Saturday, May 30, 2009



Carolyn got some croissants at a patisserie last night so we eat those and head out. We still can see no since spending 33Euro apiece for breakfast! Today’s plan is to drive to Carcassonne, see the walled city, have lunch and then decide on where to spend the night.

We drive down along the southern coast to the fishing village of Aiques-Mortes. This is rice growing and orchard country. We thought we might stop and check out the old fort

and walk around this little village, but the tour buses are wall to wall and there is no parking so we head on to Montpellier where we pick up the toll motorway, A9, and head for Carcassonne. Once more, we see France through the car windshield! Back inland and heading in the direction of Barcelona, the countryside is rolling hills with grape vines and is dotted with a little village or old farmstead every so often.

At Narbonne, we turn east onto A61 and head to Carcassonne. The country is almost mountainous now. The fields are full of flowers and the drive is very pleasant as there are almost no trucks and very few cars. We seem to get to Carcassonne very quickly. It takes us a while to figure out how to get to the entrance of the old walled city. We can see it sitting on top of the hill above the newer part of town, but there are no signs!Once there however, we find plenty of parking right by the city walls…surprise, surprise! It is after 1PM and we are hungry so we pick a café from the many around the plaza.Dick has the regional specialty, a casuolet -stew pot made of pork, duck and white beans along with salad and ice cream for dessert. Carolyn has a ham and Dutch cheese on a baguette and some of Dick’s salad and dessert.

Feeling much better after eating and doing some people watching we explore the village. We visit the fortress/castle, the Basilica of Saints Nazaire and Celse, dedicated in 1312AD,with its beautiful stained glass windowsand do a little shopping. Carolyn is looking for some of the country French fabric by the yard or made into a tablecloth, but did not luck out. After over two hours in the village, we head on to the coast and Arcachon de Bassin. Why are we going there, you might ask? Well, the whole theme of this segment of the trip is to go wherever we have a notion to go. Therefore, we visited Les Beaux de Provence yesterday because it was the setting for a novel Carolyn read on this trip. Dick had read a historical novel about a Napoleonic Wars battle, in 1814, that took place around Arcachon and so we are off to see that area today!

The drive from Carcassonne to Bordeaux is along a ridge overlooking the River Garonne and its valley. The drive through the Bordeaux countryside is very nice. It is hilly with lots of pretty, little villages.The truck traffic picks back up again as we approach the coast and turn down to Arcachon.

Arcachon is a summer resort area. It sits on the mouth of a large bay, Bassin de’ Arcachon, and evidently was a favorite of the English during the Victorian period judging by the beautiful, Victorian architecture at every turn. The newer construction is very French looking and the town has many very expensive new homes. It is not the season yet and most of the hotels and restaurants are shuttered. The GPS leads us to a Novotel right in town. However, it is not air-conditioned, the windows only open a crack, and we cannot get any ventilation in a very stuffy room. Therefore, we check out fifteen minutes after checking in and head for an alternate hotel. After checking in again (still no A/C, but half the price and new), we head down to the town’s promenade and casino area for dinner. It is almost 10:00PM but the restaurants are open and active! Chez Pierre is a recommended seafood restaurant and our waiter is a hoot. He worked at the French Pavilion at EPCOT for two years and speaks English well. Carolyn orders cold, boiled shrimp and Dick orders a selection of raw oysters to see if he can tell the difference as described by our waiter. Both orders come on one big platter of ice with dipping sauces of garlic mayonnaise, chopped onion with wine and plain mayonnaise. To top it off, we finish with a crème brulee’ that is perfection. Our waiter recommends a delicious white wine but we cannot remember the name. We continually wish that wine labels would just peel off. One used to be able to soak them off but even that does not seem to work anymore. The meal is perfect and we head back to our hotel well fed and content.

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