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Gruissan

Gruissan is an hours drive from here   http://www.ville-gruissan.fr/. Follow this link to the tourist information site where there are lots of pictures to see.  There’s the old village, which was built as a ‘circulade’.  Circulades were designed to provide maximum security for defense purposes.  There are many examples of medieval villages built in this round formation in the Languedoc Roussillon.  This site has an interesting article.  It features Bram, which is just 15 minutes from us by car.  http://www.languedoc-france.info/0306_villages.htm.  The old town also has plenty of bars and restaurants.

Gruissan also has a port area which is full of beautiful boats, its more like a giant marina.  In the centre of the port, arranged around the water are lots of bars and restaurants and little boutiques to brows in.  It’s also a real pleasure just to go for ice cream.  There are a couple of places open in the summer months which claim to sell over 100 flavours.  Obviously the local speciality is sea food, but there are also plenty of restaurants that also serve pizzas etc.  This was my lunch on our last visit.  It was the first time I’d ever eaten razor clams.  It was a fabulous dish. I enjoyed every mouthful!

Gruissan also has a couple of beaches.  There’s a pretty little sheltered beach in the port which is protected by a huge land spit.  It’s perfect for people with small children as the water is shallow and there are no big waves.

There’s another beach (Gruissan Plage) which is on the exposed side of the land spit.  It’s famous for it’s houses built on stilts.  It has a long walk way and a lovely long sandy beach.  There’s normally a little trailer serving drinks, snacks and sandwiches in July and August.

Gruissan is also well known for it’s nature & wildlife preservation.  In Winter you can see flamingos on the Etang.  There are some lovely walks to do around the nature reserve and lake.

Although there are plenty of places to visit along the coast for seafood lovers, I would recommend Gruissan for a family day out.  There’s something for everyone to enjoy.

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It’s the Orchid Season

I don’t know how many varieties of Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) there are, but we see different ones every year in April/May.  If you look closely you’ll see that they are all slightly different.  The middle picture is of a Burnt Orchid (Orchis Ustulata). I’ve added it just because it was there, looking lovely. Here’s this years crop of pics.

Bee orchids are fairly common in Southern France.  You can find them in the UK, but mainly in England where it is generally warmest. They grow in semi dry ground – ours here around Cazalrenoux are always found in the open, but I think in the UK they are mostly found in woodland areas.

carcassonnefest

FESTIVAL DE CARCASSONNE – Summer 2011

Festival dates: 16th June – 15th August 2011

Tickets are on sale!

The headline artists are:

SUPERTRAMP (15th July),

BEACH BOYS & CHRISTOPHER CROSS (19th July)

TEXAS (20th July)

BRYAN FERRY (22nd July)

BEN HARPER (23rd July)

TOM JONES (24th July)

JAMES BLUNT (25th July)

IGGY AND THE STOOGES (27th July)

GOTAN PROJECT (1st August)

MOBY (2nd August)

Opera: MADAME BUTTERFLY (open air performance)

THE VERSAILLES ACADEMY OF EQUESTRIAN ART

LONDON ROYAL PHILARMONIC ORCHESTRA


Here’s the link for further details on all the events http://www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr

The Carcassonne Festival is a major cultural event of the South and is one of the biggest festivals in France  with nearly 110 performances including opera, dance, theatre, circus, classical music, French variety artists and international bands.  The Carcassonne Festival also offers 80 free modern music, jazz, circus, theatre and classical music shows.  The programme will be posted soon…

The teaching boat

Sailing at Ganguise

There’s a good sailing club at Lac de Ganguise which is about 30 minutes drive from us towards Castelnaudary.  Chloe & Ollie did a week’s course last summer on the Hobby Cats.  By the end of the week they knew all the basics and were presented with their certificates and licenses.

Matthew & I took a picnic every day and snoozed in the sun.  Although you’re not supposed to swim in the lake, we went for a dip and nobody said anything.  We weren’t the only ones and the water was just lovely!

If gîte visitors want to do a course, it’s probably best to book before coming.  Last year we paid €145 per child for the course and the licence, which meant that they were also insured.  The lessons were 2hrs, for five days.   The teaching was very attentive and friendly.

www.ganguise.com

Take a look at the website if you’re interested and let us know if you would like to book a course.  We’d be happy to phone the club for you.

lizard

Gîte Garden Snapshots…

Calf

The Bison Farm – August

Lapenne, Ariége

Highly recommended for close contact with the animals and plenty of fresh air…

http://www.lafermeauxbisons.com

The Bison farm is about 30 minutes drive from us across country & is set in a stunning valley. It’s a wonderful place for children & adults. The guided tour takes place from the comfort of a tractor drawn trailer & lasts about 1hr. The farm has a rare breeds programme which seems to be very successful. Sadly some of the animals are now extinct in the wild, so it’s a great opportunity to see these. You can see Scottish Highland cattle, Yacks, Watussi, Pere David deer, Elks & lots of fallow deer. There’s also a small animal farm which you can wonder around on foot, and a small play area.

The farm has a restaurant which is a bit like an American ranch house. It has a covered terrace and open views of the farm and the valley. The shop is very small, but you can buy some of their own produce. They not only breed rare animals for conservation purposes, but also animals for eating. You can buy their own bison & deer in the restaurant. We haven’t tried it yet, but we’ve been told by meat lovers that it’s great.

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Walking with CHOCO, in May

I now have a new string to my bow.  As well as garden maintenance, decorating and babysitting, I now do dog walking once a week for a local couple.  I do a lovely two hour hike in the hills around Montréal, which is half way between here and Carcassonne.  It’s a great job and I often pinch myself on the commute to work.  Choco was a rather plump brown Labrador, overfed by friendly gîte guests.  She is now a shadow of her former self.  I can’t take all the credit, naturally, her owners have been very strict with her diet, and their ‘gîtistes’.

We’ve been bonding over the summer.  Never having owned a dog myself, I am pleasantly surprised at how fond of her I have become.  The countryside is beautiful and she is great company.  On our tour last week we helped ourselves to figs & grapes.

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After the snow, the sun…

Two days after the random and freakish snow storm came the sun returned and we could settle back into our life of spring warmth and happiness.  What a relief…

... we'll delay opening the pool

Weather News Flash

Can anyone please explain this scene to me?  It is the first week in May in the sunny South of France.

Don’t panic any gîte guests that are reading this post and due for a visit this summer.  The forecast is for the sun and warmth to return over the next week or so, but it’s the shocking nature of this weather that I just felt compelled to share with all.  Not to mention the power cuts.

The rape fields are all flat, as is the winter wheat.  Fingers crossed for all our fruit and the seed bed which had onions, lettuce, rocket, peas, beans, beetroot, cucumbers and sunflowers all shooting.

Just 10 days ago I was swimming in the sea at Leucate Plage (lovely spot) and soaking up 28 degrees of gorgeous sunshine.  Last week we went to the lake at Revel – Bassin de St Férréol, and enjoyed sunbathing while the children played in the water.  Unbelievable freaky weather.

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Adventure Park, Carcassonne

first the technical bit...

We went to the O2 Adventure park in Carcassonne.  I’d heard so many good reports about it that when we were invited for a birthday party, we jumped at the chance to go.

The first thing they do when you get there is teach the children (and adults should you feel so inclined) how to climb safely.  The lesson is taken seriously and is very professional.  I was impressed.

practicing near the ground

Then the children are given the chance to practice using their clip and pully equipment on the junior course before tackling the really challenging stuff…

Then they move on to the next level…

getting a little bit higher

And finally they move on to the really scary obstacles.  I can’t express just how impressed I was with the place, the staff and the sheer bravery of all the kids.

every step a challenge

With a little encouragement and lots of patience each child completed the course and some even went back for more.

favourites? the zip wires

There’s a long and exciting zip wire which runs across the width of the lake.  The general consensus was that this was the best bit.  Even better was that once across you had to come back again – two for the price of one.

zip wire across the lake

Look closely through the ladder and you can see a tiny dot in the middle of the lake – it’s a flying wizz kid.

The verdict at the end of the day was that it was thrilling and exciting and a real adrenalin rush.  Some felt that they would like to go straight back up into the trees and others felt that once was great, but once was enough!

great height and wobbly logs!

The lake has a beach for summer swimming and there are plenty of picnic areas.  It’s also a lovely place for a stroll.

Prices 2010: charged by height with arms stretched upwards

€8 1.4m (min 4yrs of age)

€10 1.5m

€14 1.60m under 18′s & €16 over 18′s