Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show the remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally the palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi-circular barbican and a moat.

The genesis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time. The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterized by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the medieval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourists to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.



A taste of Provence

Delicious and not just the food!

Learn French with Pascale

Even if you live far away from Provence, you can still enjoy a little taste of this region with the following Provençal menu that I have created for you. By clicking on the links, you will find the recipes in French or in English.

Furthermore,  if you want to immerse yourself into life in Provence a bit more, you can watch the  following two films Jean de Floretteand Manon des Sources which were filmed in the Vaucluse department.

Bienvenue en Provence!

Aperitif / Appetizer

Tartines de tapenade    

Olive tapenade toasts

Entrée / Starter

Tarte tatin aux tomates et oignons confits  

Tomato and caramelised onion tart Tatin

Plat principal / Main course

Gigot d’agneau farci aux abricots et herbes   

Herbs and apricot stuffed leg of lamb

vegetarian option 


Provençal omelette  

vegan option:

Poivrons farcis au riz

Stuffed peppers

served with




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Behind the scene

Originally posted 2014.

Each year, most often in the spring, our choir, Les Chants des Corbières, often combines our performances with a small repast ( repas). While concerts are usually free, we do have a small charge for the meal and it helps to pay the choirs expenses.

In this post you will see a bit of the activity that goes into preparing an autumn repas following a performance in the nearby village of Villesèque-des-Corbières (Pop: 388).  The menu was kept simple. There was Pumpkin soup, baguettes, cheeses and a variety of desserts all made by choir members. There are always bottles of wine, juices and bottles of water on each table. However, we are also well known for our generous vat (30 plus gallons) of Sangria.

One of the first things I look for each autumn as the landscape begins to run rampant with colours are pumpkins and other squashes. When I first arrived in France they were abundant but almost unrecognisable to me. Living in California, New York and a few states in-between did not prepare me for what I would find at the local markets. No longer would I carve into a round and brightly orange vegetable. The pumpkins here are not round and smooth nor are they always orange. Many of the pumpkins are a light to medium and even a dark green.  Regardless of the colour of the outside, they are all the same vibrant orange inside and quite delicious.

Villesèque foyer's kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Villesèque foyer’s kitchen in the corner with two of the pumpkins
Andrea making the first cut
Andrea making the first cut
Part of our set-up crew
Part of our set-up crew
Front of foyer before being decorated
Front of foyer before being decorated
Never too many cooks!
Never too many cooks!
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter...
Tiny kitchen, several cooks and lots of laughter…
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Tables begin to take on the colours of the evening
Chop and peel, peel and chop...
Chop and peel, peel and chop…
Is it soup yet?
Is it soup yet?
Nothing like a lovely bowl of soup on a nippy autumn evening
Nothing like a lovely, simmering pot of soup…
Many hands...
Many hands…
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing
If only you could hear the laughter and the singing

There is often a tombola (raffle) and prizes donated by local merchants including plants, travel, baskets filled with treats including bottles of wine.

While most of the songs we sing are French, we do have a few in our catalogue in Spanish, one or two in English and a few songs from different parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Audiences always have their favourites and they will demand encores so they can join it.

The choir has accumulated a large cache of dishes, silverware, glassware and serving pieces. It is a grand mismatched collection. Unlike typical village meals, our guests do not need to bring their tableware as everything is provided. We may be exhausted by the time clean-up is finished but smiling. Leftover food is usually shared among us with some of the cakes being frozen until our next choir practice along with some leftover sangria to wash it all down with.



14 Juillet, 2017

“I know a freedom, and that is the freedom of the spirit.”                                                    – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

DSCN3937 (1)
Preparation – before the crowd

It isn’t just about setting up and serving on the day. The Durban mon village Association has put in considerable time choosing a menu, the music, and the myriad of other considerations required to make this a memorable event. Just prior to the day, I witnessed several villagers creating the new countertop you see in the above photo. 

Celebrants begin arriving at about 7:00 in the evening and staking out where they want to sit, speaking with friends and taking a beverage from this willing crew.



The food begins! Bread, water, wine and such have been put in place and now the servers bring the first course. A half melon into which they will pour Muscat, a sweet, pale golden, wine. Though it is lovely, I opt for plain melon as I don’t have a sweet tooth. 


A young couple with their three year old daughter join our table as the melon is being served. The young lady and her mom pass on the wine but watch her appreciate the melon as only a child can do.





Curried Coconut Chicken and Rice, it was delicious!




À votre santé!

 As always, a good time was had by all. The DJ, sometimes a band or more, and the music and dancing go on will into the night. Even the smallest children, barely walking, are out dancing with parents, and grandparents.  The French truly wrote the book on celebrating life. 



In a village there is something for everyone

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”  – George Orwell

In a village you are part of the whole. Nobody is perfect and together we are amazing! The concentric circles take in the new and allow it its own space among the ongoing saga. If you want to be part of it, the arms are open to welcome you.

Here in our village of 700, we have just enough space for all here. If someone new arrives a new space is born respective of the others. I’ve been here nearly ten years and knew I was home the first time I saw it.

On Wednesday afternoons at the cantina there are games, refreshments and one of the most caring environments I have ever witnessed. My first visit I was welcomed and invited to join in. After that, you are one of the group and your absence is felt and inquiries commence. Are you well? Do you need anything and a really big one is, can I help?

While technically, the game time is for 50 and over, it just isn’t. Yesterday’s repas (meal) and Loto (much like Bingo) mixed several generations. While there are many who lend their support bringing cakes and beverages, lending a hand when there just are not enough for a particular game so nobody is disappointed and chauffeuring those who might not be able to attend otherwise and so much more, there is one person who really has her pulse on everything and I don’t believe the magic would happen without Sylvie. School is out and three young boys and their mothers joined in. Sometimes a young person will call the loto numbers. The three boys played and one actually won a game.

20170705_114209 - Sylvie


20170705_114354 - prizes

Loto cards & prizes

20170705_114406 - Loto cards

20170705_123331 - gathering 1

20170705_124149 - gathering 3

20170705_125528 - Usual suspects

Usual Suspects


tiff infomation

A few more suspects

20170705_125807 - bon appetit 2

Bon appetit!

20170705_125818 - bon appetit 3

20170705_140147 - Michael et Serge 2

20170705_143957 - more than one way to play... 1
Choose your weapon, plastic discs or nuts and bolts?
20170705_144013 - Denise et Claude, tough competition!
Denise et Claude – tough competition!

If you cannot find anything to do in a small French village, you are not looking. Flyers are posted at the local businesses and announced on the PA system. Just recently our village has posted its own website as more villagers go online.

Everyone had a wonderful time and nobody was in a hurry to leave. The group is on hiatus now until September but there is always something else to do. Now I am off to my favorite art expo and there just may be a post or two in that…



Marche Aux Truffes

Usually reserved for end of year celebrations, the truffle (truffes) holds an all-conquering pride of place in the dedicated local markets. It also kicks off the grand markets for the new year as this festival runs from late December into February.

The truffle is symbolic of luxury and French gastronomy, this delicacy appears on the menus of all top chefs as soon as it comes into season. The dark jewel hides in the ground at the feet of truffle oak trees and comes into season between December and March, maturing just in time for the winter markets.
End of year celebrations present the perfect opportunity to serve them fresh at our tables following a trip to the truffle markets. Buying them in itself can occasionally involve a certain sense of ritual, whereby buyers are restrained behind a white rope and wait for the blast of a whistle before running and inhaling the scent of these precious mushrooms. While it may be said that we eat with our eyes, it that were totally true, the truffle might never have been tasted. However, one whiff of their exotic and earthy aroma is magical and with that first taste, I was hooked.

There were several bands moving about the event providing a wide variety of music and do not be surprised if folks break out dancing. After all, this is France.

There are many other artists and artisans displaying their wares and many opportunities to indulge in other local products.
In Moussoulens, the Aude capital of truffles, as well as a visit to the truffle market, you can enjoy an excursion to a truffle field or culinary demonstrations from top chefs – using truffle recipes, of course. If you are visiting Carcassonne it is a short drive away and if you like you can combine a visit to the festival to a visit at Montolieu, the village of books. They are a short distance apart. However, from Carcassonne as your base, you can afford to reserve an entire day for Montolieu.

Among dishes on offer were omelettes laced with truffle shavings, grilled duck breast with truffle on a crusty baguette, truffle soup, truffle risotto, truffle butter on baugette. Vendors with truffle infused oil, salt and other treats. Then if you have deep pockets, you can purchase a small sack of truffles. Truffles are carefully weighed and sold at prices that change according to the market. On the day I visited the market, you could purchase a kilo (2.2 pounds) for a mere 1,000 euros. Bon appétit!



Peyriac-de-Mer and a vide grenier

Summertime along the Mediterranean in the lovely village of Peyriac -de-Mer, what could be lovelier? Well on 5 July, there was the additional option of browsing the village vide grenier.

Peyriac de Mer Centreville

Peyriac-de-Mer Centreville

Peyriac-de-Mer’s last census (2008) was just over one thousand. However, there are always visitors. They come for the food and for the wine. There are several wine caves and since I was last there, a second café has been added.

A centre courtyard
A centre courtyard
Bon appetit!
Bon appetit!
Vide grenier
Vide grenier
Étang - Pond
Étang – Pond

The étang or ponds that line along the Mediterranean are breeding areas for flamingos. They usually begin arriving in October but I noticed them in mid-September last year. They feed of the rich shrimp beds and have their young then move on in April.

More vendors
More vendors
Finding a friend
Finding a friend

I knew my friend, Jiranan, would be a vendor at the vide grenier but not where she would be. I managed to take the photo above before she noticed me. She is on the right kneeling with her copain (boyfriend), Olivier.

The vide grenier area and a small playground are located behind the foyer on the road to the next village to the north-east which is Bages.

Up close...
Up close…
L: Olivier  R: Jiranan
L: Olivier R: Jiranan

In most villages you will find a large smooth surface such as the one above in at either the foyer or the mairie. Many events, festivals and village meals (repas) will be centered there. While the area will be filled with chairs and tables early on, the circle will be cleared after eating and the dancing begins. Music is often part of the entire evening.

Walking around any village you will find benches for reading, visiting or just catching your breath. While larger towns have workmen that care for planters and gardens in our small villages these are cared for by volunteers.

Le bureau or shop where you can buy tobacco, newspapers, magazines...
Le bureau or shop where you can buy tobacco, newspapers, magazines…
Les deux cafés
Les deux cafés

The café on the left is one I had been to before on visits to the village. However, it appears to have changed owners and except for the basic structure, has no resemblance to the previous café. The small one on the right is new. The village also has a small store, boulangerie, realtors, numerous wine caves and art galleries. Like many of these villages, there is a large portion of the population that is involved in the arts. There are art events frequently but not this time.  Even with two cafés, many people were out searching for a place to sit and enjoy some refreshments.

Noix des Saint-Jacques Salade
Noix des Saint-Jacques Salade

The above salad is more beautiful in person. It is scallops and shrimp and of course, all local. The dark spots are a touch of balsamic vinegar and there were two different types of sprouts. A perfect pairing with a local rosé!


Beneath the green awning directly ahead is one of many small art galleries. This one in particular is currently featuring pottery. However, you cannot go far without finding another gallery.

This charming village is located about 20km from my village and I drive past it frequently on my way into Narbonne.

Like everywhere else in France there are weekly markets, music festivals, theatre and more.



Poisson d’Avril – April Fools

All Fools Day is celebrated 1 April each year across much of the world. It is a day of hoaxes, practical jokes and all around good humour.  Many people believe that the holiday originated in France. Few facts are available and you will make up your own mind. Regardless, it is just a bit of silliness and fun in a world with too little silliness and fun.

French Origins of April Fools Day

Although the origins of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.

Poisson d'Avril
Poisson d’Avril

Today, those who are fooled on 1 April are called the “Poisson d’Avril or April Fish. It is common especially among school-aged children to place a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. That person is declared a “Poisson d’Avril.

Often you can find a large Poisson on the last page, first section of the morning newspaper or le journal.

Le journal
Le journal – L’INDEPENDANT

Most mornings I read le journal at the local café. Sometimes I buy a copy from le boulanger, Jacques.  This morning he had the lovely, fruity Poisson d’Avril made up in a flakey puff pastry with pastry cream and your choice of apricot (apricot) or fraise (strawberry). He is a lovely man who lives in the village and has several family members working along side him.

Jacques's son
Jacques’s son

Of course there is always croissants, pain au raisin, baguettes and much more. If other shops are closed you can pick up milk, honey, jam, coffee and more here.

La boulangerie
La boulangerie

While I have you here just outside the bakery, I want to share something that I really love. Outside some businesses are old metal signs that without words, show you exactly what kind of shop it is. Despite the wind today, I have taken a photo of the one outside the bakery. Unfortunately, it is at an angle due to the strong wind. However, I think it is charming and there are a few others still around but you do have to look up for them. Great care in design is taken to tell a story in picture.

Sign for the bakery
Sign for the bakery

I do believe if you look closely you can see the moon over the sleepy village while le boulanger is watching his oven. They are reminiscent of a quieter time and I do love each of them that I have found.

Perhaps when I have collected enough photos of such signs, there will be a blog post on those.

Poisson d’Avril or April Fools!



La mer, off season

From April until well into Autumn, our beaches stay filled. However, for some of us, it is still too beautiful not to go for a walk along the magnificent shore and perhaps enjoy a café, glass of wine or even a meal and stare out to sea. There are bits of obliging wood for writing messages in the sand and the sand is damp which is perfect for castles.

A quiet day at the beach
A quiet day at the beach
A willing you artist leaves his mark in damp sand
A willing young artist leaves his mark in damp sand
With obliging bits of wood we draw and leave messages on the shore…
King of the hill, or at least the sand pile
King of the hill, or at least the sand pile
Enjoying the view...
Enjoying the view…
to the lighthouse...
to the lighthouse…
A few hardy souls!
A few hardy souls!
The sea air does increase the appetite and what could be better?
The sea air does increase the appetite and what could be better?

There is still some time before the tourists begin to arrive to enjoy filling the lungs with salt air, writing volumes in the sand,

While these photos were taken at Port-la-Nouvelle, there are numerous beaches along the Mediterranean which are happy to oblige.