Category Archives: Episode w/ Elyse

Narbonne, City at the Crossroads, Episode 163

Narbonne, City at the Crossroads

Narbonne City at the Crossroads

Narbonne is a city at the crossroads due to its geographical location in France.  But we think it’s a great place to visit, especially if you are looking for a lovely beach city at a reasonable cost.

If you’re interested in Narbonne, you should also listen to Episode 117, a Detour into Catalonia and Episode 105 about nearby Montpellier, and Episode 107 about The Best of Sète, also a favorite in this wonderful area of my region: Occitanie.
French Tip of the Week [62:45] Ma carte ne marche pas, je ne sais pas pourquoi. My credit card isn’t working, I don’t know why.
Places Mentioned in this Episode: Narbonne, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canal de la Robine, Via Domitia, Narbonne Horreum, the Archbishop’s Palace, Abbey de Fontfroide, le Pont des Marchands, the unfortunate Cathedral of Beauvais, Massif de la Clape, Gruissan, Port-la-Nouvelle, Baltar-style covered markets.
Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

[00:00] About this podcast, host, and how you can participate.

[03:00] In today’s episode, I bring you a conversation with Elyse about Narbonne, a city that doesn’t get a lot of love, yet has been at the crossroads since ancient times. If you’ve ever crossed France north to south, chances are you at least drove past Narbonne. And that’s the problem with this city: most people pass by and don’t stop. But maybe they should, as explained by Elyse on today’s episode.

[04:00] Narbonne is a place that a lot of people go through (major train station and freeway hub), but rarely stop. Other cities nearby get a lot more tourism, for instance Nîmes,  Béziers, Pézenas, or especially Carcassonne.

[06:30] We think we need to talk about Narbonne because it’s a major historical center. There are 52,000 people there today and the old city center is very interesting to visit, and of course it’s a beach town.

[07:30] Narbonne is one of the sunniest cities in France and well off the beaten track. Narbonne has not been able to turn itself into a destination but has remained a pass-through city. The beaches nearby are a destination especially for French vacationers. No mistral wind here but rather the tramontane wind.

[08:40] The population of Narbonne has been growing because a lot of retirees want more sunshine and there’s plenty of it there. Also, and this is going to sound counter-intuitive to people who don’t live in France, but people who live in Paris can’t wait to get out of Paris.

[10:40] Narbonne is a city at the crossroads, many people have heard of it, but most would be hard-pressed to tell you what’s there.

  • Great city center with Roman and Medieval history
  • Canal de la Robine (a section of the Canal du Midi)

[12:12] Narbonne is the first city the Romans established in Gaul with all the commerce that goes along with that. The 10th Roman Legion was established in Narbonne, so it was also an important military city. Then in 22 BC Narbonne becomes the capital of Gaul. The port of Narbonne was the second biggest port of the Roman empire 2000 years ago.

[18:16] After the 400s, just like the rest of France, there are a number of crazy groups that come through and take over, including the Visigoths  who stayed a little longer than most. Visigoths were pushed out by the Franks who stayed.

[20:22] In the 700s, the Moors from Andalusia take over Narbonne for 40 years. When the Moors took over, they did not force people to convert to Islam, they simply taxed non-Muslims. Narbonne became a place of great intellectual and philosophical activity. The Troubadours were really important in Narbonne.

[22:48] Vikings also got to Narbonne in 859 and they pillaged the area and left. Then we get into the bulk of the Middle Ages, the age of Monasteries and Churches. There are still a few Roman ruins that you can see in the center of Narbonne (some of the Via Domitia in front of the Archbishop’s Palace for instance), but most of what you see there is left from the Middle Ages.

[24:12] You can see a piece of well-preserved Via Domitia in Narbonne.  You can see the ruts for the wheels of the wagons and the rise which makes the curb and the walkway for pedestrians. This is the way Romans made their roads everywhere. You can also see some digs where they are working on excavating some Roman ruins.

[26:12] The horrea or horreum in Narbonne. Those are underground galleries and storage, experts speculate that they were probably used as public storage. There are several buildings that still have this horreum. It was both underground storage and a way to get places under ground.

[28:00] At one point Narbonne had all the buildings you would find in a major Roman city: Forum, Coliseum, Circus, Theaters, etc. All of those are gone today. Arles has a lot of that left, Nîmes has some, cities like Toulouse and Paris have almost nothing left. Stones were re-used to make new buildings.

[30:00] Around the year 1000 they build a monastery 12 km away from Narbonne, and that is one of the major things to see if you spend a day in the area, it is called the Abbey de Fontfroide. It is a Cistercian Abbey and Church. This is a Mediterranean climate where it smells and feels like Provence even though technically it is not. Very much worth a visit!

[32:09] The Cathedral of Narbonne is called Saint-Just Saint Pasteur (Elyse mis-spoke and called it Saint-Just Saint-Paul, she got the wrong saint!). It is a large Cathedral (4th largest in France) and what is unusual is that you can go up the tower and stand outside on the parapets. You can see out towards the sea and get lovely views.

[33:38] The story of the Cathedral of Beauvais which collapsed 3 times when they tried to make it too tall. As a result, the Cathedral of Beauvais is half of a Cathedral!

[35:04] Narbonne is 41 meters tall and still standing! And it is gorgeous and impressive. You can see the cloister, there are many buildings attached to it, some of which have been turned into museums. The only Cathedral that has the Bishop’s Palace right up against the Cathedral (it’s that way in Avignon too) and you can visit some of that too.

[36:54] Other Churches you can visit in Narbonne. The city center of Narbonne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it is getting taken care of very well. It is not a very large city center. There are a few lovely pedestrian streets. There is the Canal. There are pagan times remnants as well.

[38:20] If you walk around Narbonne, you have a couple of old buildings like a 1600s or 1700s Synagogue and others that may be of interest to you.

[38:53] Narbonne went into decline after the Wars of Religions (XVI Century) because it’s an area that mostly produced low quality wines and you can’t make a fortune on that.

[39:40] Recap of what you can see in Narbonne:

  • Horreum or underground tunels
  • Via Domitia
  • The Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace
  • Le Pont des Marchands on the Rabine, the only bridge left in France that has actual houses on it
  • Narbonne is a great place to stop for lunch, either near the Cathedral or near the Canal
  • You can take a ride on the Canal
  • Go to Fontfroide and there are often concerts there, especially in the summer

[42:16] Cistercian monasteries were not painted to keep them austere and they have wonderful acoustics.

[43:12] From Narbonne you can go east to the Massif de la Clape. It’s a lovely place for bike riding and hiking, this is also where you’ll find the Gouffre de l’Œil Doux a sink hole with turquoise water.

[45:29] The beaches around the Massif de la Clape are not high-end beaches. It has been kept natural for the most part with some campgrounds, a few vendors, including wine vendors.

[47:07] The AOC Languedoc-la-clape wine is a good wine, similar to Corbières or Minervoix, full-bodied.

[47:42] Other places you could go nearby are Gruissan Plage with houses built on stilts. You could also get to Port-la-Nouvelle, a bigger  and more modern town.

[48:30] Narbonne also has two Baltar-style markets (like the old Halles de Paris which were destroyed) with beautiful glass and iron work. One of those markets in Narbonne (Les Halles Centrales) is a great place to have lunch, there are restaurants.

[49:12] Narbonne food specialties: food, grilled fish, sausage, seafood dishes, and oysters. There are oysters and muscle beds nearby.

Conclusion

The Romans put Narbonne, city at the crossroads on the map. It’s not super famous but it’s a lovely place to visit if you’re in the area and want to explore the Languedoc and parts of the Mediterranean that are lovely and not too expensive. Narbonne is the closest beach to Toulouse, so it’s a place where Toulouse teens like to go. There are flamingos in the lagoon too!

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Sorèze and Revel, Great Day Trips from Toulouse, Episode 156

Sorèze and Revel: Great Day Trips from Toulouse (or Carcassonne)


Toulouse is a great place to come stay for a few days because not only is it a lovely city, but once you’re here, there are a lot of great places you can visit as day trips.  Most of those day trips around Toulouse require a car, and such is the case with the one we’re discussing today: Sorèze and Revel: Great Day Trips from Toulouse (or Carcassonne)

Other great day trips around Toulouse: Carcassonne, Albi, Figeac, Carla-Bayle

Places mentioned in this episode: Saint-Felix de Lauragais, Sorèze, Revel, Saint-Ferréol Lake, Lac de Belleserre, Aeroscopia near Toulouse

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

 What You Will Learn About in this Episode

  • 2’ 03 This Join Us in France episode 156 aboutSorèze and Revel: Great Day Trips from Toulouse (or Carcassonne)
  • 4’ Annie and Elyse argue about how to say the name “Revel” + the lake of Saint-Ferréol.
  • 6’ The Lauragais area with rolling hills. A wheat-growing area, villages on the top of hills.
  • 7’22 The first place you get to on our drive is Saint-Felix de Lauragais
  • 8’38 Revel is a small town of around 10,000 people, which makes it a small city by French standards
  • 9’50 Furniture-making in the Lauragais: they make good quality copies of classic French furniture styles
  • 10’40 Biscuiteries and cookie makers in the Lauragais
  • 11’20 One of the main reasons to visit Revel is to visit the Saturday Market. Revel is a “bastide” with an old covered market with a belfry at its center
  • 13’44 Weighing stones at the Revel Market
  • 16’ There is a great bakery in Revel, they make lovely “croustade” with apples and lemon. They call it “pastel” there
  • 18’30 The Montagne Noire in the Lauragais
  • 19’20 The village of Sorèze, a town founded in the 700s and famous for its “Abbaye-école de Sorèze”. Hughe Auffrey is a French singer who attended this school
  • 25’20 Dom Robert the Benedictine Monk who became a tapestry artist, the museum in Sorèze specializes in tapestries because of him
  • 27’ When is a good time to visit Sorèze to enjoy the artist colony side of things? There are craft fairs in the summer, try to
  • 27’30 There is a small glass museum in Sorèze because there is a history of glass-makers who lived in the woods long ago
  • 30’ The Saint-Ferréol Lake: Annie hates it, Elyse likes it, we’ll let you be the judge and let us know in the comments! This lake was created by Pierre-Paul Riquet to help bring water to the Canal du Midi to help it enough water in the canal year-round.
  • 35’15 Why Annie hates the Saint-Ferréol Lake
  • 39’ There is another, more wild lake nearby also: Lac d’en Brunet (or Lac de Belleserre)
  • 43’30 Aeroscopia Museum in Toulouse

There are gems of architecture and history in areas of France that never get any love or attention from travel writers. We’re not shy about loving the South-West and share gems that will take you to the heart of France off the beaten track.

Got Feedback or Extra Information? Write a comment below or call the voice mail box! 1-801-816-1015

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How to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets in Paris, Episode 154

How to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets in Paris, Episode 154


how to protect yourself from pickpockets in paris

Introduction

On today’s episode Annie and Elyse discuss how to protect yourself from pickpockets in Paris. We give specific steps anybody can take that will make it less likely that you will be the victim of a pick pocket, but also also steps to mitigate the repercussions if you do get robbed. Let’s not fool ourselves, pickpockets and magicians and they use the same misdirection techniques as magicians. A lot of them are really good at what they do! So if it’s happened to you, don’t feel bad, just do everything you can so it doesn’t happen again.

The only way to make sure nothing bad ever happens is to stay home and do nothing, but we’re not going to do that are we?  So, listen to this episode and get some inspiration on how to protect yourself from pickpockets in Paris and go on your next trip full of confidence!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

What You Will Learn about in this Episode

Look below the fold for transcript and time stamps.

  • Remove as much as you can from your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t put anything in your back pocket.
  • Don’t put anything in pockets unless they zip or button.
  • Only take one credit card and a little bit of cash with you, the rest should stay at the hotel.
  • Don’t have your driver’s license on you.
  • Don’t carry your passport, only a photocopy.
  • Photocopy the front and back of your credit cards and keep them in a safe place just in case you need to call to cancel them.
  • Do not bring any checks to France, you can’t use them.
  • Notify your bank that you’ll be travelling abroad.
  • Don’t bring your work ID.
  • Bring a list of all the medications you take and bring enough drugs for your whole stay.
  • Only carry one day’s worth of medications on your person.
  • Women should carry a purse that they can have across their torso.
  • Cargo pants with buttoned pockets are good for men.
  • Loose clothing puts you at great risk to be pickpocketed.
  • Protect your phone, women should consider keeping it in their bra or in a zipped pocket.
  • Put different things in different purse pockets.
  • If you don’t live in a large city in the US you are not used to being on alert for theft.
  • Photographers need to consider using a holster system like the Peak Design Capture Pro  with its accompanying Clutch that Annie now owns and loves.

Conclusion

The only way to never have anything unpleasant happen to you is to stay home. But, if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably don’t want to do that. We agree with you! Paris isn’t any worse than any other big city when it comes to pickpockets, and as a matter of fact, the police that this stuff very seriously, but there are no guarantees.

In this episode we’ve shared some specific suggestions of things you can do to lessen the impact of a adverse pickpocket encounter. If it’s going to happen, at least let’s do things that will lessen the blow.

We’d love to hear your feedback! Comment below or leave a voicemail on 1-801-806-1015

Support the show on Patreon.


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