First Wild Orchids

March – Cazalrenoux

Hôtel de Ville

Trip to the Cinema, Toulouse

We popped in to town to see Alice In Wonderland in 3D.  It’s worth going to Toulouse because there’s always plenty of big commercial films showing in their original version with French subtitles, which is good entertainment for the family.  A lot of French people also prefer to watch in VO (version originale) rather than in the dubbed version.  Our local smaller cinemas generally speaking only show the dubbed versions.  We do have a small independent cinema in Carcassonne that shows foreign/world films with French subtitles e.g. a film in Hindi with French subtitles.  I think my French is still better than my Hindi, but I’m not sure the kids would agree.

Hôtel de Ville, Toulouse

This is Place du Capitole, right in the heart of Toulouse.  Perfect for a spot of people watching and a little light lunch before the film.

"where's my champagne?"

This is Mary, our neighbour, looking very cosmopolitan away from Cazalrenoux.  She obviously hasn’t forgotten how to dress for the city!

Friends in the Pink City

The shopping is excellent in Toulouse.  There are endless pedestrianised streets to explore with smaller, more interesting shops as well as several covered shopping malls and large department stores – Gallery Lafayette I think is the most famous.

Hôtel de Ville

Shopping & Architecture

After a relaxing drink, we left Place du Capitole and walked through the Hôtel de Ville and its gardens to Place Wilson and the Cinema Gaumont Wilson.  Click on this link below for the cinema and it’s listings.  If you’re interested in seeing whats on, VF after the film title stands for version française, and VOST means version original & subtitled.

Les Jardins, Capitole

Toulouse is known as the “ville rose” because of it’s pink architecture.  It was built on La Garonne, a river which starts in the heart of the high Pyrénées and which later flows into the Dordogne.  It’s a very pretty city and well worth a visit.

Today Toulouse is home to Airbus, and there is a very strong presence of science and technology in the city.  For anyone visiting with children, the Cité de l’Espace is a must  It’s quite expensive, but worth making a special trip for the day.  We had a season ticket for a year which we used to the max.

The whole site

Cité de l'Espace


It includes:







The opera this year is CARMEN

If you’re coming this summer and you want to see any of these bands, book now!  See dedicated page on this site for festival links

Goose Cassoulet

A good week for lunches

Last week was a week for lunches.  On Tuesday we met our new Norwegian friends, Ingerborg and Harold, in Castelnaudary to celebrate them finally starting all four of their children at French schools various.  The 1 & 3 year olds have started at the creche in Bram.  Their 5 year old has already started in Maternelle in Fanjeaux and their 11 year old has started at the College in Bram.   We went to the Restaurant du Centre, which has a great lunchtime menu – it’s normally around €19 for 3 courses.

Click on this link for some sample menus:

Restaurant du Centre


We were very impressed with this wine, so we’re going to visit the winery and buy some for ourselves.  Its organic according to the label.

Local wine

For our money we had a starter of warm salad with blue cheese and fennel, followed by poached haddock with herbs on a bed of rice, followed by orange soufflé.  Very excellent, as per usual.  There are sample menus on their website.

After lunch we took a walk along the Canal du Midi in the sunshine.

Canal du Midi

Castelnaudary is the home of Cassoulet, a delicious and hearty hot pot traditionally consisting of duck, Toulouse sausage, bacon and haricot beans.  It’s absolutely gorgeous and perfect on a winters day.

Duck Cassoulet

Strangely, the Cassoulet festival is in August. The tourist website for Castelnaudary is interesting and is easy to navigate in both English & French Castelnaudary Tourist Information Office.  It lists all the up and coming events, markets and festivals that take place in and around Castelnaudary.  If you’re coming to Gitecazal for a holiday, why not look at the site and see if there’s anything that interests you.

On Thursday we went for lunch in Carcassonne….

The evidence!

This is Matthew leaving after paying for another lovely lunch – this time it consisted of roasted camembert and serano ham on toast for him.  I had smoked pickled herring with apple and beetroot salad.  We both had a good glass of local dry white wine and the coffee.

I know you’re all dying to know how much it cost….just €28 for us both.  It’s a serious business having lunch in France.  Everyone has the right to a proper meal and the time to eat it in which means that most shops are closed for 1.5 –  2 hours in the middle of the day.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve embraced this way of life, you realise that it benefits everyone.

Place Carnot, Carcassonne

Gîte garden

Photo bulletin…

The Pyrénées

This was the view this morning from the gîte garden.  The snow is beginning to recede and apparently it’s getting slushy in the resorts, but it’s still looking really beautiful.

Gîte garden, Feb 2010

I took this just to show the winter flowering jasmin in the gîte garden.  The warmth we’ve had over the past couple of days (18 degrees yesterday) is bringing all the bulbs out.  It’s a shame there’s no one renting the gîte at the moment to enjoy the display!

Market stalls

Mirepoix: Monday market

The market opens from 8.30 till midday.  I go nearly every week, even in the winter when there’s sometimes snow on the ground.  There’s always a stall with local produce which just tastes so much better than the supermarket equivalent. I took my camera today to take pictures of my favourite stalls…

The children all went back to school today after the winter skiing break, so I met Sarah for our weekly shop. In the summer months, the market is much bigger and busier.  There are lots more tourists and people who have second homes in and around Mirepoix.

Sarah’s been here for about 6 months and has 3 boys settling into the local school in Fanjeaux. They’re all learning French very quickly, but it is a hard journey for everyone.  It always is.

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Mirepoix is our nearest town and it dates back to the 13th century. We spend a lot of time here going to French lessons for the children, the supermarket, local festivals, antique fairs and also just meeting friends. There is the loveliest food market held there every Monday, all year round. The producers are mostly local, so the quality and freshness of the food is just great. It’s such a special place to relax in the cafés and read a newspaper or just watch the world go buy.

This link takes you to the tourist information site for Mirepoix & tells you all about it’s history.  It looks like the site is being translated into English, but I couldn’t get the translation button to work… perhaps they’re still working on it.

(1/3/10: it’s not working at all at the moment.  I’ll post the link when it’s working)

Cazalrenoux Bastide arch

Cazalrenoux, January 2010

It’s snowing again here in the sunny south of France.  Perhaps when we move again we should head even further south.  Africa perhaps?  Well, maybe not just yet.  Thanks to some very kind Norwegians who live locally and who understand fully how to drive in such extreme conditions, the children managed to get to school for their last day before the winter break.  Actually they have snow tyres, so perhaps that’s not rocket science.  However, here are some pretty pics of happy days, if a little chilly…

Cazalrenoux Bastide arch

This archway in our village dates back to about the 12C.

Monuments everywhere

Of course we have a church and a cross. The church was originally Catholic, but is now used for both Protestant and Catholic services.  It’s become a village place of worship for anyone who wants to go there and is shared by all.  It’s walls are incredibly thick, not surprisingly, and yet it’s bright and welcoming inside.

We are very close to Fanjeaux (less than 10km) which has a rich Cathar and Roman history.  Here’s the link to the French tourist information.

village fountain

This is the fountain in the centre of Cazalrenoux.  Sadly it’s not used at all anymore, not even in the summer months.

Totally snowbound

Of course the snow meant some time off school.

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Gîtecazal Welcomes You

This is the first entry on our new blog site.  Please come back to see more photos and posts very soon.  We’ll have information about things to do and to see locally as well as special events and festivals.

Perfect place

Perfect place