Red Wine, Baguettes & Smelly Cheese travel blog

Carcassonne Castle

Carcassonne Castle

Carcassonne Castle


A night out

Anyone for some torture? Carcassonne

Cycling the Canal du Midi

Cycling the Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Typical French road lined with Plane trees

Olargues - "prettiest town in France"

Olargues - slate used for sides of houses

Who needs pubs anyway, when you can buy 11.5% beer and take...

Poppy fields


9:30 a.m. at the local coffee shop


Cycling lunch stop - wicker chair thrown in ditch made a nice...

The southern France countryside is pleasant, without being stunning. Rolling hills covered in vineyards and wild flowers and punctuated with fortress-like medieval towns. We are gradually moving south and feel close enough to “touch” the Mediterranean Sea.

A unique feature that has been with us for the last couple of weeks is the Canal du Midi. An amazing feat of construction from the 17th Century, it is a canal linking the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is close to 250 kilometers in length and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We have cycled various sections of it and it is a great way to get between towns.

We spent a few days in the medieval fortress town of Carcassonne – one of the best preserved and complete fortresses of the Cathars. One of the “things to do” is apparently to walk the floodlit town walls and streets after dark, which we did. No one mentioned that everyone in town must go to bed as soon as the sun goes down, as the place was dead. There was only one solution – head to the main square where a restaurant was open and have desserts and beer (see photos).

We have ended the week in Laurens surrounded by more vineyards and wineries than we ever imagined could exist in one area.

Notable events this week:

• You know the internet connection is bad when the campsite receptionist takes the credit card reader (with your card in it), opens a cupboard and places the reader on top of the bank modem to get a connection.

• There is so much wine to be drunk in the south of France, all the locals set their alarm clocks so they can get an early start (see photos).

• France is the worst country in Europe, bar none, for signage – roads, cycling trails, hiking trails, grocery stores……………….we could go on. Liz had to abandon a hike today and Ian cycled at least 25 kilometers (uphill) out of his way.

• Apparently, the best stock of local wine in the whole area is to be found in the service station in the village of Faugeres (less than 5 kilometers from where we are camped). But you must ask to “see the back room”.

• Tomorrow we are about to test how much wine can be carried on the back rack of a fold-up bike (see next week’s blog).

European trivia

Every week we will give you a trivia question, with the answer given the following week. Remember, no Googling!

Last week: What does Languedoc mean?

And the answer is: Langue d’oc (language of Oc, for the way they say “yes”) was the dialect of southern France. Langue d’oil was the dialect of northern France. Oil later became oui or “yes.” Languedoc-Roussillon’s language faded with its power.

This week: Which movie starring Kevin Costner was filmed in the medieval town of Carcassonne?

Until next week,

Liz & Ian

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