude are a playground, picnic areas and vast parkland. To the rear are vineyards.
This ancient Roman town was established around the VIII Century BC, the Carsac oppidum was just two kilometers south of the present city. The town extends over more than twenty hectares on the apex of a plateau protected by both a ditch and the angled entrances. Due to demographic growth it was reorganized around the late VIIth Century. Another ditch was reinforced by levees and palisades of wood and made to protect the new extension. While we don’t know why, the Carsac oppidum was abandoned in the early Vith Century BC then moved to its current resting place on the mound which dominates the Aude plain. Vestiges acquired from archaeological excavations show us that it was occupied from the beginning of the Iron Age up until the Roman conquest. Among the artifacts are drystone walls, grain silos, bronze foundry ovens and pottery. The discovery of the vast number of goods, especially earthenware (amphoras, vases, goblets…) attests to the activities that took place in this colony which was accessible to trading in the region of the Aude and also the Mediterranean basin.
The citadel takes its reputation from its 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long double surrounding walls which are interspersed by 52 towers. The town has approximately 2,500 years of history which has seen it inhabited or invaded by Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and of course, the Crusaders. It originated as a Gaulish settlement then in the 3rd century A.D., the Romans began to fortify the town. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1247 A.D., and provided a strong French frontier between France and the Crown of Aragon.
After the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the province of Roussillon was included as part of France and the town no longer had military significance. The town became one of the economic centers of France focusing on the woolen textile industry and the fortifications were abandoned.
The French government decided to demolish the city fortifications in 1849. The local people were strongly opposed. The campaign to preserve the fortress as an historical monument was staunchly aided by the efforts of Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and Prosper Mérimée, a renowned archaeologist and historian. The government reversed its decision and the restoration work commenced in 1853. The architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was charged with renovating the fortress. Viollet-le-Duc’s work received criticism in his lifetime. Claims were made that the restoration was inappropriate for the traditions and climate of the region. Upon his death in 1879, the work continued under the direction of his former pupil, Paul Boeswillwald and later by the architect Nodet.
If you are interested in the area, may I recommend the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of Carcassonne are excellent and her story weaves in and out of the 12th century and modern day. It was her book that I was reading when I first arrived in Carcassonne.
There are accommodations from four star hotels to the youth hostel within the fortified cité and it can provide an excellent place to stay during a visit. The train station is a short walk away from the centre of town and the airport is nearby. It is not to late to plan a holiday here in the south west of France the summer will be here soon but there are activities here all year around.
When it is spoken of in English speaking countries, 14 July is usually called Bastille Day or (French National Day). Here in France, it is La quatorze juillet (14 July) or La Fête Nationale (Formal name). The actual storming of the bastille was 14 July 1889
The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the heart of Paris. On the morning of 14 July 1789, the people stormed the building and released the seven prisoners it contained at the time. Yet this action had nothing to do with the number of inmates but the fact that the storming was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy and was the critical stage which erupted into the French Revolution.
There were three events that led up to the revolution. First was the revolt of the nobility, refusal to aid King Louis XVI by withholding taxes, the second was formation of the National Assembly and the third event was the storming of the Bastille and the ensuing Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
The masses formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour or cockades (cocardes) ribbons knotted together of red, blue and white. These cockades and soon the color scheme itself, become symbol of the revolution and continue today as symbol of France itself.
While the date for the destruction of the Bastille was indeed 14 July 1789, the date for French National Day was actually 14 July, 1790 to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and reconciliation of all French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France. A largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign quests.
In most cities outside of Paris, there is usually a small ceremony at the monument for those who gave their lives in WWI and WWII. In the evenings there will be fireworks. In our village, the are shot from the ancient castle behind my home.
Here in my small village, there will be a meal (repas) attended by all who wish. Each year a different village organization takes charge of preparing the dinner, selling tickets procuring music and everything else that is involved. As the meal comes to a close fireworks are shot from the village chateau. The tables and chairs get moved way back and the dancing goes on well into the morning. Despite the fact that I was, once again, invited to spend the day in Carcassonne where there is the second largest fireworks display outside Paris. However, the evening with my friends and neighbors cannot be matched by a mere firework display. It is one day I truly do not want to be anywhere else.
Seating fills quickly but you can make a reservation by stationing someone from your group or by placing something at one point, tipping forward the chairs you will be using and also with a pen or marker put the name and number of guests you require seating for. While this may sound simple, the claim is respected and your seats await you.
Saint-Malo was founded in the 1st century BC a short distance away from where it stands today. The Romans later fortified the city. A monastery was established in the 6th century by Irish monks. Around that time the rocky island in the north was named after the celtic bishop Maclou.
The rock known as Saint-Malo was connected to the mainland by a mere causeway of sand. This was its natural defence during the raids conducted by the Vikings. What remains of the ancient ramparts were added in the 12th century by Bishop Jean de Chatillon.
Saint-Malo’s citizens traditionally exhibited a fiercely independent spirit. This strength of character and determination kept them in frequent conflict with the rulers of France, Brittany and England. This spirit was epitomized by the city’s sailor merchants. They gained their riches from pillaging foreign ships out of The English Channel. Granted license by the King of France, they were free to go “coursing” after enemy vessels from which they retained a percentage of the profit of all captured ships and were known as corsairs. Squint your eyes on the shore as the sun is setting and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise corsairs on the horizon.
While Saint-Malo sustained heavy damage during WWII, much has been done to restore it to its former glory. Today it is one of the most popular places to visit in Brittany.
Regardless of the time of day, the beach of Saint Malo can take your breath away.
Yet, the beaches are stunning and deserve a post of their own. Perhaps they can entice you to visit this charming city? Dig your feet into the sands and gaze out to where pirates once ruled the waves.
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