Camping in France

Almost every town (and many villages) of any size has a campground- either a municipal campground or a private one close by.  It’s very popular in France to just take off and sleep under the stars.
The French campgrounds are just great. Most of them have grassy areas shaded by big trees, a swimming pool, modern toilets (a personal requirement of mine),  a cafe, a small store and sometimes even a restaurant with evening entertainment!
Last weekend we went for the third year to Ambialet for their annual Blues Festival.  Ambialet is an especially lovely village and the campground there is our favorite.  Large trees shade plush grassy grounds bordered by rose bushes. Two other couples joined us and we had a grand time.

One couple had turned their little white truck into a cool camping car. The other couple were trying out their new tent for the first time- we called it The Palace as it has a big enclosed foyer/porch along with two separate rooms-all inside the tent!

Ours was called The Doghouse which is about the size of it. Basically big enough for two sleeping bags and that is about it. Needless to say I did not sleep great.
Ambialet is situated on the Tarn river as is the campground. It’s a short 10 minute walk along the river from our campsite into the center of the village. The festival features three bands each night along with a great meal- Confit de Carnard or grilled Toulouse sausage with fries- Yum!! 6Euros for food- music FREE! The bands were good and happy people dancing the night away!

Short Getaway #2

A couple weeks ago we read about a tour of the new national theater in Albi. It is quite impressive architecturally and we thought it would be interesting to possibly get backstage.  Little did we know that we were in for over two hours of tortuous, complicated , indecipherable, speed-dial French.

I was feeling pretty positive that my comprehension of French has greatly improved over the last couple years and felt I was up to the task of at least getting the gist of a lecture. O mon Dieu was I wrong. The lecture went on for over two hours and was incomprehensible for me. It didn’t help that the speakers were quite boring. That tone of voice is universal.

Dan and I could not escape fast enough. Immediately we started our trek thru the Montagne Noire mountains to get to the Occitane and Arabe festival in Carcassonne. We had some trouble finding the somewhat obscure community center where it was taking place, so we stopped to ask for a few direction at a small epicerie.  Within seconds there were four Frenchies- all with different opinions on where the place was and how to get there-trying to help us out. Finally we arrived to a wonderful gathering of all ages to celebrate the music of Arabia and the old Occitane songs of the Languedoc. It was a treat.

The next day we were off again to the Amphoralis a museum I have wanted to visit for a long time. This is a museum that overlooks (literally sits above) the excavation of a large pottery workshop that existed only between the 1st to 3rd century AD. Over 70 potter families lived and worked here. Here they mass produced (by hand) the thousands of amphorae that were needed to ship wine all over the Roman Empire from the port of Narbonne about 10 miles away. They have excavated 14 large kilns, living spaces, and many many amphorae. You can learn about the daily life of the potters and even visit a garden with more than 900 plants which existed in the Gallo-Roman period.

Short getaways

We’ve taken a couple short getaways the last couple weekends. Part of the reason was to go further east where there is SUN! Until a couple days ago we have been deprived for days and days.

great communication between musicians

First getaway was about 2 hours away-southwest of Toulouse. A small village called Marignac-Lasclares -they have been putting on a jazz weekend called ClariJazz for seven years. We took a gamble on it and had the best time. Saw two fantastic groups and ate homemade couscous with merguez sausage (spicy lamb).

First group: Trio Lobelya– accordionist, Sax, clarinet and bass. WONDERFUL Eastern European music.

sorry about the head in the middle

Second group: Sheik of Swing– Jazzy bluesy music. Guitars, bass and clarinet

The French have such a love for blues and Jazz (and all kinds of music) and the summer is filled with free festivals all over the region.

I’ll post about our other getaway next weekend.  Lunch to prepare for 6 guests and the kitchen calls.

Nuit Pastel

We’ve been having crazy weather this spring. Just when finally it seems “spring has sprung”,  another thunderstorm and days of rain comes thru. Our long time residents here in the village say it is the wettest spring in 25 years! Today tho, it is beautiful and we are to eat lunch in the countryside with our dear friends Claude and Marie.

Restaurant in the Bamboo forest in Albi

A couple Saturdays ago, we decided to go to Albi for the Nuit Pastel This is a yearly event in June and we were excited to attend it for the first time.  Starting at seven in the evening, several music groups perform in the old town and you can wander from group to group all evening. Then at 11:15 PM there is a huge light and sound show at the cathedral in the central Place with enormous artistic balloons that float up into the sky.

Waiting for the Festival in Albi

On our drive to Albi in the afternoon a terrible storm came thru. But it lifted by the time we got there and the optimistic young woman at the Tourist office assured us it was just a cloud and things would be fine and go on as planned.

Dan and I found a beautiful walk thru a bamboo forest down by the river and also discovered a charming restaurant back in the bamboo forest. (Closed til mid June but a keeper for another visit).

We walked back up to the cathedral and stopped in one of the many brasseries for a bite to eat about 7 PM. Right across from us the stages were being set up and the balloons were filling with air
But then…. dark and stormy clouds rolled in.

At first everything continued on- musicians setting up, balloons blowing up and softly floating just above the ground. Over the next half an hour tho the heavens thundered and the rain poured down literally in buckets. Musicians went running for cover using their music stands as umbrellas.

The balloons sat sadly in the rain and soon the main square was empty.
Oh well, hopefully next year!