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A taste of the sweet life

Meze, on the Etang in Languedoc

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Meze, a beautiful village sitting on the Etang du Thau.

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About an hour and a half from Azille is the Etang du Thau, just off the Mediterranean sea.  It is a large estaury providing the perfect bed for fresh shellfish.  On the north side of the etang you'll find the quaint little port-town called Meze with a view of the well-known Sete to the south.

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We began our walk along the quayside with a perfect sea-breeze dusting through the sunshine.  Ambling onto a path on the edge of the etang, along paths through a bit of marshland with seabirds on one side, and sailorboarders and salt water on the other.

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Continuing through coastal vineyards we arrived back at the port to gaze at the boats moored up along the quay and restaurants offering fresh oysters, mussels and seafood straight out of the etang itself.

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We finish our morning at the table of one of these restaurants, dining on oysters & rose, among other pleasures - Les Saveurs de Thau is a great little place with amazing service & seafood!

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We finish our day driving down the western side of the etang to the small port, Marseillan village, where the Canal du Midi begins & an iced coffee calls to finish the afternoon on the edge of the quay enjoying a nice sea breeze - we are happy!

 

 Just one of the many delights in the Langudeoc-Roussillon, South of France!

 

photos courtesy of Kate Sampson

A Private Cruise on the Canal du Midi

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I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a personalized lunch cruise along our well-known Canal du Midi, one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites, and to meet and get to know some great new friends.

The Bella Mia, a restored classic cruiser, was our vessel and our hosts, Mel & John, couldn't have made the trip more delightful, present company excluded.

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We met the boat, moored in a beautifully forested spot along the canal, near Mirepeisset in the early, sunny afternoon. We were all greeted with a tour of the fully-equipped 4-6 passenger boat, then offered a glass of wine as we got on our way and our 3-hour cruise began.

We headed for Le Somail passing by the moored peniches, swimming ducklings, cafe's and cyclists as John, the pilot, guided us under the much-visited & painted bridge in the center of the little hamlet and continued in the direction of Paraza & Azille, cruising at a very relaxed speed to take it all in, and not spill the wine!

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We were soon invited downstairs into the galley to partake in the lovely picnic-style spread that Mel had prepared for us: 2 chicken salads, a lovely quiche, a fresh green salad, a creamy potato salad, and, of course, more chilled white wine.

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More conversation & tasting ensued as John chose a lovely mooring along the shaded quayside while we ate.  We then, slowly made our way back enjoying the scenery of the tree-lined canal in this perfect little cruiser for a perfect afternoon!

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Mel & John's beautiful little cruiser is available for your personalized lunch cruise upon reservation, contact me directly for more information.

Cathar Castles - Minerve

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Minerve, a once fortified village perched on two cliffs with one road in, is a curvy 15 minutes into the Black Mountains from several charming villages below like Azille, Homps or Olonzac.

This once-fortified village is a dramatic sight to see with only one ruined finger of masonry left from its original state that sits on a plateau in the limestone gorge.

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It was the site of a 10-week siege, by Simon de Montfort, who subsequently massacred its 180 Cathar inhabitants in the 13th century. The village was protected by a double curtain wall and overhanging natural ledges, above the River Cesse in a naturally strong defensive position.

Near the village the river even disappears underground in a large, natural tunnel below, a nice hike to finish the day’s visit. Access to the village is from a walking path down from the modern parking lot, or by walking across a high bridge that spans from the village to one side of the gorge. Arriving at Minerve is most impressive from the South end, near the village of La Caunette.

Cathar Castles - Lastours

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Chateaux de Lastours, another nearby Cathar site in the Minervois, is a cluster of 4 ruined fortresses in the Black Mountains.  The historical sight is protected by two deep valleys and is an unusual arrangement of ruins being spread out among the rocky hills.

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This fortification belonged to the Lords of Cabaret, giving the name to the northernmost tower. The smaller tower, Le Regine, which was built much later upon the same rocky outcrop nearest Cabaret, dates at sometime after 1260. The southernmost tower, Quertinheux, is slightly isolated and seems to be an advanced lookout of sorts. Surdespine, or Thornflower, is on the highest ground of the four, however the least preserved. All four of the towers can be visited by hiking up from the village of Lastours below, following the footpath from one chateau to the next with views of the surrounding valleys along the way. Getting to the town of Lastours is an easy trip starting from one of several villages at the base of the Black Mountains like Caunes-Minervois or Carcassonne.

Stay tuned for the next Cathar sight in this series - more reasons to visit us in the Minervois!

Cathar Castles - Carcassonne

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The abundance of Cathar history in the Aude region is amazing, with many castles, sites & ruins strategically placed on mountain tops, cliff sides and in hidden valleys. As we are on the ‘road to penitence’, as they say, it just seems all the more appropriate that you visit at least a few while in the South of France.

Let's begin this series of about Cathar castles & ruins with the ever-popular, Carcassonne:

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This medieval Cité was restored in 1853 after have been destroyed several times during history; the 1209 siege being the war against the Cathars, which swept it clean. Being a World Heritage Site you will be astounded by the many towers, turrets, walls within walls, ramparts and drawbridge of this fairy-tale city, which occupies a hill adjacent to the modern city of Carcassonne. You will find within the narrow maze of twisting cobble-stone streets the Château Comtal, which lays claim to the Cathar heritage, sitting within the city’s still intact walls. It is truly a place of amazing charm, even though it is clearly a tourists’ stop. Entry is free to visit the interior of the ancient city & the Comtal castle, within the walls. It is also easily accessible from several large openings & gates with abundant parking at the main entrance, and only 32 kilometers from Azille.

For more information on the South of France, sign-up for our free booklet with plenty of hints, tips and information on vacationing here - see you soon!