Un goût de Narbonne: deux

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. 

Parc de ville
Parc de ville

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!

Have a seat and enjoy the view!
Have a seat and enjoy the view!
Parc de ville 2
Parc de ville 2
Parc de ville 3
Parc de ville 3
Tourist Office
Tourist Office

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.

 

Chocolat!
Chocolat!

Of the many shops lining the street, this one seemed to sweep me inside. I do hope you will understand?

Le gendarme
Le gendarme
The owl, fish,
The owl, fish, rabbits…

 

Le chef!
Le chef!
Le chateau!
Le chateau!

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.

and more chocolate!
and more chocolate!

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…

Les macarons
Les macarons

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. 

Bisous,

Léa

 

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Carcassonne and La Cité

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.

La Cité
La Cité

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.

Drawbridge or main entrance
Drawbridge or main entrance

 

A pathway to the side off drawbridge
Drawbridge from the inside
Cité walls left of entrance
Cité walls left of entrance
Un café
Un café
Walking along the central path inside the fortified city
Walking along the central path inside the fortified city
Temptation is everywhere!
Sweets for the sweet!
One of the courtyards inside the walled cité
One of the courtyards inside the walled cité
Souvenirs abound
Souvenirs abound
Off the beaten track
Off the beaten track
One of the many paths you can take
One of the many paths you can take
To the right of the entrance you can see the moat is often dry these days
To the right of the entrance you can see the moat is often dry these days
Below the walled fortress the river forks
Below the walled fortress the river Aude forks

 

This little bridge takes you across the river into the heart of the town. If you look closely you can see some delicate metal arches to walk under.
This little bridge takes you across the river Aude into the heart of the town. If you look closely you can see some delicate metal arches to walk under.
At the bottom you can partially see the local boules club
At the bottom you can partially see the local boules club

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.

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

Encore: Palavas les Flots

A very dear friend David (former professor and “adoptive” dad) had been visiting Italy and a stop here in the south of France. As usual, his visit went by ever so quickly and I returned him to the airport in Montpellier. While I had given some thought to a day in Montpellier, it was a day made for the beach.  I had visited Palavas-les-Flots six years earlier with my best friend. Rita and I spent four nights in the village and I have some wonderful memories of swimming in the sea, dining in some wonderful restaurants and exploring a most charming village. Unfortunately, this would be a brief visit but one well worth making.

 

La rivière à gauche
La rivière à gauche

 

 

Galerie d'Art
Galerie d’Art

 One of many art galleries to visit is the  Galerie d’Art – Gustave Courbet. There are also two museums for you to enjoy. The first is the Musée d’Albert Dubout, for more on his work, check out this link:  http://dubout.fr/

The other museum is le petit train. For more information on this lovely village visit the website of the office of tourism. You can select from several languages to suit your needs.  http://ot-palavaslesflots.com/

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Poseidon

 

Being a die-hard Sea lover, I can’t pass up an opportunity to take a photo of Poseidon!

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Something for everyone!

 

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Côté Café

Côté Cafe where Rita and I stopped for a coffee one morning. The smells coming from the kitchen beckoned us back for lunch and there were no regrets. The sauce was made with cèpes and we learned that the taste was as amazing as the aroma. The hotel we stayed in was small, nearby and reasonable. It was in walking distance of everything.

 

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Shops and Cafés

Anything you may have forgotten to pack is available not to mention the usual postcards and souvenirs. I must admit that the Cat below was tempting and would make a delightful sac for beach lovers with ample room to include your lotion and other necessities.

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Fun bag in shop window

 

 

Le Bianca Restaurant
Le Bianca Restaurant

 

Mme Christiane Siau (seated) welcomes you to her restaurant
Mme Christiane Siau (seated) welcomes you to her restaurant

 

 Rita and I stopped here more than once during our visit in 2008. I was happy to see Mme. Siau still running things and chose to stop here for my birthday luncheon. You cannot get fresher seafood and I know I shall return. This time, I won’t wait that long. It is the perfect place to really get away and is family friendly. Wherever you path leads you, I hope you do get the chance to stop by and enjoy.

Bisous,

Léa

Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe

Hiking/walking suggestions
Hiking/walking suggestions

Nestled in the Lorraine Region is the small village of Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe. Returning to France from a visit to Holland and Belgium, an overnight stop was needed. Unfortunately, my friend’s son had to return to the village for school to resume. However, if you ever want to find a place with stunning vistas and tranquility, this could be the place you dream of.

The Chambres D’hôtes has stunning views from its rear balcony as well as just down the lane. You could walk the paths or take to the hills. Unfortunately, one night was all we had so it will have to be on my list to visit again.

Despite the fact that we had no reservation and simply took our chances, we had a lovely suite and a grand breakfast which included local cheeses, homemade preserves and fresh breads, croissants, coffee, tea, juices and more.

Since my time there was so short, I will not waste a lot of words attempting to do what the camera will do much better. I shall look forward to stopping by again. Perhaps when I visit the Champagne Regions?

Bisous,

Léa

L’église
L’église
Breathtaking view
Breathtaking view
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IMG_2746
Invitations to explore are all around
Invitations to explore are all around
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IMG_2743
IMG_2748
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The Chambres D’hôtes
The Chambres D’hôtes

IMG_2686

IMG_2776
The Chambres D’hôtes
Petit déjeuner
Petit déjeuner
IMG_2771
It beckons you onward

Maison Christina at Rennes-les-Bains

Recently, when a dear friend arrived from California for her annual visit, she wanted to visit one of the local spas. On the way to Alet-les-Bains, we saw a sign for Rennes-les-Bains and since a reservation had not been made we decided to check it out.

The village was enveloped in a stunning setting and we decided to stay the night treating ourselves to a few treatments at the Bains (Baths) and a relaxing evening.

A couple we met said it did not seem to be too crowded yet and we would probably find a room.

While having coffee a few meters from the thermal baths, we noticed a sign for rooms. Good fortune was on our side as we entered Christina’s. While the establishment is small, everything was clean, fresh and most inviting. Christina herself is welcoming and quietly sees that everything is as it should be. Furthermore, her coffee is excellent!

If you find yourself in this part of France, check in with Christina and you can visit her website: www.maisonchristina.eu 

Rita and I enjoyed our visit there very much and will look forward to visiting Rennes and Christina in the future.

Bisous,

Léa

Rennes-Les-Bains

Deep in the south of France lies Rennes-les-Bains. Ancient Thermal Pools This small village is located at the heart of “Cathar country” in the Corbières. It is located 48 km south of the city of Carcassonne. The area is known for:

* Since Roman times, it has existed as a spa town

* The cure, Abbé Henri Boudet

* Reported links with the Grand Master of the Knights of Templar, Bertrand de Blanchefort

* A setting in the novel Sepulcher

Ancient Thermal Pools

* A mere five-minute drive is the village of Bugarach were the reported portal for the New World is believed to be.

Regardless, it is beautiful place. Even if the baths were not here, it is worthy of a visit.

The benefits of going to a “spa” have been with us for centuries and evidence of their popularity dates back to the time of the Romans. There are over fifty such spa towns in France that are known for their healing qualities. France is one of the countries that still recommend spa treatment as part of available healthcare and are often covered by the individuals medical insurance.

Children swimming in the riverhere, it is worthy of a visit.

Photos are not allowed inside the baths and they are rather clinical. Regardless, I have never had a better massage and spent the rest of the day luxuriating in the glow.

The village is situated on the river Sals, which gets its name from the fact that it is salt water, which is unusual for an interior river. Rennes is one of many thermal baths and it is in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region.

The spa is modern and utilizes the latest in equipment. You can also bath in the old Roman baths the larger one at 46 degrees Centigrade / 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The village also contains a Turkish bath, jacuzzi, gym, and heated outdoor swimming pool.

Despite the fact that we did not have reservations, we were able to book time in the baths and found delightful accommodations a few minutes walk away.

Even on vacation, there can be stress. Do yourself a favor and check out the thermal spas. This is only the second Thermal spa I have visited. Perhaps further discovery is required.

Bisous,

Léa

Reception-book your treatments here