Tuesday, 16 May 2017

French Holiday Part 9 - Bize, Carcassonne

Sunday 10th July 2016 
Bize Minervois

A chill out day – time to catch up with ourselves and enjoy some R&R in Bize and re-acquaint ourselves with the village.  This entire trip was planned around our need to be in Bize for Bastille Day and an event called The Fête d’Olivier, which to the best of our knowledge takes place every year on the Sunday after Bastille Day.  When we were here in 2011 they were both fantastic events, so were hoping for a repeat performance.  Would we be lucky – read on!

Just round the corner from the Bolt Hole is the Promenade beside the River Cesse – it should be a lively place on 14th July and again for the Fête d’Olivier.

Opposite the Promenade is the local Café bar - a place we visited almost daily in 2011, but for some reason we did not go this year - I suspect that was due to our completely enclosed 'outside area' (it was open to the elements, but completely surrounded by brick walls) in 2011 and our wonderful terrace this year.

And very close to that is a small, but useful general store

From the Promenade you go through Porte St Michel built in 1820.  You can see the Café du Midi through the arch, so we are just round the corner to the right.

In the archway is information about the level of recent floods – from the top 1999, 1987 and 2011.  We are fairly certain this was not here last time we visited in 2011.  From the levels shown it would appear that the buildings round here including the Bolt Hole and the Café du Midi must have been flooded.  

There is also information on what they are trying to do to prevent flooding in the future. 

The first time we came to Bize (2004) we stayed on the opposite side of the village –X marks the spot!

We had the top two floors. Our daughter and son in law were with us for our week's holiday

It included a roof terrace (you can see plants trailing from it) where we made good use of the barbecue, however there were no views.

On our second visit (2011) we stayed just round the corner from where we were in 2016 – near the end of this street

It was a small little gite designed for a couple or couple plus children as although it had two bedrooms you had to walk through the twin bedded room to get to the bathroom from the double bedroom.  Not ideal for three adults, but our brother in law was a late addition to the party and we survived as there was a curtain for visual privacy to the twin beds.  The small enclosed terrace (good view of the sky!) was off the master bedroom.  The Bolt Hole won hands down.

The shop next door but one to our gite above was this one

The lady who ran it was known as Madame Bon Bon

She sold every sweet known to man – well it certainly looked like it!  The gite did not have a freezer, so when we fancied some ice cream for dessert I would go in to Confetti before they closed and buy ‘trois boules’ which I took home in a bowl to pop in the freezer part of the fridge until we were ready to eat them. 

 Sadly Madame Bon Bon was suffering from cancer and did not win her battle, so this is shop now
 Wood burning stoves - not quite so appealing, however necessary.

There was a boulangerie about 2 minutes walk from the Bolt Hole, so fresh bread and croissants on tap every day.

There is, of course, an Eglise.

A new addition since 2011 – swing gates at either end of the passerelle across the river to try and slow down bikes, skateboards etc.  In fact all wheels are forbidden in July and August, but this is France, so they don’t all take notice!  Mind to be fair we only ever saw bikes etc in the evening when the swimmers have left.

The river bank is a great place to sit in the shade and is often full of people enjoying the hot weather between dips in the river itself.

There is a pleasant walk through the trees, but sadly it does not go very far before it is impassable.

This is the river on the undammed side taken from the passerelle.  Here the water is very shallow, so ideal for little ones.

The main dammed pool is 10 metres deep at its deepest.  From here you can see The Bolt Hole on the other side of the pool

With its wonderful shady terrace

 Dogs are banned from the beach areas in July and August, but no one told the dogs, so we have seen a few, but only one who was on his own and left something behind.  He presumably did not know that there is a ‘dog toilet’ in the village!

New for us this year – a one way system round the village – very sensible, but it took a bit of getting used to!

There is one inhabitant of this village who has not changed much in 5 years – he lives by the bridge checking everyone in and out of the village – a vantage point he clearly loves.

 Mind you five years on he is lying down on the job, so maybe the years are catching up on him.

Well enough about Bize – as you must have gathered we do love it there.

Monday 11th July 2016

One of yesterday’s jobs in our chill out day was to catch up with the credit card slips and get them in to order.  To our horror we discovered that when we left Bram on Saturday we had been massively overcharged – not just in the bill from the end of the boat trip, but in the pre-payment one as well.  So our first task today was to drive the one  hour journey back to Bram to sort it out.  Thankfully there was no problem and there were many apologies and we came away with a refund in cash as they could not put the money back onto our credit card.  I have to say this was not the first mistake the company had made.  We initially paid a 20% deposit when we booked in March 2015. They were due to take a further 30% on 18th December 2015, but took the remaining 80% balance (the last 50% was not due until May 2016).  Fortunately the credit card did not evaporate, but despite (so they said) trying on several occasions they were unable to refund the money onto our credit card.  As it turned out they did us a favour as we saved quite a bit due to exchange rate changes.  Still not at all professional.  

Having gone that far west we decided to go to the Medieval Cité de Carcassonne.  A place we have visited many times and one we love.  It is very touristy, but a great place to people watch and have lunch.

Just a few pictures to give you a small taste of the place

The entrance

You can take a ride round the outside in this if you wish in this or

indeed this.  Not something we have ever done, but I love the ear sun ‘hats’!

This is a replica of the bust of Dame Carcass – the original dating from the 16th century is preserved in the castle.  The tale of Dame Carcass is a legend, but I think rather a nice one.  It  takes place in the 8th century, during the wars between Christians and Muslims in the southwest of Europe. At the time, Carcassonne was under Saracen rule and the Charlemagne army was at the gates to reconquer the city for the Franks.  A Saracen princess named Carcas ruled the Knights of the City pf Carcassonne after the death of her husband.

The siege lasted for five years. Early in the sixth year, food and water were running out. Lady Carcas made an inventory of all remaining reserves. The villagers brought her a pig and a sack of wheat. She then had the idea to feed the wheat to the pig and then throw it from the highest tower of the city walls.
Charlemagne lifted the siege, believing that the city had enough food to the point of wasting pigs fed with wheat. Overjoyed by the success of her plan, Lady Carcas decided to sound all the bells in the city. One of Charlemagne's men then exclaimed: "Carcas sonne!" (which means “Carcas sounds or Carcas rings”). Hence the name of the city.

Just a few other views of this Medieval Cité where Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was filmed,

In the centre there is the Place de Marcou where we tend to have lunch

And what a lunch – just a ‘light’ salad for me!  Along with all the obvious delights you can easily see there was a lump of brie hiding behind the bowl of dressing and cucumber tucked away inside.  The French have definitely taught me a thing or two about the art of making salads.  A far cry from my childhood when it was a bit of limp ‘Webbs Wonderful’ lettuce, tomato and cucumber!!

And Toulousse sausage for Chris
 They were both delicious, but we could have done with a doggy bag each!

There are many shops mostly selling holiday mementos.  You could equip an army of medieval soldiers with helmets, capes, swords and tabards or maybe a royal flush of princesses (is there a collective name for Princesses?).  Maybe a tablecloth or some pottery is more to your taste? Some of the sweet shops are just amazing – a visual delight to marvel at, but what would you choose?  One lady did give me a taste of the nougat which was to die for – nothing like the pink and white, chewy sweet stuff available in the UK.  We did, however, resist temptation and came away with only the photos and a few postcards.

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