Transcript for Episode 449: Exploring the Aude Department

Categories: Occitanie, Toulouse Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Montolieu
  • Lastours
  • Fanjeaux
  • Lagrasse
  • Villerouge-Termenès
  • Rennes-le-Chateau
  • Gruissan
  • Leucate
  • Port-la-Nouvelle
  • GR 367 between Foix and the coast
  • Abbbaye de Fontfroide near Bages
  • Carnaval de Limoux
  • Alet-les-Bains and its Benedictine Abbey



[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 449 – quatre cent quarante-neuf.

[00:00:22] Annie Sargent: Bonjour! I’m Annie Sargent and Join us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France. I apologize for this sound, it is quite different, I’m sure, it’s because I went on vacation and forgot to bring a microphone.

[00:00:47] Annie Sargent: What sort of a podcaster am I that I don’t have a microphone in every pocket? Anyway, I have another recorder, so I’m using that in a pinch.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:56] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about the Aude Department. Perhaps it’ll just be a virtual visit for you, but our intention as always is to introduce you to a part of France so you are prepared to go on your own adventures.

[00:01:15] Annie Sargent: We share insider tips and personal stories because we both know the area very well.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:21] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at my boutique

[00:01:38] Annie Sargent: And if you just want to read details about the tours and read reviews, go to

The Magazine part of the podcast: Riots in the news again

[00:01:47] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after the interview today, I’ll discuss the latest unpleasantness with riots going on in a few places in France. This has been going on for six nights as I record this, it’s possible it’ll be over by the time you listen, perhaps not. In 2005, it went on for what, 10 days or something? But I want to mention it because so many people have asked me if I’m safe and if it’s safe to travel to France these days, and the answer to that is yes.


Starting a new series of episodes on select departments

[00:02:29] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.

[00:02:30] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.

[00:02:31] Annie Sargent: We are starting on a new series of episodes about various departments of France. Because some of these departments have a lot going for them, some of them don’t have so much…

[00:02:47] Elyse Rivin: …and some of them to be very, very, very cash with everybody, we don’t know very well either, in the North, it’s kind of like going to the North Pole.

[00:02:56] Annie Sargent: . Well, it’s the central departments, I don’t know that well either, the North, the Center, not so much.

[00:03:04] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. There are places that are, they could be pretty and interesting, some of them I think I know, some of them that you know better, but they’re not as frequented as some of the other places, let’s put it that way.

[00:03:16] Annie Sargent: That’s a great way to put it.

Starting with the Aude Department

[00:03:18] Annie Sargent: So, we are going to pick the ones that we know best first, and so today, we’re starting with the Aude Department.

[00:03:24] Elyse Rivin: Yes. So, can I do my little pun, please?

[00:03:27] Annie Sargent: Yes, please.

[00:03:27] Elyse Rivin: I’m happy I came up with this in the shower this morning. We’re going to do an ode to the Aude department.

[00:03:35] Annie Sargent: Oh, fantastic.

[00:03:36] Elyse Rivin: Fantastic, isn’t it? Really, difference of spelling, ladies and gentlemen.

[00:03:40] Elyse Rivin: O-D-E and A-U-D-E. There you go.

Aude Department, Geography

[00:03:44] Annie Sargent: Right. All right, so we both have things that we want to say about this department because, I mean, obviously it’s very close to us, so we’ve been there lots of times and we’ll both say lots about this and give you list of things that we think are worth your time in this department.

[00:04:03] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely.

[00:04:04] Elyse Rivin: And maybe just to situate it, for those who have not been in the southwest of France, we’re talking about a relatively big department now. I have the numbers in square kilometers. I honestly, my apologies, I could not figure out how to turn this into square miles, so those of you who are mathematics out there, you might be able to do this yourself.

[00:04:24] Elyse Rivin: But what is interesting to know is that it’s a department that is relatively large because some departments are much bigger than others and it begins just about 40, 45 kilometers East of Toulouse and goes all the way to the Mediterranean.

[00:04:40] Elyse Rivin: And on the north side it, it ends basically at the beginning of what are called the Black Mountains, which is the end of the Massif Central, which is very wet and dense forest. And on the South, it ends at the foothills into the Pyrénées.

[00:04:55] Elyse Rivin: So it’s very, very varied in geography.

[00:04:58] Annie Sargent: Right. You got your mountains, you got your sea, everything.

[00:05:02] Elyse Rivin: You got everything. You’ve got, in fact, on the extreme western side, which includes the town of Castelnaudary, famous for it’s cassoulet, it’s wheat country, it’s not even Mediterranean land. Then when you go just a little further east, as you go towards Carcassonne, which is of course the most important and biggest city in the department, you immediately see the change in vegetation.

[00:05:26] Elyse Rivin: It becomes very, very mediterranean, there are the vineyards everywhere,the pine trees, all of the vegetation that you associate with the mediterranean climate. And a good stretch of the Aude is like that.

[00:05:37] Annie Sargent: Right, yeah, and it’s, all of it is really beautiful and fairly rural. I mean, none of it is super industrial or heavily populated, is it?

[00:05:49] Elyse Rivin: No. No. In fact, the two biggest cities in the department are Carcassonne and Narbonne, and I’m not sure, my guess is that Narbonne has a slightly bigger population. To be honest, I’m not sure. But they’re, neither of them are more than 60 or 70,000 people, and that is the two biggest cities in the department.

[00:06:09] Elyse Rivin: It’s a department with lots and lots and lots of small towns and tiny villages.

[00:06:15] Annie Sargent: Right, and we’ve done episodes on Narbonne, and Carcassonne, and Castelnaudary as a matter of fact, so if you want more information about those, that’s where you need to go. We’re not going to spend much time on those.

[00:06:31] Annie Sargent: And one thing we didn’t mention is that the Canal Du Midi goes through this department as well. So that’s another point of interest. And we have done a whole episode about the Canal Du Midi as well.

[00:06:43] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely. And it is the main waterway beside some of these little rivers like the Aude, which is in fact a river. And if you look on a map, it begins in Toulouse, the Canal Du Midi and empties out at the sea, just south of Narbonne. And so it really follows the geography of the department.

Cool things to see

[00:07:01] Annie Sargent: Right, right. All right. So what are the cool things to see besides Carcassonne, Narbonne, Castelnaudary, and the Canal Du Midi that we’ve already done episodes about?

[00:07:12] Elyse Rivin: Well, we certainly have a lot of villages and of course, we have among other things, and I know you’re going to talk a little bit more about that in detail, among the big things to visit in the Aude department are some of the famousCathar chateaus ruins. But there are also lots of other villages with different things to see.

[00:07:33] Elyse Rivin: And because the department is a department that’s basically made almost everything everywhere is made of stone. And lots of these villages are very, very old perched up on top of hills, it’s very, I would say it’s very atmospheric.

[00:07:47] Elyse Rivin: How’s that for a good word? There are a few towns that are down below more or less at sea level, but it’s a region that gives you a sense of the ancient quality of the area.

[00:07:58] Elyse Rivin: So, what should we do? Should we start with a couple of the ones that I visited that I particularly like? And then you can do your own?

[00:08:04] Annie Sargent: Yes, of course. Let’s go ahead with that. Yeah. Okay.

Montolieu, The Village of Books

[00:08:06] Elyse Rivin: So, one of the places that’s actually fairly well known now is called Montolieu and it’s north of Carcassonne. I’m going to mention two, three things that are actually just north within a half an hour or so, or 40 minutes of Carcassonne because it’s the kind of thing you can do if you want to group together your visits in and around that area.

[00:08:26] Elyse Rivin: Montolieu is actually now fairly famous all over, it was even mentioned a couple of years ago in the New York Times, because it’s called the Village of Books.

[00:08:35] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, and I’ve been there.

[00:08:37] Annie Sargent: It’s very nice

[00:08:38] Elyse Rivin: It’s very nice, isn’t it? I don’t know, honestly how that started. Apparently, it was several English people who had moved there, who opened bookstores.

[00:08:49] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know if it’s because that’s what they had done before and before they moved there. But little by little it became the village. And it’s a village pushed up on a hill, it’s very beautiful. It’s a fairly important sized village. It’s filled with bookstores and it became known as the Village of Books.

[00:09:05] Elyse Rivin: And it’s officially the Village of Culture and Books. And it has book festivals, book readings, they invite famous authors to come there. So it’s, besides being a beautiful old, stone village with little narrow streets that go up and down, it’s really a wonderful place to visit. It has bookstores that have old books, and bookstores that have new books and it’s a place for looking for the next find on your book list.

[00:09:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and I was there one day when they had a book fair I guess, and it was really fun. Lots of people were there. Very good atmosphere. The little Center Plaza had people playing boules / pétanque, you know, it’s a really cute little village, worth a stop, especially if you can go on a weekend when they have stuff going on.

[00:09:53] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And honestly, I’m not even sure, I would guess that in the winter they don’t have too much going on. You know, that it’s more during the nice weather. But because it is a village of books and bookstores, the bookstores are open all the time.

[00:10:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and they have a lot of second hand books, a lot of that. And as a matter of fact, I bought some books that I never thought I would see again.

[00:10:17] Elyse Rivin: They also specialize, they have a couple of stores that specialize in books for children, which is really fun because you can go there and as you say, you can find things that maybe you can’t imagine still exist.

[00:10:29] Annie Sargent: Right. I don’t remember if they had a lot of books in English, perhaps they had a few, but it’s not a place that specializes in books in English. I mean, why would they, you know?

[00:10:38] Elyse Rivin: No, but they do have some in English, so, that’s why they do attract a lot of English speaking people who come because they’re interested in seeing what the village is like. But also because there are, I think, I’m not even sure anymore if it’s just that there are a couple of bookstores that are specifically English-speaking or if some of the bookstores have a selection in English.

[00:10:59] Annie Sargent: I can’t tell you. I didn’t spend that long there.

[00:11:02] Elyse Rivin: And being that you can read in French, didn’t matter.

[00:11:05] Annie Sargent: Correct, yes. And this is a place where you’ll probably spend, I mean, if you have lunch there, maybe three hours max, if there’s something interesting going on that day. Most of the time you go through the village in an hour.

[00:11:19] Elyse Rivin: Well, you know, the last time I was there, maybe a year or so ago, I don’t remember, but it was with my husband. We did have lunch there in a lovely little place and we spent some time, I like foraging in old bookstores, you know, and so old book stores, I mean, not…

[00:11:35] Annie Sargent: That sounds like you’re eating books.

[00:11:36] Elyse Rivin: Yes, I know it does. It sounds like I’m a little book rat. Well, I probably am. But I would say if you’re really interested in looking for old books or if you’re interested in seeing the atmosphere, or if it’s a time when there’s a special festival or book reading, you will have a good half day there.

[00:11:50] Elyse Rivin: Otherwise, it’s a nice place to visit, see what the bookstores are like, and it’s a nice place to have lunch actually.

[00:11:56] Annie Sargent: Yes. And they have, I’m pretty sure they have a good electric car charger there that I used. You know, it’s good, it’s always good to have.

[00:12:06] Elyse Rivin: I have nothing to say about that at this point.

[00:12:08] Annie Sargent: You’ll have to, eventually.

[00:12:10] Elyse Rivin: I will, eventually. Not yet. Not yet.


[00:12:12] Elyse Rivin: Another town or village and really very tiny, Montolieu is not tiny, but another place that is actually very, very tiny, but not far away. This is all north, just north of Carcassonne, is a place called Lastours. it’s a tiny village, it’s really, and it’s perched up on top of a hill.

[00:12:30] Elyse Rivin: There’s a little modern part which is not particularly interesting whatsoever. But one of the things that’s interesting about this is that it’s a lesser known area for Cathar ruins. They havean entrance that it’s along a little gorge of a river. And they have, it’s called Lastours, which is basically from l’Occitan for the towers, meaning three towers.

[00:12:52] Elyse Rivin: There were three consecutive castles that were built to protect the people that were Cathar. This was actually three members or three parts of the same Cathar family. And they built these castles close to one another. And it’s very interesting because it’s much lesser known than some of the others that I know you’re going to talk about that are further south.

[00:13:13] Elyse Rivin: But it’s fairly impressive, they’ve arranged it so you can walk up and there are little bits of signs everywhere so that you get an idea of what these things looked like before, because it is mostly ruined. And the view from up on top is really fabulous.

[00:13:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, this is one that I’ve done, I’ve walked up and it’s, I would say it’s not very difficult. If you’re fit, you’re not going to find it super difficult. If you’re not very fit, you can still do it because it’s not a super long hike, but there will be steep portions that might be a challenge.

[00:13:46] Annie Sargent: But if you can take breaks and you have water and stuff, I think most people can do it, even if they’re not super fit.

[00:13:52] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely. And down below there’s a very nice kind of cafeteria that’s right along the water. It’s a lovely spot and this is all kind of concentrated in the same area where there are a whole bunch of things to do.

[00:14:03] Elyse Rivin: So if you want to try and find a somewhat lesser known part of the Aude area, this is one to investigate.

[00:14:11] Annie Sargent: Right. And it’s also good with kids. It’s a sort of place where kids will have fun and there’s nobody telling them not to pick up the rocks and throw them.

[00:14:19] Elyse Rivin: Although you should, you know, tell them not to throw them, anyway. But yeah, there you go.

[00:14:23] Annie Sargent: Let them live. They’re children.

[00:14:28] Elyse Rivin: Chase the birds, you know. There you go.

[00:14:30] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.


[00:14:30] Elyse Rivin: Going back west a little bit, actually a little bit south of Castelnaudary is a village that’s actually also very famous in its history because of its connection with the Cathar, and that is a village called Fanjeaux, which is on the way to Limoux. Limoux, which we’ve also talked about in another podcast, I think, haven’t we?

[00:14:50] Annie Sargent: You know, I don’t remember.

[00:14:51] Annie Sargent: I think so. I think so, yes.

[00:14:53] Elyse Rivin: I think we have, I think we have, and Fanjeaux is not spectacular the way Lastours is or some of these others, but it’s very, very interesting. It’s very pretty. It’s in the middle of a section that’s the beginning of kind of Wine Country. It’s a kind of half and half between Wine Country and just farmland, on the top of a hill, but not perched up in a dramatic way. But it’s filled with history because it’s a village that has a lot to do with the end of the war with the Cathar. And it’s a very nice place to visit, especially if you’re going to go to or from Carcassonne, depending upon which direction you’re going in. And if you’re going to do a stop in that area, maybe this would be a very lovely place to stop and also have a cafe.

[00:15:34] Elyse Rivin: And then there’s signs all the way around the village that explain some of its history because of there’s a whole mysterious history about a convent where a lot of women were sent at the end of the war with the Cathar, where they were forced to go back into a convent so that they would be converted back to Catholicism.

[00:15:51] Elyse Rivin: It’s part of a very strange history that’s connected to this area.

[00:15:55] Annie Sargent: Hmm. Hmm. Interesting. I didn’t know much about this.

[00:15:58] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. This is one that’s a lot about history, you know? Really.

[00:16:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, good, interesting.


[00:16:03] Elyse Rivin: And then why don’t we, I’m going to let you talk about Lagrasse, I think, and then we’ll go to the coast. Ok.

[00:16:09] Annie Sargent: So, Lagrasse is a very nice, I think it’s a big village, or small town, you know. It’s a place that gets plenty of visitors. It has several B&Bs. I don’t think there’s a hotel there, but B&B and Airbnb as well. And it has this beautiful river with a very old stone bridge that’s very picturesque. And it’s a lovely place to walk around and spend an hour or two in this area.

[00:16:40] Annie Sargent: It’s, when I went, it was very hot. Like it’s a, it’s one of these places, this feels like a very Mediterranean kind of landscape. It’s very dry, very hot. Just beautiful stone, beautiful flowers, these flowers that kind of grow on walls and look just really, really nice.

[00:17:01] Elyse Rivin: It’s much closer to the Mediterranean, so it’s already got that real Mediterranean feel to it, compared to the, some of the other things that are further North and further West.

[00:17:12] Elyse Rivin: It’s also the Abbaye there, of course is very, very famous. Well, you can visit, if I remember correctly, you can visit just a tiny part of it.

[00:17:19] Elyse Rivin: Right, right.

[00:17:20] Annie Sargent: Right. So I know we visited it, but I have no memory of what was inside. So it’s probably just not a stunning kind of thing. But it was worth it, it was good,

[00:17:30] Annie Sargent: it’s a cool place.

[00:17:31] Elyse Rivin: It’s also a place that has some literary festivals. If you remember correctly, there’s a kind of covered market in the center that’s between the river and the main road.

[00:17:42] Elyse Rivin: And I know that they have outdoor festivals of some kind there. And I’m not sure if it’s music or a book festival also, but it’s a town. I agree with you, and I’m not sure if it’s considered a big village or a tiny town, whatever, but it’s become a place that has a reputation for having cultural activity.

[00:18:02] Annie Sargent: Right, right. Yeah.

[00:18:04] Annie Sargent: It’s a cool place. People enjoy it very much.


[00:18:06] Annie Sargent: And then Villerouge-Termenès is nearby. And it’s also an interesting town. It has a little museum, if I remember correctly. And this is a Wine Country as well, so as you drive around the area, you will see a lot of places where you can pull over and taste some wine, which, you know, makes it even better.

[00:18:28] Elyse Rivin: Have you been there recently?

[00:18:29] Annie Sargent: I think it’s been, it was before the pandemic.

[00:18:31] Elyse Rivin: It was before the pandemic. I was there, but a while ago, I mean a while ago, meaning at least seven, eight years ago. And at the time I happened to be there working with a group, it was a tour group, and we had lunch in a restaurant there that was supposedly serving Roman food.

[00:18:49] Elyse Rivin: And I don’t know if it still exists. It was very strange because it was a part of the village, which is absolutely gorgeous is very ancient. And then there’s a little part that’s very modern. And this restaurant was in part of the ancient castle that was there. And they served the food on a slice of bread and they served a wine that was filled with spices, which is of course the way the Romans drank their wine diluted with spices, this was the thing. They didn’t trust the water so, spices can kill just about anything, I guess, you know? But, I don’t know if it’s still there. I have no idea.

[00:19:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I don’t know. We did not go there.

[00:19:22] Elyse Rivin: You didn’t go there. I would be curious to find out because I’m not sure why they said that there was a Roman restaurant there, except that of course the Romans were pretty much everywhere, so why not have a restaurant there?

[00:19:33] Elyse Rivin: It’s a Roman restaurant.

[00:19:34] Annie Sargent: Sure. Why not?

[00:19:36] Annie Sargent: Very good.


[00:19:37] Annie Sargent: Another place I wanted to mention is Rennes-le-Château, forever known in my memory as the place where my last diesel car died. We were going with friends, and this is not long ago, this is like a year ago. We were there with friends. I knew my car was on its last breath.

[00:19:55] Annie Sargent: But as we were pulling into Rennes-le-Château alas, the overheating thing came on again and never to be turned off.

[00:20:05] Elyse Rivin: It was the devil, Annie.

[00:20:07] Annie Sargent: It was the devil, It was the devil.

[00:20:09] Annie Sargent: Yes, it was the devil. So this place is famous for having a lot of what I call, woo.

[00:20:17] Elyse Rivin: Mythological? No, not mythological. What’s the right word for this?

[00:20:21] Annie Sargent: Weird beliefs.

[00:20:22] Elyse Rivin: Okay. Weird beliefs. Yeah.

[00:20:25] Annie Sargent: And it is very cute. It has this little church, and I think we did a whole episode about that area as well. But it has this cute little church and it’s another place that has a lot of B&B and places where you can spend the night. They do festivals now and then. They have wine stuff as well.

[00:20:44] Annie Sargent: I mean, it’s just a cute place to go spend a few hours and I guess you could also spend a few days if you wanted to go hike and bike and do all sorts of things like that.

[00:20:55] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, it’s probably, aside from the strange myths attached to the church and the story of the, of the curé there, it’s a good central place if you want to do a lot of hiking and biking in that area, absolutely. It’s a fairly important sized village in terms of the kinds of villages that are around there.

[00:21:12] Elyse Rivin: And it brings in a lot of people because of these stories. So they’ve developed a certain amount offacilities for tourists. Let’s put it that way. Yeah.

[00:21:21] Annie Sargent: Right. And so, it is just at the entrance of the village, you have this fairly large parking lot. So they know people come all the time, and you have this parking lot, and that’s where my car died.

[00:21:32] Elyse Rivin: She’ll remember this forever and ever.

[00:21:34] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, yes. Not that I miss the car or anything, but it was a little startling having to wait there and we waited forever for the tow truck to arrive.

[00:21:43] Annie Sargent: So anyhoodle, yes.

The Coast

[00:21:45] Elyse Rivin: So let’s go to the coast, want to go to the coast, now? Let’s go to the coast. Let’s go to the coast. So remember we’re talking about a department that starts really, really almost halfway west. You know, I mean, if you have an idea of where Toulouse is situated, just a little bit to the east of that, and it goes to the coast.

[00:22:03] Elyse Rivin: And of course the big city on the coast is Narbonne.


[00:22:06] Elyse Rivin: But since we have done podcasts and we’ve talked about Narbonne in lots of different ways,I would like to talk about two villages, big villages, little towns, doesn’t matter. I’m not sure. One of which is very, very close to Narbonne and that is “Guissan”.

[00:22:20] Annie Sargent: Wait, wait, wait. It’s what?

[00:22:23] Elyse Rivin:

[00:22:23] Annie Sargent: Gruissan

[00:22:23] Elyse Rivin: There’s no R. Really?

[00:22:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah,

[00:22:27] Elyse Rivin: I don’t believe so, unless I mistaken.

[00:22:30] Annie Sargent: There is an R.

[00:22:31] Elyse Rivin: There is? There’s an R.

[00:22:33] Annie Sargent: G-R-U-I-S-S-A-N

[00:22:35] Elyse Rivin: I wrote it without an R. That’s why you didn’t think there was an R. Ok. That’s why. You’re always forgiven.

[00:22:40] Elyse Rivin: Yes. I didn’t, I did not remember there was an R, GRUISSAN.

[00:22:46] Annie Sargent: Oh, you do very well.

[00:22:47] Elyse Rivin: I did, I left my R out, there you go. I purposely did, I guess, because it’s hard to say. There you go. Right. It happens that it’s relatively famous. It’s a very interesting little village. It’s a village that’s right on the coast. It’s on the top of a hill and it’s in the round. There are not too many villages like that.

[00:23:06] Elyse Rivin: Maybe there were in the olden days and the medieval times, I don’t even know. But this particular one is really like a circle in circle, inside a circle, inside a circle. Right on the tip of the coast. It’s on a tiny little peninsula that’s just east as you go into the lagoon area, which is what you have when you go along the coast right next to Narbonne.

[00:23:27] Elyse Rivin: And it’s very beautiful, it’s a very old little village. But the area is also very famous because it has a very big beach. And this particular beach has very strange houses that are built on stilts. I’ve been there andI know, I was just looking again online yesterday and apparently, unlike when I was there, which was a few years ago, apparently now there are a fair number of these houses that are rentable for a certain amount of time in the summer, because when I was there, we walked through the beach area and visited these houses, and there weren’t any signs up saying that any of them were for rent.

[00:24:01] Elyse Rivin: So, but it’s unique. I think that there aren’t stilts because of the water. It reminds me of a section on a, there’s a stretch of sandbar in North Carolina that’s called The Outer Banks, that also has houses built on stilts, exactly because of the storms and the hurricanes and things like that.

[00:24:18] Elyse Rivin: And my guess is since these were built, I’m not even sure if they were built in the 50s or 60s or when, but my guess is that they were built on stilts. I know they’re summer homes, but that they’re that way because of the storms and the water that can come up. But it’s very kind of cute area to visit.

[00:24:35] Elyse Rivin: And the village is really very charming. It’s kind of odd. It’s a little bit different from some of the others.


[00:24:40] Elyse Rivin: And then going down the coast, a little bit south, south of Narbonne and this area along the coast, you have a town called Leucate which I know of because of my stepson, who is a big athlete and who does windsurfing and surfing and kite surfing, and God knows what else you can do with surf and air.

[00:25:02] Annie Sargent: Boards of sorts.

[00:25:03] Elyse Rivin: Whatever are those things. And this is where you go.

[00:25:06] Annie Sargent: Hmm. Interesting.

[00:25:07] Elyse Rivin: For some reason, I’m sure it has to do with the configuration of the land, but this particular spot is known for its wind. And so for people who are really athletic and want to do these kinds of sports, this is where you go. It’s a stretch on the Mediterranean, just below Port-la-Nouvelle, which is a bigger town, which is more commercial.

[00:25:26] Elyse Rivin: But if you’re interested in that kind of activity, this is where you need to spend a day or two.


[00:25:31] Annie Sargent: Excellent. And I also want to talk about the town of Bages.

[00:25:35] Annie Sargent: Which you don’t really go for the town. Bages, it’s on the coast, but it’s, it doesn’t open onto the Mediterranean. It opens onto the big marsh, what’s it called? The Lagoon.

[00:25:46] Annie Sargent: Lagoon. That’s the word lagoon.

[00:25:48] Annie Sargent: And if you go to Bages, there’s a beautiful little pass that you can walk all along the lagoon, and there are pink flamingo.

[00:25:58] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:25:59] Annie Sargent: Yes. So it’s a really fun little place to explore. And again, you don’t spend that much time there, perhaps an hour or two if you go on a hike. There are some restaurants.

[00:26:14] Annie Sargent: You don’t really go for the village, you go for the pink flamingo and looking around the lagoon.

[00:26:19] Elyse Rivin: I think they’re, I’m not even sure, but I think technically there are two lagoons, but they’re famous for their pink flamingos, and I’m not sure if, hmm, okay, my nature knowledge is not that great. I’m not sure if flamingos migrate, do they go away and come back, or are they there all year round?

[00:26:36] Elyse Rivin: Have they just decided to make it their first home, or is it their second vacation home? I don’t remember.

[00:26:41] Annie Sargent: I don’t think they migrate, but I could be wrong. Because I went in February and I saw pink flamingo.

[00:26:48] Elyse Rivin: Okay. So, well I guess they’ve given up, they decided to retire to the lagoon and there’s no point in going anywhere else because it’s nice there.

[00:26:55] Elyse Rivin: I mean, perfectly understandable, just like human beings do, you know?

[00:26:58] Annie Sargent: It’s a nice place. Why not?

A gouffre and a grotto, Natural sites

[00:26:59] Elyse Rivin: And I’d like to mention the three natural sites. We always talk a lot about villages and certainly, this is an area where there’s hiking and biking everywhere.

[00:27:07] Elyse Rivin: And I know you want to talk about a specific trail for that. But there are north of Carcassonne again, are a couple of, one is called a gouffre, and one is called a grotto. Basically I would say to make it clear to anybody out there, these are two enormous caves, okay? The Gouffre Géant de Cabrespine. I’ve been to both of them.

[00:27:28] Elyse Rivin: I’ve been inside both of them. Even for people who are a little bit claustrophobic, these are two enormous, enormous, enormous spaces that you really don’t feel claustrophobic in because they’re so huge on the inside. And it’s because the area around Carcassonne and certainly just north of it, is all limestone and limestone cliffs that are relatively soft.

[00:27:48] Elyse Rivin: So, over the ages, obviously, things have been cut out or dug out by nature. And so you have these two, so the Gouffre Géant de Cabrespine, which is about 30 minutes north of Carcassonne is huge. And it’s one of the deepest and most complex underground spaces in the world. And it has a full, it’s very easy to do, there are three levels inside it that go down, and even the first level is actually even accessible to people who have wheelchairs. It’s fascinating because of the formations inside it and it’s really beautiful inside and it’s visible all year round.

[00:28:26] Elyse Rivin: And another one that’s actually even closer to Carcassonne is called the Grotte de Limousis.


[00:28:34] Elyse Rivin: And it’s considered to be the largest underground grotto in Western Europe and it has an underground lake, and it’s really beautiful also. And a lot of people don’t know about these places, because when I was there, it was mostly French tourists that were there because they’re people who are visiting the area who probably come from other parts of France. But they’re really fabulous and if you want to do something that’s just a little bit different and are not worried or afraid of being inside an underground space, neither of them are tiny, so you really don’t have to worry about it.

[00:29:07] Elyse Rivin: They’re really fabulous to visit, they really are.

[00:29:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s funny because I haven’t seen either one, and I should just get in my car and go.

[00:29:15] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, they’re really beautiful and they’re mysterious, you know, and because they’re not, you know, I’m not big on tiny smalls underground spaces, but these are fine, these are really beautiful spaces to visit.

[00:29:26] Annie Sargent: Very good, more things to add to my list. Oh, well.

[00:29:29] Annie Sargent: Even in the Aude there’s stuff I can add to my list, incredible.

Massif de la Clape and The Blue Hole

[00:29:33] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely. And then the last one I just want to mention as a kind of nature thing, and this is in what is called the Massif de la Clape which is a, another kind of peninsula out east of Narbonne. When you get to Narbonne and you want to go to the beach, there are directions to get to the Massif de la Clape, which is a kind of small little area. But it has a sinkhole that is visitable and you can actually swim in it.And is called officially, The Blue Hole.

[00:30:00] Elyse Rivin: And these are some kind of geological weird thing where they’re very, very, very deep. I guess it’s caused by the underground of the limestone areas, just kind of giving way. I don’t even know exactly.

[00:30:14] Annie Sargent: There’s a devil pulling you down.

[00:30:16] Elyse Rivin: There’s a devil pulling you down, but there’s walkways all around this area that are very beautiful.

[00:30:21] Elyse Rivin: It’s very, very Mediterranean, and you can hike there and you can see it from up above or, and when I was there, I was there with a group of university students and there were two or three who went see in a little while, and they sure enough went down the trail and jumped into the water, you know.

[00:30:37] Annie Sargent: Take a dip.

[00:30:38] Annie Sargent: So is this the sort of place where you, like, there’s an entrance fee and all of that?

[00:30:42] Elyse Rivin: Nothing. No. No.

[00:30:44] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:30:44] Elyse Rivin: No. So you can just go?

[00:30:45] Elyse Rivin: You can just go. It’s just that, it’s in the middle of this place called the Massif de la Clape which is a wine growing area basically. And you have to look for the signs to get there because there’s a parking area, you know, and then you take a little bit of a walk, and then you get to the top part, and then you follow the trails if you want to go down and actually see it. Because otherwise you’re looking at it from up above.

[00:31:05] Elyse Rivin: And the reason it’s called, The Blue Hole is because the blue is very, very, very beautiful, dark blue.

[00:31:11] Annie Sargent: Wow. Another one I have not been to. Thank you, Elyse. More things from my list.

The Sentier Cathare

[00:31:18] Annie Sargent: All right. I want to tell you aboutthe Sentier Cathare, so this is grand meaning a grand route, I think.

[00:31:28] Elyse Rivin: In French, it’s Grande Randonnée.

[00:31:30] Annie Sargent: Oh, yes. yes.

[00:31:30] Elyse Rivin: Which means basically, a national trail.

[00:31:34] Annie Sargent: Yes, exactly. So this is, gere trois cent soixante-sept, so 367, it goes between Fois and the Lagoon. It might go all the way to the med, but perhaps it stops in the Lagoon. It’s 250 kilometers, so that’s 155 miles, so it would take like maybe 12 days to do. And it’s all, you know, well-marked paths for people, you know, hikers and whatever. And it takes you through several of the Chateaux Cathar. Those are not in the Aude, now we’re in another department.

[00:32:11] Annie Sargent: Anyway, it takes you through a lot of fun places. So for hikers this is a very good one. And of course there’s also a bunch of Voies Vertes in the Aude, just like in every department in France. So these are those greenways, they are for pedestrians, cycles, anything that doesn’t have a motor.

[00:32:30] Annie Sargent: Okay. So if you could have an electric bike, but you can’t have vroom vroom.

[00:32:36] Elyse Rivin: What’s the difference between the Voie Verte and the Grande Randonnée? I’m not sure.

[00:32:42] Annie Sargent: Some of the Voies Vertes are part of a bigger network of roads, but Voie Verte can be between two villages, between, you know, and some of them link together, but some don’t.

[00:32:54] Elyse Rivin: And it’s probably easier to walk than The Grande Randonnée, which basically you need to be able to do some climbing and things like that.

[00:33:01] Annie Sargent: So, Grande Randonnée is really for people who are doing this over several days, you know, it’s a long hike.

[00:33:09] Annie Sargent: Whereas the Voie Verte is more like for locals to go walk their dogs or their kids and they go with strollers and, you know, it’s more of a casual hike. Yeah, that’s the difference.

[00:33:20] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. I know that in general there are a whole series of Grande Randonnée all over France and usually parts of them you have to be in good shape to do them. I mean, some of them are more difficult than others, but…

[00:33:30] Annie Sargent: Well, yeah, of course. If you have your backpack for, you know, several days and all that, that’s a different thing than, you know, picking up your dog and walking. Absolutely.

[00:33:40] Elyse Rivin: You’re absolutely right.

[00:33:41] Annie Sargent: Even if you walk for two, three hours on a Voie Verte, that’s not the same level as you know, today I’m walking 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers to go to the next thing, and tomorrow I do it all over again.

[00:33:52] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely.

[00:33:53] Elyse Rivin: I’m not sure if it connects to that, but I just wanted to mention that in the Southern extreme part of the Department of the Aude, as it gets into the foothills of the Pyrenees, which is of course where a couple of the Cathar ruins are also, there are a couple of gorges. I’ve done a couple of these in a car. But apparently there are places along these gorges, which are really kind of narrow anyway, specifically near a village called Axat that you can hike the area.

[00:34:22] Elyse Rivin: And for people who are really adventurous, it’s a slightly different kind of geographical formation because it’s getting a little bit into the mountains so it’s not as dry and mediterranean as some of the others.

[00:34:32] Elyse Rivin: But for those people who are really athletic and really in good shape, these are really kind of fun things to do, you know?

Le Canal Du Midi

[00:34:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah, definitely. So let me name some of those Voie Vertes I was mentioning, Le Canal Du Midi, obviously is a Voie Verte. It’s not super well maintained in some areas, but it’s decent the whole way and you can either bike it or walk it or run it or do whatever you would like. Absolutely. Yeah.


[00:35:00] Annie Sargent: Another one is the Passapaïs Voie Verte and this is between the towns of Mazamet and Bédarieux. So this one is 75 kilometers long, and you can do it within, you know, it would take, what, three days, four days, perhaps?

[00:35:17] Annie Sargent: And it’s all organized where you have, you have websites that talk about the Passapaïs and where you can stay, where you can eat, things that you can do along the way because there’s places where you can go on a separate hike to go see some geological thing of interest or whatever.

[00:35:34] Annie Sargent: So that, that’s what I would like to do for perhaps for Easter. I will try and to do… I’ll see if I get to it, but I would like to do that with my electric bike because it would be a fun thing to do.

[00:35:45] Elyse Rivin: Well, that sounds really great. Is that now,between Mazamet and Bédarieux is the northwestern part of the department. It’s really touching into the southern inch of the Black Mountains

[00:35:54] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, yes, yes. We’re north here.

La Voie Verte de la Montagne Noire

[00:35:58] Annie Sargent: And then La Voie Verte de la Montagne Noire, so again, north.

[00:36:03] Annie Sargent: It goes, let’s see, it’s along a former railway. It’s 22 kilometers, so it’s much shorter and it’sbetween Mazamet and Pradelle Cabardes is the name of it. You see this beautiful landscape of the Montagne Noir and everything. So another good one.

La Voie Verte de l’Aude

[00:36:20] Annie Sargent: And then La Voie Verte de l’Aude also known Voie Verte du piémont pyrénéen.

[00:36:27] Annie Sargent: So this is between Moulin-Neuf and Lézignan-Corbières. Now Lézignan is not that great of a town to visit. I don’t know. You’ve been there, right?

[00:36:37] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, I’ve been there a lot. I’ve gone through it a lot and I’ve actually been there a couple of times. It’s a town, it’s not a village. It’s not of any particular interest from a tourist point of view, except that it might be a place to stop for coffee or something like that.

[00:36:51] Elyse Rivin: But it’s not particularly pretty. It’s down below on, it’s on sea level. And it’s just a town.

[00:36:57] Annie Sargent: And there’s some wine production in the area, whatever.

[00:37:00] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, at some point would just want to mention the different wine areas so people get an idea. But yes. But it’s really a place that, it’s kind of a non touristy town, let’s put it that way. Yeah.

Cathar Castles

[00:37:10] Annie Sargent: So now let me mention the Cathar castles, and by level of difficulty, because, okay, first of all, these are not castles that were built by the Cathars.

[00:37:20] Annie Sargent: The Cathars themselves built nothing. It was castles that they used to protect, you know, for protection. But they’ve been called the Cathar Castles forever, so we can’t change that. But some of them are pretty hard to get to. The easiest one, in the Aude is the Chateau de Saissac. This one is close to the village, it’s very accessible.

[00:37:43] Elyse Rivin: It’s relatively flat too. It’s not too high up.

[00:37:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. I think this one is quite easy to do. There’s a Château de Villerouge-Termenès which we mentioned before. Very easy. Very easy. Yeah. Very easy. Chateau d’Aguilar. This one is, you know, moderately easy.

[00:38:01] Annie Sargent: It’s, you know, a well marked trail, gentle incline. It’s pretty good.

[00:38:05] Elyse Rivin: Don’t know it. I’ve never been there. Where is it?

[00:38:07] Annie Sargent: I have not been to that one either. It’s near Tuchan is what this says.

[00:38:13] Annie Sargent: The Château de Lastours which we mentioned already. This one is moderate, I would say.Château de Termes, you know, it’s moderate to challenging that one. And there are different routes that you can take. So it depends on which route you take. Château de Puilaurens is getting moderately challenging to do, there’s some very steep parts. It’s uneven, you know, but these are well-marked trails, all of them.

[00:38:42] Annie Sargent: But some of them are steeper and obviously, they’re not wheelchair accessible, for example. None of them are.

[00:38:48] Elyse Rivin: Not only are they not wheelchair accessible, but unless they’ve changed a lot in the last few years, what is called a trail in France is not what a lot of people expect. In other words, there’s a basic access and indication of where to go. But it’s a lot of, it’s not little steps, it’s lots of rock and stone and it’s not necessarily even, you know, it’s like sometimes little rocks, sometimes big rocks. So you have to have, you’d have to be pretty surefooted.

[00:39:16] Annie Sargent: I have two more to talk about, Queribus is one, this one is also some steep, uneven terrain. But it’s well-marked, and you know, bring water, take your time, you’ll be fine.

[00:39:27] Annie Sargent: And The Château de Peyrepertuse this one is the most challenging of all.

[00:39:31] Annie Sargent: And of course, I went to it and I was very pleased to see that there was an electric charger at the bottom of the castle, which, you know, kudos for, and this is not a fast charger, but it’s one where if you show up with an electric car, you can plug in. By the time you’re done with your hike, three hours later, your car is good to go. So it’s excellent, but it looked awfully steep and I got there 20 minutes before they were going to close, and I was like, well, yeah, I miscalculated this one. It takes longer and it’s pretty steep and challenging. Okay. But it doesn’t take technical know-how, like, you know, anybody can do it. It’s just you need to have good lungs and good legs.

[00:40:12] Elyse Rivin: The last two though, I mean the last two you just mentioned, besides the fact that they’re the most challenging to walk up to the top of, they have spectacular views.

[00:40:21] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah, that’s why people go.

[00:40:22] Elyse Rivin: I think if people have not seen any of these, we’re talking about basically ruins a lot of rubble, a little bit of wall, a little bit of tower. But it’s this location that makes them impressive. It’s the fact that when you get up to the top there and you imagine that this is where people actually lived for a while, and the view that some of them have, it’s really spectacular.

[00:40:43] Elyse Rivin: And the proof that a lot of people go is the fact that they have an electric charger in the parking lot. They’re very popular.

[00:40:49] Annie Sargent: Yes, they’re very popular, and also the, you know, the region is trying to develop chargers everywhere, people are going to stay for a while.

The wine

[00:40:58] Annie Sargent: The last thing we want to mention is the wine of the area, because there’s plenty of wine. Now, we’re going to mention a few things, but clearly, this is an area where there’s a lot of wine producers.

[00:41:10] Annie Sargent: If you see that there is a sign that says, you know, wine tasting this way, and there are some cars in the parking lot, probably you can go in and they will have you taste whatever they make and you can buy a few bottles if you wish. And these are not the sort of places where you have to arrange for a wine tasting, you can just show up and there’s, you know, it’s limited hours, that’s why I say you have to make sure there’s some cars in the parking lot because if you show up on a Sunday afternoon, probably they’re not working. But if you go, you know, Tuesday afternoon or whatever,there’s usually people in those places and it’s totally fine to just stop and try the wine.

[00:41:49] Elyse Rivin: Yes. And the thing about the wines of the Aude, there’s a whole story about them. France is a country that produces an enormous amount of wine. There’s hardly a region across the South or across the East going up, as far as Champagne, that actually is not a wine growing area.

[00:42:05] Elyse Rivin: But there’s a whole story about the Aude because it is one of the biggest wine producing areas of France, and for a very long time that is really into the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it was basically considered to be the area that produced your basic table wine, if not your basic rot gut. Let’s put it as that way, you know?

[00:42:25] Annie Sargent: I am not familiar with rot gut.

[00:42:27] Elyse Rivin: You’re not familiar with rot gut. Well, unfortunately, a lot of French people were, I think for a very long time. There’s a very fascinating social history about the uprising and a social uprising of wine producers. And the Aude is a very complicated story. But what basically happened was that starting in the second half of the 20th century, the wines, they were using grafts of vineyards and grapevines that came back to the States from originally, it was like the great-grandchildren of the wines that went to the States, you know, and they replanted.

[00:42:56] Elyse Rivin: And so now, there are several areas of the wine making part of the Aude that are very, very, very good. And they’re divided by, as is always the case in France, the names of the wines, not the particular Chateau, but the names of the wines are basically based on the name of the area. So the ones that are really the most well known and are the best in quality are the Minervois, which is basically an area where there are now a lot of award-winning wines.

[00:43:27] Elyse Rivin: And they are the, this is a stretch of land that goes basically north and east of Carcassonne. It actually continues into the department above the Aude. But these wines and the other area, which is the big, big area south of Carcassonne and going as far as the Mediterranean, which is the Corbières.

[00:43:44] Elyse Rivin: And both of these areas have wines, I love the term, these are considered to be wines that are “filled with sun.” And for some reason I love that expression. These are basically full bodied reds, mostly reds, there’s some rose and some white. They are very different from the Bordeaux, they are different from the Burgundy wines, and they happen to be wines that I love them, everybody has different tastes.

[00:44:08] Annie Sargent: They do nice Shiraz as well there, which we don’t get that much of it in France, but they do it there, so yeah.

[00:44:15] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, and Shiraz is one of the, or Shiraz for some of those people out there listening is one of the varieties of grapes that they use in these wines here.

[00:44:22] Elyse Rivin: There’s also a small area of wine producing that the Massif de la Clape, which is where I was talking about that Blue Hole. It’s got a special little AOC that’s just that area. I’m not sure why, I’m not sure if there’s a different variety of grape to be honest, but it’s the part that’s just east right out into the water from Narbonne.

[00:44:43] Elyse Rivin: And if you go to that area to visit, to go to the coast or to go visit this famous Blue Hole, there are different wine tasting places right there that you can visit it. And then of course, there’s the famous Limoux area which produces what is supposed to be the most ancient and original of the bubbly white wines in France, The Blanquette de Limoux.

[00:45:04] Elyse Rivin: But altogether, the Aude is a huge wine producer and many, many, many of the Corbières are now either organic or what they call raisonnée, which means they tried to use less chemicals than they did before. I’m not sure exactly what the exact definition is.

[00:45:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, they try to use as little as they can get away with, instead of applying your whatever you call that in English.

[00:45:29] Elyse Rivin: I don’t think there is a name for it in English, it’s a zinc oxide.

[00:45:32] Annie Sargent: So, instead of applying that every week, no matter what, well, you do it only when it’s necessary.

[00:45:38] Elyse Rivin: And there’s one last little areacalled the Cabardès which is a smaller area just north of Carcassonne.

[00:45:46] Elyse Rivin: Honestly, I’m not sure how much of a difference there is between that and the, for instance, the Minervois. I know and I’ve tasted many Minervois and Corbières, I absolutely love them. But each of these areas has some specialties, and as you mentioned, it is a fact that there’s lots of small producers.

[00:46:01] Elyse Rivin: And it’s not big, fancy chateaus or things like that, like you find in the Bordeaux area. And very often you will see a sign if you’re on a small country road and you can go and stop. And you never know, sometimes it doesn’t look like there’s anybody there, but you can always try and see.

[00:46:21] Annie Sargent: Well, for example, Camplong is a tiny village that doesn’t look like anything, they have a wine producer that makes a wine called Le O de Camplong. It is amazing. It’s fantastic wine. So you just have to try them and see if they’re to your liking.

[00:46:38] Annie Sargent: Now this episode, we’re almost out of time, but I want to mention that we, this is not a comprehensive list.

[00:46:45] Annie Sargent: For example, we did not mention the Abbaye de Fontfroide in this thing, which is a major attraction in the department, in the Aude. And it’s not very far from Bages. So if you go explore the Lagoon you will want to go to the Abbaye de Fontfroide, where they also have a very nice wine tasting room, and it’s surrounded by other wine tasting places.

[00:47:11] Annie Sargent: So, you know, it’s all over the place, I’m sure.

Le Carnaval de Limoux

[00:47:14] Annie Sargent: Oh, we didn’t mention the Carnaval de Limoux , which my husband and I went to recently. It’s a silly little carnival, but every Saturday and Sunday for like six weeks in February through March, I think this weekend is the last weekend that they’re doing it. So they have this group of people who, they have about 600 association members that commit to dressing up. and they just sign up for a specific time and they have two marching bands, that are in the village and that will just walk around and play whatever, and they take turns. And sometimes they have on Sunday nights, they often have a guest that will come to the Carnaval de Limoux to do a thing. So the instruments and the dancers come out at 11, I think, and then 4 and then again in the evening.

[00:48:08] Annie Sargent: If you’re in the city center, you’re going to hear them, because it’s a big old, it’s a small place. It’s not that spectacular place. But it’s fun, you know, it’s a fun lively thing to do. And especially in February and March when there’s nothing much happening, it’s nice to have that.

[00:48:23] Elyse Rivin: And another place we almost forgot, but it’s very close to Limoux, so if you’re going to go there is Alet-les-Bains which is a tiny little village, but has the ruins of a magnificent Benedictine Abbey. And ages and ages and ages ago, basically in the Middle Ages, it was a very, very important Abbey, very important monastery. And now you can kind of walk around, it’s kind of fun because it’s mysterious and they’ve got the vines, you know, creeping up the walls and stuff like that. And there are some signs that explain some of the history of it.

[00:48:55] Elyse Rivin: So this is an area filled with things and some of the things to do are just things you might fall upon driving around.

[00:49:02] Annie Sargent: Yes. And this is the sort of place, okay, so you could, imagine you are flying in from in Barcelona and you want to make your way north, and to Bordeaux, say. Well, you could drive through the freeway or you could just get off and drive through these little villages. But you’d have to stop, it would take longer and it would be the kind of trip where you have to have a car, first of all, and then you have to stop along the way and change hotels every night, which is not something everybody wants to do.

[00:49:34] Annie Sargent: And the way French people enjoy this area is they just go and they rent a place for a week and they just drive around for a week. But most Americans cannot be talked into spending a whole week in these sorts of places. Although they do say, I want to take it easy, you know. But if you want to take it easy, the Aude is perfect. You can just go find a B&B somewhere and go spend the week and have bike trips and road trips and things like that.

[00:50:05] Elyse Rivin: And you can go, and just think, you can do beach, you can do mountain, you can do vineyards, you can do old village, you can do underground, up above, you can do everything.

[00:50:16] Annie Sargent: We didn’t talk about any hot air balloons, but I’m sure you can find it, if you look for it.

[00:50:21] Elyse Rivin: I’m sure you can.

[00:50:23] Annie Sargent: Thank you very much, Elyse.

[00:50:24] Elyse Rivin: You’re welcome, Annie.

[00:50:25] Annie Sargent: Au revoir, and I hope this sounds, this is going to sound okay because this is my first time using my new machine, a Rodecaster Pro2. I hope I didn’t mess up.

[00:50:35] Annie Sargent: I hope so.

[00:50:36] Annie Sargent: Au revoir, Elyse.


Thank you Patrons

[00:50:46] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that, you can see them at

[00:50:58] Annie Sargent: Thank you all for supporting the show, some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are wonderful.

[00:51:04] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons.

[00:51:06] Annie Sargent: Ellen Cole, Michelle Zavos, Scott Weston, Helena Sweeney, Jeff Wilson and Susan Jensen. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:51:21] Annie Sargent: Patrons, I would like to encourage you to install the Patreon app on your phone, it’ll help you enjoy your rewards while on the go, including audio and video rewards.

[00:51:32] Annie Sargent: This week I published updates from my trip to Provence, where I am today, which is why I sound so different. Sometimes, I posted a few photos, sometimes a short video. I’ve also responded to questions from patrons who are thinking about taking their own trip to Provence, and I’ll mention this trip on the podcast on a future episode, of course.

Getting ready for your trip to France?

[00:51:52] Annie Sargent: And if you’re gearing up for a trip to France and immersing yourself as many episodes as possible to prepare, keep doing it, that’s the right way to do it. This podcast is a good resource to help you get ready for your own trip to France.

Itinerary consultations

[00:52:06] Annie Sargent: You can also take advantage of my expertise as your personal itinerary consultant.

[00:52:11] Annie Sargent: To get started, simply follow these steps.

[00:52:14] Annie Sargent: Number one, purchase the service at

[00:52:19] Annie Sargent: Number two, complete a questionnaire to share your travel ideas and preferences.

[00:52:23] Annie Sargent: Number three, schedule a phone appointment during which we’ll discuss your plans for about an hour, and jot down all your questions because we’ll have plenty of time to discuss everything.

[00:52:33] Annie Sargent: And number four, after our conversation, I’ll send you a comprehensive document outlining the itinerary that we discussed.

[00:52:42] Annie Sargent: Please note that my schedule tends to be really, really booked up several weeks in advance, so to find my next available date visit the only place where you can buy the service at the Join Us in France Boutique.

GPS self-guided tours

[00:52:54] Annie Sargent: And if my schedule is fully booked and you’re unable to consult with me directly, well, you can still take me in your pocket with my GPS self-guided tours available on the VoiceMap app.

[00:53:07] Annie Sargent: I’ve created five tours of Paris. They all showcase a wonderful neighborhood of Paris, Eiffel Tower, Ile de la Cité, Le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés and Latin Quarter.

[00:53:19] Annie Sargent: You can buy these tours directly from the VoiceMap app, and that’s what I recommend you do if you’re in a hurry. But if you want to enjoy the listener discount, go to But if you do it that way, it is not an immediate purchase, you’re going to have to wait for us to wake up and fulfill your order. It takes a few hours.

Riots in France, is it safe to travel?

[00:53:41] Annie Sargent: So, let’s talk about those riots you’ve all seen on CNN or wherever you get your news. As always, these riots are extremely localized, but they can get very violent, and of course, one is too many. This got started when a 17 year old refused to stop when the police asked him to.

[00:54:03] Annie Sargent: This was not his first time driving like lunatic, and I cannot fault the police for stopping a confirmed reckless driver. Where things went wrong, is that when he got stopped, eventually, one of the officers shot him in the chest and the teenager died. Immediately, other teens from rough areas started rioting and protest against the police.

[00:54:29] Annie Sargent: This has been going on for six nights as I record this, but there are a few and fewer incidents as time goes by, but like I said, this already happened in 2005 and it went on for a good 10 days at least, I think.

[00:54:44] Annie Sargent: The biggest victims of these riots are the people who live in those disadvantaged neighborhoods where the riots are taking place.

[00:54:52] Annie Sargent: I was listening to the mayor of a city near Paris where some of those riots have taken place, and she says in her city there are a hundred families on rent assistance. Only 10 of them ever cause any trouble at all. The rest of these people are victims. That’s a really hard problem to solve.

[00:55:15] Annie Sargent: I think the justice system is going to have to go after both police officer who fired his weapon when he was in no immediate danger, and also go after the people who think that gives them license to loot and riot.

[00:55:28] Annie Sargent: I’m not going to be the one to solve this problem, but I think we need to do better with integration, education, and housing, and we should not let a few delinquent families, I mean, some of these families do all the drug trafficking, all the weapons trading, all the threatening and all of this stuff. So, you know, it’s really concentrated. We can’t let these delinquent families ruin the lives of other disadvantaged families who are doing their best to get by in public housing.

[00:55:57] Annie Sargent: So what does that change for you visitors? Well, nothing at all. You do not live in public housing in France. Touristy areas are not near public housing, especially in Paris.

[00:56:12] Annie Sargent: In episode 194 of the podcast, which was called Dicey Paris Neighborhoods, I discussed in details where those neighborhoods are.

[00:56:21] Annie Sargent: It hasn’t changed years later, it’s still the same places. So listen to this episode and don’t stay in those neighborhoods. But to give you a rough idea, the northeast quadrant of Paris is not ideal. Be really careful with Airbnb rentals because they could be anywhere. If the price is too good to be true, that might be why.

[00:56:46] Annie Sargent: If you want to see the list of hotels I recommend in many Paris areas, some are budget hotels as well. Open a browser and type

[00:57:05] Annie Sargent: So, am I safe? Yes, I’m safe. I don’t live in public housing, but I grew up near public housing. Many of my schoolmates lived in public housing. I think I understand how this happens, and we have a lot of work to do to make things better, because the authorities have tried a lot of programs that don’t seem to have made a lot of difference despite considerable amounts of money being invested.

[00:57:33] Annie Sargent: Will you be safe when you come to France? Yes. Yes, you will, because riots do not take place where visitors go and they do not take place in broad daylight. If per chance you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, walk in the opposite direction and everything will be fine.

[00:57:54] Annie Sargent: My thanks to podcast editors, Anne and Cristian Cotovan, who produced the transcripts.

[00:57:59] Annie Sargent: You need to look at those transcripts if you are searching for specific tidbits. They are wonderful. Next week on the podcast, an episode about a trip from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, mostly by car, but some by train as well, because sometimes it makes sense to get a car and sometimes it makes sense to get on the train.

[00:58:21] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!


[00:58:29] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.

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Categories: Occitanie, Toulouse Area