Category Archives: Occitanie

Carla-Bayle in the Ariège, Episode 85

Carla-Bayle Post Office
Carla-Bayle Post Office photo Bernard O

It’s wonderful to have Elyse back on today’s show and we start the show by catching up on what she’s been up to and on the Journées du Patrimoine that happen on the third week-end of September in France.

Places and People Mentioned on the Show: Carla-Bayle (Ariège), Pibrac (Haute-Garonne), The Société d’Astronomie Populaire de Toulouse, the Lèze River, Saint-Sulpice-sur-Lèze (Haute-Garonne), Alphonce de Poitiers, Lézat-sur-Lèze (Ariège), Le Fossat (Ariège), the Volvestre area, Mas d’Azil (Ariège), Arize river.

To Prepare for Your Trip: Movie the Return of Martin Guerre


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Carla-Bayle City SignOne of the reasons why Elyse wanted to talk about Carla-Bayle is because it’s a major artist colony. There is an art festival that goes on each summer (put together by an association of residents called Rue des Arts) that presents interesting and original artists. There are craft festivals all over France in the summer, this is much more than that.

Carla-Bayle is on the crest of a cliff and enjoys lovely views towards the Pyrenees. We have records of people living there as far back as the 10th century, with Alphonse de Poitier arriving in the XIII century who turned it into a Bastide and developed it further.

It’s difficult for us to imagine how small places in the middle of nowhere today could have been such important centers for commerce. It always has to do with successful agriculture and trade. In this instance the Pastel plant was also vital to the economy of the area.

Carla-Bayle used to be called Carla-le-Comte in honor of Alphonse de Poitiers, but it was renamed to Carla-Bayle after the French Revolution in honor of a French philosopher and author (who was born not far near Pamiers) from the 1600s called Pierre Bayle. This philosopher was a Protestant and Carla-Bayle was a bastion for the Protestant faithful.

In Carla-Bayle today you can see remnants of the castle, the church is from the 1680s, so not very old by French standards, but it is still lovely. But what is striking is that all of the houses have blue shutters. It is gorgeous, especially on a sunny day. There are some nice restaurants there too.

The movie Le Retour de Martin Guerre was filmed in Carla Bayle. The actual story (based on a true story) actually took place not far in Artigat. It is the story of a man who disappears,  then a different man comes into the village pretending to be Martin Guerre. He settles in with his wife, has two children with her, then another Martin Guerre shows up. There was an American remake called Sommersby, not set in France at all, but a similar story line. In the French movie they didn’t glamour it up at all, which gives a great idea of what life was like in France in the 1500s.

Carla-Bayle seen from Moulin le Fossat
Carla-Bayle seen from Moulin le Fossat

Trip Report Loire Valley and Dordogne, Episode 82


Loire Valley and DordogneOn today’s episode Matt from Boston tells us how to have a great vacation in France with young children, specifically in the Loire Valley and Dordogne. Matt tells us how he and his wife and daughters spent three and a half weeks touring around France and what their favorite places were. Today we concentrate on their visit of the Loire Valley and the Dordogne, and as it turns out Dordogne WAS one of their favorites!


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Some of the Topics Discussed on the Show

  • Why did they choose France? Why did they choose late spring?
  • Can they speak French? Did that become a problem? How much French do you really need to be comfortable getting around in France?
  • How did they deal with their daughter’s severe food allergy while in France?
  • French Tip of the Week: How do you say “my daughter is allergic to eggs” in French? “Ma fille est allergique aux oeufs”. Just in case, do what Matt did, print out a card in French that you can show to waiters.
  • How did they like the food in France?
  • What is it like driving in France? See Episode 16 for more on that.
  • Why did they skip Paris?
  • What is it like landing in France in the middle of a huge taxi strike?

A Few Navigation Time Stamps

18:00 Matt talks about driving in France, that it was great and that episode 16 on that subject helped him greatly. He found that French people pretty much don’t speed, don’t pass on the right, don’t honk at you when they disagree with your driving choices, he even loved  the roundabouts. Bring a stand-alone GPS such as a Tom-Tom that rely on GPS signal alone and not maps tied to your smart-phone.

24:45 Matt mentions how it’s lovely that there are so many picnic tables in France. You can bring your own food, it’s encouraged!

29:00 What it is like shopping at French grocery stores? Going to the butcher’s and the open-air market. Great bread everywhere, great fruit and vegetables. Annie explains briefly how food distribution works in France.

35:00 Why some freeways are toll roads in France and others are not.

37:00 How you can deal with hot weather in France if your rental home does not have air-conditioning: open everything up at night and close everything, especially shutters, all day. Go swimming. Don’t cook inside, use the barbecue outside!

Places Mentioned on the Show

Château de Chenonceau, Château du Clos Lucé (Leonardo DaVinci), Beynac, Vitrac, Lascaux, Fond de Gaume, La Roque Saint-Christophe, le Gouffre de Padirac, la Fôret des Singes, Castlenaud-la-Chapelle.

Loire Valley and Dordogne
Chenonceau, photo Andrea Schaffer

Matt’s Detailed Itinerary

Wednesday June 24
• Flew from Boston to Paris via Iceland

Thursday June 25
• Arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport during taxi strike, train terminal very busy, missed our TGV reservations
• TGV to Tours in afternoon, picked up rental car in Tours, drove to B&B in La Croix-en-Touraine
• Picnic dinner from food obtained in Blere
• Kids played on the swing set at the B&B

Friday June 26
• Toured the Chateau du Chenonceau in the morning*
• Toured the Chateau du Clos Luce in the afternoon
• Dinner of pasta with sausages from the butcher in Blere

Saturday June 27
• Drove from La Croix-en-Touraine to Beynac (400 km)
• Settled into our gite
• Dinner of roast chicken from butcher in Beynac with potatoes and veggies

Sunday June 28
• Market day in Saint-Cyprien, kids played at the playground in the town center
• Swimming in the Dordogne River at the beach in Vitrac in the afternoon
• Dinner of Toulouse sausage from the butcher and market veggies

Monday June 29
• Toured Grotte de Lascaux II in the morning*
• Toured La Roque Saint-Christopher after lunch
• Toured the Elevage du Bouyssou goose and duck farm in the early evening*
• Dinner of eggs with lardons over greens

Tuesday June 30 (Very Hot Day!)
• Toured the Gouffre de Padirac in the morning*
• Toured La Foret des Singes after lunch*
• Dinner of pork ribs from the Beynac butcher and veggies grilled on the barbeque*

Wednesday July 1 (Very Hot Day!)
• Toured Castlenaud-la-Chapelle in the morning*
• Swimming in the Dordogne River at the beach in Vitrac in the afternoon
• Dinner of pork ribs and Toulouse sausages from the Beynac butcher and veggies grilled on the barbecue

Thursday July 2
• Market day in Domme, toured Domme in the morning
• Canoed the Dordogne River between Vitrac and Beynac after lunch*
• Toured La Roque-Gageac during canoe ride
• Dinner of duck confit from Beynac butcher, eggs, and greens

Friday July 3 (Very Hot Day!)
• Toured Chateau de Beynac in the morning
• Swimming in the Dordogne River at the beach in Vitrac in the afternoon
• Dinner of pork ribs and sausages from the Beynac butcher and veggies grilled on the barbecue

Saturday July 4 (Happy Independence Day!)
• Drove from Beynac to Tarascon (500 km)
• Saw the Canal du Midi at the rest stop along the way
• Settled in to our gite
• Swam in the pool

Loire Valley and Dordogne
Matt and daughter at Clos Lucé

 

 

Mirepoix, Episode 81

Elyse giving a tour in Mirepoix
Elyse giving a tour in Mirepoix

Mirepoix, Medieval City

On today’s show Elyse shares with us the wonderful and unusual story of the city of Mirepoix in the Arriège department. This medieval city is full of charm but it is not as well-known as some of the others cities nearby such as Carcassonne or Foix. On the show you’ll hear about Cathars, about a dramatic flood that entirely destroyed the city in the Middle Ages, how Mirepoix rose back from the disaster from the help of a family of magnanimous conquerors, and how it is one of the places that should not be missed in the south-west.

Places Mentioned on the Show

French/Dutch Island of Saint Martin or Saint Marteen in the Caribbean. Mirepoix, Arriège.

French Tip of the Week

“J’ai une mémoire de poisson rouge” = I have a bad memory (starts at 53:42)

To Prepare for Your Visit

Medieval Gnostics: Cathar Rituals


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Mirepoix

Cathar Area

1206 Convention of Cathars in Mirepoix to find a way to defend themselves against anticipated Catholic assault on the Cathars. They were correct to think about it because the war that took the Cathars off the map started 3 years later. This war is also the one that took Carcassonne and Foix later. Simon de Montfort was at the head of this army and his first Lieutenant was Guy de Lévis and they took Mirepoix without much resistance because it was not a fortified city.

Mirepoix

Guy de Lévis Rebuilds

Guy de Lévis is gifted lordship over Mirepoix and it turns out that he is a benevolent ruler who helps develop the city. On June 22nd, 1289 a damn up-river (L’Hers-Vif) breaks and the village of Mirepoix is left. The only thing that remains is a bit of the castle that you can still see today. The village is rebuilt on the other side of the river and instead of putting the church at the center of the city (perhaps they were still a little sore about the war against the Cathars?), they put the market at the center of city life. The Lévis family has had a very positive influence over the area.

Mirepoix
Labyrinthe inside the Cathedral in Mirepoix

The Black Prince Destroys Mirepoix

Mirepoix is the victim of the Black Prince from England and this latest disaster convinces the inhabitants to build stone walls around the city. These came much later than most fortifications, with four gates and trenches all around. You can still see two of those gates in Mirepoix today.

MirepoixSeeing Mirepoix Today

Elyse gives recommendations on what you should see in Mirepoix today and discusses the hotels and events in the city. And of course we encourage you to take a proper tour with Elyse, you’ll love it! We end on a small rant on how a small town such as Mirepoix still has two great bookstores while Annie couldn’t find more than one book store left in Philadelphia!

Mirepoix