French road trip

A good friend of ours moved to Paris with his job a few years ago, and it wasn’t long before he had found himself a gorgeous French girlfriend. The relationship moved along swiftly and before we knew it we’d been invited to their wedding in the south of France in a region called Languedoc-Roussillon.

Lee (Truffle!) had never visited France before, whereas I’d been there nearly every summer of my childhood for camping holidays. So, to explore France with him and introduce him to some of the culture I experienced as a child was great fun. I even managed to teach him a few phrases; although the one that he found most useful was: “can we have some more bread please?”!

En route from the airport to our gîte in Foix we stopped at a cute little town, perched on top of a massive hill, called Carla Bayle. It had a real bohemian vibe, full of artists and bijou cafés. We found a little restaurant for lunch called Auberge Pierre Bayle, (named after the Protestant philosopher who lived there). It didn’t look like much from downstairs but as you climb the spiral staircase to the restaurant upstairs you see why all the locals come here for lunch… the view is incredible!! You overlook miles of green and yellow fields, orchards and in the far distance… the Pyrénées! Plus, the food was delicious, really interesting menu with beautiful presentation. We can’t recommend it enough!

The wedding day was a truly romantic affair and it was interesting to see what the quirks of a French wedding ceremony were! So, after lots of champagne and croquembouche it was time to start our little French adventure! After all it would be a waste to go all that way and not tag on some exploring!

Our first stop was Mirepoix, an old medieval town with rustic charm, it really felt untouched by tourists. We stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast called Demeure de la Carmine. And what a breakfast!! The spread was incredible, everything you could imagine! Our host, Stephane, was gorgeous and could not do enough for us. We visited the famous market the next morning (Thursdays and Mondays only), ate pastries (including the best coffee éclair we have ever had!), sampled cheeses and people watched. For dinner, we went to L’autre Jardin; a gourmet restaurant serving interesting flavour combinations, with its own little wine cellar! Amazing!

The following day we headed over to our next hotel called Le Vieux Castillon, on top of another hilled town: Castillion du Gard, which was pure bliss. The hotel was made from sandstone and all the furnishings and accessories were white. The only colour came from the accent windows of saffron yellow glass, these bathed the rooms in a warm golden light. This hotel was a little bit of luxury with a beautiful swimming pool, an epic breakfast buffet, a nine-course tasting menu and honey-scented Nuxe products in every room!

From here we explored Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct of enormous proportion, and the medieval city of Avignon with its numerous castles and bridges. One castle that is definitely worth the entrance fee is the gigantic Palais des Papes, a UNESCO world heritage site which used to house the Popes in the fourteenth century. And of course, we ate lots of weird and wonderful pastries! Including a ‘Figue’ which had a pale green marzipan exterior manipulated to resemble a fig, and it was filled with a chocolate and fig ganache; the texture is a cross between a cake and cookie dough! Heaven!

Whilst travelling to our next B&B we had a whistle-stop tour of the city of Nîmes, which was soaked in Roman culture… what ancient town would be complete without a mini colosseum and a huge temple?? (The Maison Carrée is probably the best-preserved temple of its kind!) The gardens are definitely worth checking out; the sculptures and fountains are pretty awesome.

That afternoon we arrived in Carcassonne to our B&B just outside the city walls. The Carcassonne B&B was homely and chic, its interior was full of curated antiques and the rooms were named after their colour (we stayed in the Yellow Room). We spent that evening and following day walking around the city walls and castle, and exploring the little alleys and side streets. We had two wonderful meals here: yummy pizza and caramel crème brûlée at La Courtine, and intriguing tapas at the gritty L’Escargot (some delicious local flavours).

Avignion (2)

We spent our final day at our departure destination: Toulouse. We had an amazing five-course brunch at La Fiancé and spent the rest of the day wondering around the city people watching and eating random food from kiosks and side street shops, (including the famous rose shaped, nutty flavoured ice cream from Amorino’s).

It was a truly wonderful trip from start to finish, filled with local wine, enormous castles, romance and quirky food. Vive la France!

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