kangaroosIt’s hard to believe, but there are French people who dream of traveling far away. Yet, many French families just have the budget for a modest vacation in a sunny corner of their homeland. The places they go and the things they do offer some great tips for all travelers, but especially those with families.ostrich closeupFor those who would love to go to Australia but can’t afford flights, the Australian Park near Carcassonne beckons. It’s also great for families. It’s also a popular place for local kids to hold birthday parties, not to mention school trips.white kangarooIt’s like a small zoo, which is good. My hometown in the U.S. has a world-class zoo, which has grown and grown since I was a preteen earning spending money raking leaves there in the fall (it’s quite interesting to rake leaves while being watched intently by elephants). But it’s so huge that it’s impossible to see everything, and the weight of all those other animals presses one to keep moving rather than spending the time to observe (and anyway, so many animals sleep during the day that there isn’t much to watch).kangaroo 1Visits at Le Parc Australien take place in small guided groups, so you get to go into the animal enclosures, including one with 150 parrots that you can feed. There are other birds, including ostriches and emus, and other animals, including wallabies and dromedaries. There’s even a nursery with babies. Even though the park is small and the variety of animals is limited, a visit can take the better part of a day because you don’t just look and move on but can interact.kidThere are other activities, such as playing a didgeridoo, throwing a boomerang, playing aboriginal games or panning for “gold.”

The park was created in 2001 by a biologist, who was the first to raise ostriches in France. All the animals were born in captivity in Europe, because Australia stopped exports of animals in 1964 to protect its species.

The park is about three minutes from la Cité, just past the suburb of Montrédon and near the Lac de la Cavayère. The hours change by season; check the site.ostrichesIt is funny to see what other cultures find to be exotic. There is one cupcake shop in town, and it has turned into a roaring success with, as far as I can tell, almost exclusively local clientele. I make a mean cupcake, so I’m not about to shell out €3 for one, though I wouldn’t hesitate for one of those perfect strawberry tartelettes that are standard in French bakeries. A few years ago, hamburger joints appeared everywhere. Then bagels (not everywhere; just two bagel restaurants in the centre ville). Now it’s Mexican restaurants, whose menus are heavy on hamburgers and lacking in enchiladas.  birdsMy kid’s kindergarten class visited the Australian Park, and in second or third grade they went to a zoo in Toulouse. There’s also a kind of safari park at Sigean on the coast that we visited. The landscape at Sigean actually reminds me a little of Africa. While I feel kind of sorry for the animals in zoos, especially having seen them in the wild in various places around the world, they are important in making a connection with kids, so they don’t view nature and animals as abstractions on TV or in books. The Australian Park is especially nice, because of the petting areas. A real hands-on experience.kissing kangaroos

28 thoughts on “Australia in France

  1. I’ve never heard of this place, and am a bit amused 🙂 I’d quite like to go to the forest of Rambouillet to see the Bennetts Wallabies living wild there (ironic since I don’t think this is a species I ever saw in Australia).

    I was once standing in a friend’s garden in the countryside here and heard a familiar bird call. I paid it no attention until I realised that the bird was a cockatiel. A blast from my Australian past, but certainly not native to France. It must have been an aviary escapee.

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  2. I didn’t know of this place when I lived in the Languedoc, I would have enjoyed visiting it. I too was living for many years before I came to France in a town with a world class zoo — San Diego. Great zoo, good place to just walk, and the exhibits are very well designed. I always enjoy the plantscape, as there are often unfamiliar plants along with the animals.
    bonnie in Provence

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  3. How wonderful that folks can interact with these beautiful creatures. This thought you share about animals not becoming abstractions is an important one. I get nervous about how AI is changing the game too quickly; how the idea of “real enough” is a thing. Will future children care whether it’s a real kangaroo or a robotic replica as long as the replica is “real enough?”

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  4. Some years ago, I was driving from my home in a village on the upper Thames to my parents house 5 miles away in a different village on the same river. I took a double take as I saw several Wallabies bouncing blissfully around in a field. Quite surreal notwithstanding the fact that I did know that they must have escaped from the local wildlife park twixt the two homes. I turned back (we are pre mobile phones in this little vignette), drove home and rang the place. I was asked to hold which I did for about 10 minutes. Eventually the fellow came back on the line and said ‘yup, we are short a dozen’. When I reattempted the drive half an hour later the field was full of people vainly trying to control the little bouncers and get them in the back of a horsebox. Small, well-run parks (which this one still is and has been in business since before I was born) are essential for the masses to understand our planet. In this age when some are hell-bent on it’s destruction in the name of progress, it is even more acute a need for children to have the opportunity to learn in an intimate way about the creatures we share the planet with – even if those creatures hail from the other side of it. Chapeau to this place. The biologist who founded it deserves much praise.

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  5. Loved the wallabies and the ostrich eggs as well. While I’m not crazy about most zoos, they’re great in that kids get exposed to such a wide range of animals they otherwise wouldn’t see, and it peaks their curiosity about the world outside their limited reach. xoxo, Brenda

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  6. What a thrill to see the kangaroos! I thought I was reading the wrong post for a second…we actually do have them in our backyard, also wallabies, and echidnas near our dam. The kangaroos and wallabies come close to the house when conditions are dry, but they are not tame. Usually in a group of 3-4. One is the lookout, usually the biggest, and they bound off if they hear a noise that threatens. Dogs have been seriously injured messing with bucks as the roos know how to use their feet to boot!
    The only places I’ve actually patted them are in wild life sanctuaries and reserves, where they laze around being fed by tourists.
    Thanks Francetaste. I enjoy your articles immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! That sounds so cool. It also shows “exotic” depends on where you are. I remember seeing giraffes up close in Africa, munching acacia leaves among grazing cows. Nobody blinked an eye about it.
      Dogs aren’t allowed in the Australian Park because they stress the kangaroos and wallabies.

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      1. When I was reading your article I reflected that so many Australian families are in a similar position of frugal living, not because it’s now quite the “thing ” but because by circumstance they are fortunate if they can afford a week away at the beach. We have a drought situation that is affecting a huge number of farmers.
        To others, to the French, that sounds quite grand, a week in Australia at a beach! I think of that when I travel..it is in perspective. Absolutely. I hear the koalas cough at night. I see weird birds.. to me not weird but when I visit the USA, I was besotted by the squirrels. My American friends think I’m nuts!
        So glad dogs aren’t allowed in Australian Park. It would be to their peril as well as to to the wildlife..
        Love the pics.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Koalas coughing sounds intriguing.
          Plenty of families locally go to the Mediterranean beaches for summer vacation. Sometimes it’s just camping while others have apartments shared by the extended family. The beach is only half an hour from Carcassonne, so it isn’t exactly exotic for most people here, but, as you say, it sounds amazing to those far away.

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  7. What an intriguing post. This zoo sounds so much better than a few of the small circus’s set up in France. I remember seeing a lone camel with a leg iron out side of a tent. I was horrified. He or she must have wondered, how has my life turned out this way.
    I love the Wallabies story…
    Ali

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  8. I am on the fence (ha ha) about any form of entertainment involving animals. I suppose if a zoo is really well designed and humanely managed, and their is a research and education component, it is acceptable. But circuses and the like – definitely not! Your Australian park looks like it fits the bill. On another note, I am envious of all the area’s food options! (Even though French is generally better, it is nice to have alternatives!)

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    1. When we went to Casablanca, we asked locals where to eat good Moroccan food. They had the same two recommendations, but then suggested Italian, Chinese, etc. They eat great Moroccan food at home and so want something exotic when they go out.
      Carcassonne has many excellent French restaurants, but the locals also want some variety! The supermarket has fresh sushi, and there are Thai, Indian, Japanese, Moroccan and now even vegetarian restaurants.

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  9. It is a thrill to see the wildlife in Australia in its natural setting – kangaroos, koalas, echidnas…We do have some lovely nature reserves which are so big you don’t feel like you are in a zoo at all and there are constant and commendable efforts to upgrade them so that people and animals can coexist. BTW the noise that a koala makes is not at all in keeping with its cute and cuddly image!

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    1. Those kinds of reserves are fantastic. I haven’t been to Australia (on the bucket list), but those I visited in Africa are truly awesome experiences, in the real meaning of awe.

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