Port de Trèbes

portContinuing our staycation, we decided to eat out at the best place for fish in the region: La Poissonnerie Moderne de Trèbes.

Trèbes is a pleasant town nestled up against the east side of Carcassonne. Though it’s 70 kms from the coast, it’s a port … on the Canal du Midi.

poissonnerie moderneThe fish, however, comes from the sea. The Belgian of the household knows his moules-frites, and gives the highest honors to Martine of la Poissonnerie Moderne. It’s a fish shop that has a restaurant only in the summer, with tables facing the port.

vignes de bacchusIt isn’t alone: neighbors are les Vignes de Bacchus and a very good pizzeria, Trattoria Napoli.

Meanwhile, tables on the boats faced the restaurant scene.

boats resto tablesA constant stream of people drifted by, adding to the holiday atmosphere.


French hits from the ’80s

A guy on a recumbent bike seemed outraged by the pedestrians. He didn’t make eye contact with anybody, just huffing and glaring at some point far ahead when the throng hindered his progress. I think he needed a glass of wine.

bikeThe moules-frites were deemed delicious. We also had a starter of pickled seafood, then salmon and tuna. Five stars.


eating moules
To look like a pro mussels eater, use an empty shell as tweezers to pull out the mussel. 

Trèbes was holding its Marché Nocturne at the end of the port, so we meandered that way in search of dessert.

The market was small, mostly wine tastings, local food specialties, handmade jewelry and brightly colored plastic toys. No dessert. We were too full anyway.

If it seems as if there’s always some event going on, that’s because there IS always some event going on. More to come!






Paradise in the Middle of Nowhere

20 view southThe garrigue is a magical place. We try to picnic there at least every summer, which really shouldn’t be a big deal, because it’s a 20-minute walk outta town. Yet, it’s another world.

12 sky pine cones17 view northThe garrigue is a wilderness. It has trees, but isn’t really a forest like in the north. In some places, there’s just low bush that reminds me of the African savannah. Apparently, there was a vast Mediterranean forest that from time to time was degraded, often by fire, and the garrigue is what grew up afterward. The ground is so rocky that it escaped farming or development and stayed wild.

18 rock
The road

The garrigue has the most divine perfume. A mix of dry pine needles, hot dusty rock, thyme, rosemary and wildflowers. I would love to bottle it and spritz it around my house.

19 cigale
A cigale! It stopped rubbing its wings when we approached…like “nothing to see here, move along!”

The garrigue also has an enchanting song. The wind whistles and hums through the pines. The birds sing. But they’re all just backup for the lead singers, the cigales, that scratch out their steady beat. (Here’s a link with recordings of cigales.)

Cigales are cicadas, but their song here isn’t at all like the one that lulled me to sleep in the Midwest of the U.S. It’s as if they speak different languages.

19 pines sunWe decided to go to a spot accessed by the far end of the village. Since we had a cooler of food and other stuff, we took the car and parked at the entrance to the garrigue. It’s almost formal. The road goes up past vineyards, then forks, one side continuing to more vineyards and the other turning rocky and forbidding. We advanced to a shady spot and parked.

We aren’t experts on the garrigue, and it’s huge, so we are careful to stick to the main path. We continued on foot, looking for just the right picnic spot with lots of cushiony pine needles and not too many rocks or sprouting bushes.

3 bikes
Three bikes. The only people we saw the entire afternoon. And no motor sounds or other human presence.

Our picnic consisted of a classy “empty the fridge” assortment of sandwiches, followed by cheese (duh!) and nectarines for dessert. Nothing tastes as good as a picnic, especially one in the garrigue, where the scent of herbs is so strong you can taste them.

A post-prandial siesta followed. Not so much sleeping as being still and absorbing. Pure heaven.

13 sun
The view when lying on the blanket in the garrigue.

A visit to the garrigue is a special moment in this part of the south of France. For a happy trip:

2 paths

5 brush–no fires! They’re strictly forbidden because the place is a tinderbox. The region gets a lot of wildfires, often started by something as small as a cigarette tossed out a car window. It’s usually very windy, which makes fire all the more dangerous, and in summer  the few streams are bone dry.

4 view to carca
Carcassonne in the distance, with the Pyrénées beyond.



Guys on bikes

9 bikes
Are they not amused by my American flag? I stuck the pole down my back to have my hands free for photographing.

Believe it or not, the Tour de France is not about wacky corporate floats traveling around France and doling out trinkets. It’s about cycling! Though if you blink, you’ll miss it.

1 rounding the rond point
Do you see the thick cluster of helmets between the arrows of the road signs? En masse.
3 leigh howard and arthur vichot
Leigh Howard, left, and Arthur Vichot are in the lead.
4 nearing
The others stream soon around both sides of the roundabout.

5 more

6 entering7 bikes

8 close

10 bikes
It doesn’t really thin out. There’s a swoosh of bikes, then they’re gone.
11 last
Only one straggler. Hang in there, buddy!

Voilà! In under five minutes, the gendarmes leading, the riders and the last equipment cars had zipped by.

Big doings in the village last night. And then France’s second-biggest fireworks at la Cité tonight. Stay tuned!

Tour de France prequel

LCL bikeHere they come.


The crowds started gathering at 8 a.m. The cyclists wouldn’t arrive until two minutes before 2 p.m.


After lots of equipment trucks and such, the excitement mounted. The gendarmes! They got lots of applause. Followed by the sponsor parade.

LCL bear
A bank.
juice box
Juice. Bio means organic.
juice box orange
More juice
Skoda (cars. Part of Volkswagen).
Bread (actually a supplier of wheat and other stuff to bakeries)
Tourism for Béarn, home of béarnaise sauce. It’s in the Pyrénées–see the mountains, right?
bic pen
Bic pens (lighter behind). French company. To the point that “bic” is slang for pen.
Most logical mascot: a gecko for Bostik glue.
carrefour fish
Fresh fish from the supermarket (Carrefour is #2 worldwide after Wal-Mart).
cochonou trio
Cochonou sausages! Love those old Citroëns.
Cornetto ice cream.
Electric company. Brilliant, isn’t it? High-tension wires.
Those are drumsticks. Riding on a giant chicken.
haribo 2
More candy.
Budget hotel chain. They threw out inflatable pillows.
Tires. Clébard (sounds a bit like Kleber) is slang for dog.
la peche
National fishing association.

How about riding in a giant madeleine?



McCain makes potato chips and frozen french fries.

Syrup for drinks.
vittel bike
They handed out bottles of water.
vittel spray
Yes, she’s dousing the crowd.

Our swag is on the right. The left is what the guy next to me picked up. Newspapers, shopping bags, coasters, magnets, pens, madeleines….

The main event coming soon.

Hell on Wheels

over riverWhat is it about guys, dirt and hard rock?

For two days, a sleepy village (because the main advantage of a village is tranquility) was jolted awake at 6 a.m. to the dulcet strains of AC/DC.

This in a country where you aren’t supposed to cut your grass before 9 a.m. on Saturday or 10 a.m. on Sunday.

The music accompanied over 1,000 testosterone-charged mountain bikers (there supposedly were a few women, but I didn’t see any, this year or any other) who were going to ride to the highest point of the Black Mountains, and back down.

Some took buses to the top and just rode down.

The good news is that they take little paths and don’t block the roads. These are VTTs, or vélo-tout-terrain (all-terrain bike). They scoff at roads. The bad news is that an M.C. babbled nonstop over throbbing music from dawn until dusk. For two days.

arrival stageBased on what was forced into our ears, M.C.s must have to pass a unintelligence test.

Animation consisted of bike acrobatics and, this being France, wine tasting, of the Amethyst wine from the Limousis caves.

Although these guys came to ride bikes 25-100 kilometers, they weren’t about to walk 20 extra steps. Many ignored the free parking lot with its shortcut to the activities, sure they could find something even closer.

Maybe they were just staying true to the unwritten French rule of not parking in the parking lot. Maybe because there’s usually a fee. The French (and some other European nationalities….I’m looking at you, Belgians) will put their cars in peril rather than pay for parking. And even in a free parking lot, they pay little attention to those silly white lines marking out spaces for each car. Mostly they specialize in stationnement gênant–blocking sidewalks, driveways, doors, other cars. Car mechanics must make a fortune on realignments.

The law-abiders’ parking lot …. before
…and after. Crowded but not full. And now we’re back to empty grass.

Monday’s wake-up call was once again the singing of birds.




Cycle Swag

057.Tour de FranceThe Tour de France will depart from Carcassonne on July 13 and head to Montpellier. They will take off at 1:50 p.m. I’ve asked for details about this year’s routes and will update you when I get them.


058.Tour de France1The cyclists zoom by in the blink of an eye. It’s hilly around here, but the Alps it isn’t. So they ride in a tight pack.

But the best part will go by much earlier.

We’re talking about cycle swag. Most of which has nothing to do with cycling.

The regional newspapers toss copies in very handy cotton totebags.

The PMU is off-track horse betting. There are often bars or tabacs (cigarette shops) affiliated with the  PMU in big and small towns.


Mostly they throw candy, hats, key rings, pens, coloring booklets, wrist bands and other stuff that won’t hurt if you miss catching it and it hits you in the head instead.

Can you imagine riding around France in a 2CV, heaving little sausages at the crowds on the sides of the roads? Talk about a summer job!

Like little sausages. And, of course, cheese. Good idea!

I think they threw candy.

Obviously no tanks of cooking gas.

Hope they have A/C.

Nor bottles of a beer and lemon soft drink mix.


Not even watches. Sniff!

Make your plans early. The streets get closed off, and the route is crowded in towns, though if you’re in the country, you have plenty of space, as you can see here.

059.Tour de France2