Gites à louer dans l'Aude Maison de la Roche, gites entre Carcassonne et Narbonne, mer et pays cathare Mon, 21 Jan 2019 17:39:43 +0000 fr-FR hourly 1 Take advantage of the recent exchange rates and book that holiday to the South of France! Wed, 04 Nov 2015 16:38:03 +0000 Relaxing breaks in South of France more affordable, as pound rises                             4th November 2015

Are you planning to take a relaxing break in the South of France? If so, you’ll be pleased to hear that you’ll now get considerably more spending money when you rent a French apartment, because the pound to euro exchange rate is flying. Just today for instance, sterling has touched 1.41 versus the Eurozone’s common currency, just 2 cents below its strongest in 7 years, or since late 2008.

What this means is that, when you exchange currencies prior to visiting the South of France, you’ll now get a far higher euro total. For instance, were you to exchange £500 into euros to spend a week in the South of France, you’d now get €700, a full +€100 more than 2 years ago, back in January 2014, when the pound was far weaker. Hence, this will add greatly to your euro spending money!

After all, just think of all the things you could do with an extra €100 when you rent in the South of France. For instance, you could extend your holiday an extra day, rent a car and see what the French countryside has to offer, enjoy some authentic French cuisine, whatever you wish! In any case, this favourable exchange rate means you’ll be able to make the most of your France break.

Moreover, the pound to euro exchange could continue to climb, looking ahead. This is because the UK’s service, manufacturing and construction sectors all grew strongly in October, suggesting that Britain’s economic future is bright. In turn, this should lift the pound. By contrast, the Eurozone economy is yet to break out of first gear, which could weigh on the euro for the foreseeable future. 

With this in mind, it’s truly the ideal time to rent a luxury holiday apartment in the South of France, thanks to the favourable exchange rate! 

By Peter Lavelle at foreign exchange broker Pure FX


Stand up the Real Champagne Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:06:43 +0000 Who doesn’t love the pomp and ceremony of opening a bottle of Champagne and often there is a darn good reason to open it. Its expensive price deems it to be a drink for special occasions and the more expensive the more special the occasion it may well be – but,  does it taste any better ? Or are you just buying into the branding and marketing of this luxurious product. I have always been a bit sceptical and (some might say, mean!) but frankly I think it can be overpriced and £300 for a bottle of Cristal? I would rather have the money thanks!

That said I do feel special when I hear that pop of the cork and see the fine bubbles sparkling away and taste that unique flavor that makes it stand out from other wines.  And I have often enjoyed a lovely Cava or Prosecco and thought well this isn’t a bad second (and much cheaper choice). Then I moved to the Aude in the Languedoc and someone introduced me to the Blanquette de Limoux and, well,  I was hooked.

Why? Well it looks the same – there are many varieties but frankly it tastes pretty similar to many champagnes I have enjoyed but MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY – Its more than half of the price – You can get a Cremant (more on that later) de Limoux for as little as 4 Euros in Lidls but I find that if you choose the ones between 6 to 12 Euros (the general recommended prices) you won’t be disappointed.

I visited the Sieur D’Arques in Limoux to discover the provenance of this nectar and of course partake in a degustation. We were met by a friendly tour guide who showed us around the domain and told us the history.


sieur d'arques

Are you sitting comfortably (with a glass in your hand I hope?)

Blanquette de Limoux is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France created long before the Champagne region became world renowned. It has been documented that it was first discovered almost by accident in 1531 by some Benedicitine Monks whilst fermenting a white wine at the Abbey in Saint-Hilaire.  It was produced in cork stoppered flasks ( the Cork Oak forest south of Limoux  enabled the producers the materials they needed ) To this day they follow an age old tradition and bottle at the time of the full moon in March ready for the warmer weather to start the secondary fermentation that produces les bulles (the bubbles) the fabulous sparkle within the bottles

Local lore suggests that Dom Perignon who was visiting the Abbey at the time took this ‘invention’ to the Champagne region although this wasn’t another 100 years later.

All the grapes for Blanquette have to be harvested by hand into small boxes to prevent bruising, and the regulations also limit the yield to ensure a quality product. Growers who can produce and market Blanquette are limited to a set area of 41 villages around the 2000 year old town of Limoux. The original Blanquette Ancestrale was produced from the Mauzac grape.

In more recent years to produce the Crément and the Blanquette de Limoux Traditional,  the Chenin grape was introduced from the Loire region and the Chardonnay grape from the Burgundy region. The Mauzac gives the wine its body and aroma and the Chenin and the Chardonnay add to this by reinforcing the bouquet, freshness and finesse.


The Sieur d’Arques were the Noblemen who made the first order of this special juice and is now the name of the Co operative that is the largest producer of Blanquette in the area


Every year at the end of March, each village that produces the grapes that make the Blanquette submit 4 barrels – two of which will be auctioned off to high bidders who consist mainly of large organisations, Michelin star chefs and restaurants . This event was started in 1989 and is called the Toches et Cloches.

After the auction there is a lavish gastronomic feast produced by a different Michelin chef each year for 1000 guests.  Tables are hosted principally by the wine and restaurant business.

Each year a different village or town is chosen as a venue to celebrate the previous year’s wines.  Sieur d’Arques restores the church steeple of the chosen village and as a celebration and thanks the village hosts the greatest wine and food party of the year.   On arrival punters buy, for a small fee, 5 tickets and are given a commemorative Toques et Clocheurs glass. What with pan fried foie gras and apple tart, Gascon beef barbequed steak sandwich, the omnipresent Toulouse sausage and usually a sucking pig stick roasting can be found.   Buskers perform at particular spots .

It sounds like a party that I most certainly don’t want to miss!



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January 2014 Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:50:46 +0000 Well Happy New Year!! Not sure when you should actually stop saying that but as it’s the first you have heard from me this year I think it is acceptable.

Christmas seems ages away now doesn’t it – well it should except for the fact that there are still some households and shops in the area that still have their Christmas decorations up and will do apparently until the end of the month! No NO!! I have had enough. I was a bit smug before Christmas and proud that the French seem to start things relatively late here i.e. Christmas starts here in December as opposed to September as it does in the UK. But now I hold my tail between my legs as they continue to celebrate it here! And of course if we were in Spain our Christmas present exchange day would have been the 6th January.  Here this date is celebrated also, known as the Epiphany, the day the 3 Kings were supposed to have visited the baby Jesus and bring him gifts. I was always led to believe it was on the 24th or early hours of the 25th, but who actually knows and as it’s all a bit of a mystery I reckon just celebrate every opportunity then you can’t miss out. It does however put pay to the New Year diet plan as you have to eat cake.  Les Gallettes, which are a bit like sugary dry sponge (best drunk with a cup of tea or when in France maybe some Muscat!)

The lucky individual that finds the hidden china figure in the cake and doesn’t actually die from swallowing it is named King for that moment.

January in the Languedoc can be surprisingly pleasant. Weather wise we have had lots of sunny days and compared to England right now, barely a spit of rain. So yes right now we made the right decision to move here! Yes it can be cold but nothing that a chocolate chaud can’t put right. But cold brings snow to the nearby mountains and living just under 2 hours from the Pyrenees means that skiing is a very viable weekend or even just a day trip away.

Les Angles or Font Romeu to name just a few of the nearby resorts are stunning places to be, even for a non-skier (which I am) the Après Skiing is as good as you want to make it and there are some fab restaurants and tres charmant shops to visit . There are plenty of runs and it is very family orientated and not as expensive as skiing in the Alpes.  As a non-skier I took myself with a friend to visit the Hot Natural baths at Les Bains de LLO (there are several to choose from)

With a number of indoor and outdoor pools to relax in there is always a hot bubble jet for one to perch upon!! One of the pools even has underwater music!! With a Hamman and a sauna as well you come out feeling thoroughly cleansed and purged ready for other nights full on Après ski!!

In fact I got so into this bubble jet lark I also recently discovered the amazing spa at Gruissan known as the  Espace Balneoludique

I personally recommend going after 6pm, enjoying 2 hours of sheer relaxing bliss for just 10 Euros and then going to one of the many restaurants at nearby Gruissan Marina for dinner afterwards!

The only thing I should warn you, is that men HAVE to wear those tiny weeny speedo-y type swimming shorts.  You might want to leave the husband at home and go and watch the scenery with a girl friend! All that was missing was a glass of champagne!!

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Remember Remember that its STILL only November! Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:49:14 +0000 EEEEEEkkkkkk its November – and you know what that means – but we are not going to mention the ‘C’ word. Not once – not at least until December – lets not drag it out and ruin all the magic so we are all ‘C’d out before it has even started pleeeeeze?

Right so November in France – what’s that like?  Actually just as lovely – yes the temperature has dropped a few degrees, and the leaves are falling in abundance off the trees and the vines oh gosh the vines are glorious. The number of times I have nearly driven off the road as I turn my head to admire the stunning tapestry of colours that feast the eyes. Reds, golds, burnt oranges, and yellows against a still blue sky – wow those grape plants sure provide us with entertainment for a long time!

And even the Flamingos are here to add more colour to the scenery – stunning and to get so close!!

A marvelous find in our recent weeks was a stunning gorge not very far from us. The Gorges the Galamus proved to be a very exciting drive and the sparkling river which seemed hundreds of metres below us was attracting lots of water sports fanatics, particularly canyoning. We decided to try and walk down to the river but got waylaid by a ‘Ermitage’ on the way down. (A one man show!) and despite our reservations about anything too religious couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the stunning chapel that had been built into the side of the rock.

Just goes to show that you don’t need to come here in the summer to see and do wondrous things!

But for me November represents Bonfire Night. Not a tradition celebrated in France for obvious reasons (but they do give us July 14th so all is forgiven!)

During my childhood we used to always host huge firework parties, everyone used to contribute the fireworks and my Mum would make mugs of oxtail soup and jacket potatoes with sausages and baked beans. When I grew up and moved to the big city I would religiously go to Battersea Park, wrapped up warm, eating hot chestnuts, inhaling the huge bonfire smell and oohing and ahhhing at the wondrous firework display. However, as an homage to Guy Fawkes night we hold a bonfire party. We smoke our pulled pork and shake a few sparklers around,( no fireworks as we have a dog)  our French friends think we are crazy but nothing that a few glasses of mulled wine doesn’t cure.

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Summer is just around the corner Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:47:41 +0000 April in the South of France can be unpredictable but I have to say it’s been the best one I have enjoyed in the 7 years that I have lived here.  And our season has started with a flourish of guests (both paying and non-paying) who arrived with gifts of Cheddar, Cadburys and Grazia all essential requirements of an Ex Pat living practically everywhere!

Our pool is open and as far as I am concerned Summer has arrived and I am sticking to my shorts come rain or shine. The Asparagus is growing everywhere (wild and cultivated) there is nothing quite like the taste of it with melted butter (or if you have good guests, a bit of Holman’s mayonnaise) and maybe a poached egg!!

The wisteria has been amazing and I don’t even mind the mess it makes!

Easter has come and gone with too many bunnies storming our supermarket shelves and my kitchen has been installed (you can’t believe what I have been cooking in, for the last 7 years) and I am becoming a right Domestic Goddess! No names, but a certain well known Baker visited my home and taught me how to make bread, which would be very useful if I didn’t happen to be surrounded by a number of extremely good boulangeries  including one, a two minute walk across the bridge into the village !

Talking of food (which is my main interest by the way) there is nothing like enjoying a lunch and a glass of Rose alongside the Canal du Midi.  A past time I could easily get used to.  I counteract this deed by making sure I go for a run at least 3 times a week through the vines and in the nearby pine forests. We vary our runs to keep our interest and today’s run was particularly spectacular as we ran past this field of Poppies. Awesome!

For those who love hiking by the sea, I can’t recommend enough a walk along the board walks at Peyriac sur Mer, The seaside town of Peyriac de Mer is situated beside the Etang de Sigean and Bages,( check out the wild boar feet that a proud ‘chasseur’ has nailed to his door!)  immediately south of Narbonne.  In Roman times the water level of the  étang was higher than it is now, and so the étang served as a huge port for Roman Narbonne, with many smaller ports on it, such as Bages and Mort Mahon at Sigean, where Roman jetties still exist. At the same time, Narbonne, and places like Bages, Peyriac and Sigean were open to the sea; the sand-bar of today from Guissan to Port la Nouvelle did not exist two thousand years ago.  To get to Peyriac and Bages which are both stunning villages in their own right, you  cross the marshes and salins or salt pans on narrow tracks, with flamingoes and salt pans all around. Well worth a visit!

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The Biggest Vineyard in the World Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:46:14 +0000 I confess, I am a wine heathen and know nothing about wine (I believe it is not necessary to spend more than 2.50 Euros on a bottle of wine). I have always been blissfully ignorant of wine rules and requirement and gone for the ‘Well I like what I like ‘and that’s good enough for me approach. There is a lot of snobbery in wine, a lot of marketing blahblah and pretty labels, but at the core of it all there is a fundamental understanding of what is a well-blended wine from a well nurtured grape.

The Languedoc is the largest wine producing area in the world – you could say it is the largest vineyard on the planet, but until recently the wine it produces was not well-know or respected. Quality was the mantra and it flowed and flowed – and was very much the wine for the workers but it was never the wine choice of connoisseurs. That is until relatively recently.

Whilst the AOC was formed to protect the origins and guarantee certain qualities of the wines was maintained, a Vin de Pays category was formed to allow growers to experiment more. This has now developed into IGP Pays d’Oc and has a much more flexible and creative production line. Not only has France itself resumed its top position in the international world of wines but there is an acceptance that the Languedoc produces “quality rather than quantity”. It has become rock and roll region of wine making.

I recently enjoyed an excellent wine tour led by Matt Saunders of Taste du Languedoc. This journey took me to two completely different vineyards with varying levels of wine which I classified as “good” to “really good” (you see what I mean about the level we are playing at?) He referred to some of the wines as “Punk Rock Adolescent” and said that the Languedoc IGPs were the “Anarchists of the wine world – bringing together lots of innovative young rule breakers to French wine making…”

The difference between the wine domains was about 80 hectares in size, 25 Euros between prices and different cultivating processes such as using machines or working by hand. Having tasted all the wines they had to offer, I can assure you that it was by now a simple matter of taste as all the wines were exquisite.

In between the domains we were taken to one of the fantastic restaurants in Les Halles in Narbonne. This is a covered food market and it is an explosion of sounds, colours and scents (all good.)  We dined on steak and duck – bought from the local butcher and flung over to the cook who grilled it in front of us, all washed down with… yes more wine!

I’ve learned that wine is not just the grapes and the soil (terroir), the sun and the rain, but the people and their new ideas – and the Languedoc is the region to watch. Take my word for it…


If you would love to know more – I can arrange tours and tastings with a number of really knowledgeable but unpretentious wine experts, including Matt Stubbs, Master of Wine who offers courses and wine tastings, Matt Saunders who offers tours, wine and tapas tastings and Wendy Gedney who can also offer tours and has a book out which will explain everything, even things you didn’t know you needed to know. Contact me for more information.

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A fashionista in the south of France Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:44:27 +0000 I moved from fast moving , roller coastering, shoulder padding wearing London to sleepy , parochial, rural, wine making, dungaree wearing (well not quite) Languedoc Roussillon – (note to self – please shoot me if I do start wearing dungarees). Actually if I am being honest here and without wishing to offend anyone, I did go down that slippery slope of Croc wearing but fortunately a little bit of the old fashionista pushed her way back in and I mostly sport, pretty Monsoon Flip-flops

But I digress. This place ROCKS in the summer – I don’t even know where to start! Despite the tourists there are so many places to go that you never feel hemmed in.  As well as the stunning obvious places such as Narbonne,  Lagrasse and of course the heritage site that is Carcassonne, on offer are the awesome Cathar Castles , rivers, lakes and beaches to spread yourselves out on. On top of that there are festivals, concerts, ‘Son and Lumière’ shows and markets (both night and day) to choose from. Or you can try your hand at scuba diving, snorkeling and a whole plethora of other water orientated sports such as kayaking and just bouncing on inflatables at the lake near Carcassonne city.

You can spend lots of money or as little money as you like. I, being ever so thrifty (no not mean, thrifty) tend to seek out charming spots that are nature’s own free gift.

My absolute most favourite place in the world (at any time of the year) is a place called Ribaute.

The River Orbieu flows through this tiny sleepy village on its way from Lagrasse further up  in the Corbieres – most people drive pass by Ribaute on their way to Lagrasse (voted ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’ – they have a number of these celebrated villages in France!) But when you look down you can’t help but gasp at the beauty of the deliciously calm flowing river (perfect for doing some decent swimming) before it descends it to a series of mini cascades and rock pools (perfect for little ones to dip their fishing nets in to catch the tiddlers) and then it descends further, where the braver ones (any one over the age of 10 and not me) dive into a deeper pool.

Take a picnic, set up camp under the trees and it’s all there, something for everyone, the perfect Enid Blyton day. Of course it is very popular so on busier days I seek out other beauty spots on other tributaries, often difficult to find, (and my little secrets!)

Every Friday night during Summer, in many villages, the Mayor provides (no – let me rephrase that, the tax payers provide) free entertainment; sometimes open air cinema, often musicians and singers. Last night’s piece de resistance in my little village of Ferrals Les Corbieres was the annual return of the infamous Plumes de Nuit – described as Music Hall comedy. The tiny village square was crammed with every single inhabitant sitting on their plastic chairs watching passively whilst the dance troupe shook their booty (and there was plenty of that) and changed more times than I could count into sequins, sparkles , feathers and glitter. They sang (ok) danced (really badly) and didn’t manage to do one routine together in time.  The ‘past his sale by date’ trombonist was flat and off tone and a terrible dancer. There should be a law against men with man boobs wearing tight black t shirts, which was only just a tiny bit more horrible than his gold lamé onesy in the Finale.

On a good point there was not one bit of cellulite to be seen and we had plenty of opportunity to look – oh and you could bring your own wine (well we sneaked a bottle in). My companion (a friend from London whose wife was back in the safety of our house with my husband looking after the children) was waiting in anticipation for a costume malfunction as happened last year but alas that wasn’t to be. We stayed till the bitter end and came home vowing (as we did last year) to NOT come next year ….but as time goes on, the memories fade into just pretty kitsch camp feathery images and whilst I am still not convinced  that the main singer wasn’t a man, I am pretty sure I will be back again next year!!  After all – it’s free!!

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