I like to serve dishes, French or fusion, that our World Visitors can discover and appreciate. Travelers from Japan love sea food but I knew enough not to feed them shrimp tempura. I treated them to a Liz’s bouillabaisse.
Here is the receipe:
As for all my ingredients, the fish need to be very fresh! Then add onions, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes, salt and pepper.
I use the carrots for the color and the potatoes to thicken the broth and give it more of a “bisk” look and taste.
Sauté the fish before in a little amount of colza oil.
Sauté oinions, carrots, tomatoes and potatoes.
Put all ingredients together in a steamer and cook for 10 minutes.
Remove the bones, keeping only the meat of the fish.
blend fish and vegetables with some fresh dill. Serve hot. You can add on top a grilled toast covered with ementhal or gruyère cheese. or a grilled garlic toast!
France’s high speed train, the TGV, will one day carry passengers between Toulouse and Narbonne. The line will also have a Carcassonne stop. I’m following developments in the planning of this future train line pretty closely. I’ve uploaded the slideshow presented to the public recently concerning potential installation sites for the new tracks around Carcassonne and the new train station as well. Download the TGV project slideshow 21 10 2011 complete with confounding maps and bullet points. 😀
Changes required by a TGV line
Interestingly, as I’m writing this, TGV trains already pass through Carcassonne quite often. But since the tracks aren’t set up for Grande Vitesse traffic, the trains have to run at normal speeds until they reach Montpellier. I don’t know much about the technology here, but I’ll just say it has to do with magnets and move on. 😀
Anyway, the engineers have to lay new track suitable to the TGVs and this means they’ll have to run the new track north of Carcassonne or south of Carcassonne (going straight through the city makes no sense). This is when winemakers start to get worried because there are lots of vines north and south of Carcassonne and we don’t want a bunch of train tracks to replace the vines we love so dearly.
From a business standpoint though, it’s pretty interesting since there are plans to build a new station. If the TGV connects Carcassonne to the grid, it can bring a lot of tourists and business to the area. After all the work from Bordeaux to Toulouse is done and this project connects Toulouse to Narbonne, the Carcassonne-Narbonne axis will be much closer to Aquitaine. And I’ll have to do some math, but I think it might bring us closer to Paris too (the current fastest path to Paris is a slow train from Carcassonne to Montpellier and then TGV up to Paris)
There’s a lot of information here as the slideshow also presents all the projects from Toulouse to Narbonne.
Since my vineyard is very close to Carcassonne, slides 16-21 are of most interest to me personally.
The slide that made me panic a little
one of the potential sites is close to O'Vineyards
The first reason to panic is just because it looks like somebody’s planning a war strategy. Or like a geometry textbook just threw up on a map of Carcassonne. But we’ll try to make sense of this map.
I’ve added a little o’TGV so you can see where O’Vineyards is located. As you can see, we’re actually inside one of those circular bubbles meant to represent places where it might make sense to put in the new train station. And that big golden arrow running straight through us is supposed to represent the possibility of a track running to the north of Carcassonne (but not its actual placement). The bright red arrows cutting through Villemoustaussou represent tracks that tie the new train station to the small, older train station in the center of Carcassonne (but not their actual placement).
It is important to stress a few things:
- this is still hypothetical planning,
- many of the arrows are symbolic representations rather than showing physical placement,
- those enormous circles are very generously sized.
Let’s break this map down in a less panicked way. The track has to go either north of Carcassonne or south of it. The big green bands show the zone that is most suitable for a track. Rather than look at the large golden arrow representing the northern line, realize that the northern line is actually a very thin track that would go anywhere within that massive green band.
There will also be a new gare. The big green circles are supposed to represent potential sites where it might make sense to build that gare. The actual station will be a small dot compared to the circles used to represent their potential placement sites on the map.
Also, knowledge of the terrain where my vineyard is located allows me to say that the tracks could not pass through O’Vineyards. One one side, we’re too hilly. On the other side, we’re very close to a village. If the tracks run north of Carcassonne, it’s much more likely that they’ll pick one of the flatter, lower zones like the one running through Conques sur Orbiel. With a good set of binoculars, we’d probably be able to glimpse the train behind some hills/trees as it passes in the distance.
I also think they’ll favorize one of the construction sites that is already near rails connecting to the old gare in Carcassonne. Nobody likes to build in the jurisdiction of Batiments de France and the old gare is right next to the Canal du Midi. The more they can use existing track, the better. So those dastardly red arrows seem unlikely. My money is on one of the oblong ovals that already skirts existing track.
Although, that said, I wouldn’t necessarily mind the station being built in that circle really close to O’Vineyards. If it’s at the far end of the circle, we could get all the benefit of a nearby train station without any of the noise or visual pollution. It’s too early in the development of this project to know how harmful/beneficial the placement will be. I’ll just have to watch carefully. In February, they’re supposed to make a decision about whether the line goes north of Carcassonne or south. And at that time, they’ll provide more details about where exactly the tracks would go.
Hopefully, this won’t mar the local landscapes or prevent winemakers from doing what we do best. And as a secondary wishful thinking kind of hope, maybe this will increase land value for a few of the locals. And make it easier for me to get to Paris one day. ;D
A lot of people ask me what wine regions are closest to Toulouse, because they’d like to get out of the city to taste some wine. I thought I’d write up my wine tasting recommendations in one place.
If you want to spend a day visiting a wine region near Toulouse, I’m naturally going to recommend that you visit me at O’Vineyards or spend the night in our B&B. I’m a little more than an hour’s drive from Toulouse and after you visit O’Vineyards, you can spend some time at the Cité de Carcassonne. But this page has information about all the other wine regions you can visit near Toulouse.
Wine regions close to Toulouse
- Gaillac (near Albi) – Probably the closest wine area that people talk about frequently. You can check out Albi’s cathedral or the Toulouse Lautrec museum on the same day as they’re in the same area as Gaillac.
- Cabardes (near Carcassonne) – The Languedoc-Roussillon appellation that is closest to Toulouse, Cabardes is just a few kilometers away from the Cité de Carcassonne, so that can be an interesting day trip or weekend.
- Cahors – This is the original home of Malbec, a grape varietal made popularized in Argentina. Try to find a winery that makes real black wine, so dark you can add water and still not see through it.
- Madiran – A southwestern appellation that has gained notoriety more recently for it’s highly tannic wines generally dominated by the Tannat grape variety.
- Cotes de Millau – I don’t know much about the wines, but it’s made right around where they make Roquefort cheese (and you can often visit those cheese caves). So if you’re into salty blue cheeses this would be a pretty epic day trip.
- Armagnac – Not strictly wine, but worth mentioning, as this spirit is distilled from wine. Similar to cognac but aged differently. Check it out if you like spirits.
These are generally ordered by a combination of how interesting I think they are and how far they are from Toulouse. It’s not an exact science because some wine regions are very large and oddly shaped and so even though most of the region is farther away, some wineries in it may be closer. To illustrate this point, the map here shows all the southwestern French wine designations, but Cabardes (which is technically Languedoc-Roussillon and not southwestern France) is not shown even though it is much closer than most of southwestern France. Such is life!
Here is a more complete list of wine areas classified as Southwestern French wines which includes some regions that I don’t know as much about:
- Côtes du Frontonnais
- Vins de Lavilledieu
- Cotes de Brulhois
- Cotes de Buzet
- Cotes du Marmandais
- Cotes de Saint-Mont
- Madiran / Pacherenc du Vic Bilh
- Cotes du Duras
- Vins d’Entraygues et du Fel
- Vins d’Estaing
- Cotes de Millau
- Irouléguy (Basque country)
Just after complaining about how there are no meetups around Carcassonne, I see a couchsurfing group that proves me hilariously wrong. They plan on meeting up and hitchhiking through all the towns with vulgar names in the south of France. Awesome.
How many villages have dirty names, you ask? A lot.
- Condom, on the Bises river.
- Couille (Testicle)
- La Conne (The Bitch)
- Monteton (Homophone for “My Nipple”)
- Montcuq (Homophone for “My Ass” with one of those lovely silent Q’s I guess)
This will be a team event. If you don’t have a partner, we can pair you up with someone else.
This is an excellent way to meet new people (CSers and drivers), visit new places in France, and it allows your inner hitchhiker a bit of childish fun.
So what are you waiting for? Go out and meet some routards and hitch hike through the naughty bits of the Languedoc.
I’m going to try to be there even though it’s a bit of a trek just to get to the first commune…the immaturity of this journey appeals to me on some fundamental level. It’s probably because I turned 25 this week (the last year you can get a carte jeunesse from the SNCF) and I’m afraid of losing my youth.
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