Apart from two day trips to Boulogne, I had never stayed in France and never thought I would. My late partner had intended taking me to Paris and various places in Italy, but when he died it didn’t occur to me that I would be going to either of those countries. So what a wonderful surprise when my friends Craig and Tony phoned me one evening last year and asked if I were free to fly with them to Carcassonne at the end of April – at their expense! Could I let them know within the next few minutes as Ryanair was offering very cheap flights, but time was of the essence as the prices could increase at any moment. I was flabbergasted, but they insisted it was their payment to me for sometimes looking after Craig’s mum before she went into care and for likewise looking after their dogs whenever needed (Craig is an international floral designer and so they are often away). I quickly checked my diary, reminded them that with my disability I am not the easiest guest, especially with the amount of time I need to spend in the bathroom, but still they persisted and so I said yes! They insist I’m not a guest, but family member. Either way, I’m not the best person to accommodate and reckon that out of every week, I must spend the equivalent of one day in the bathroom.
I tried to learn a bit of the language (from tapes) before going as they have several French friends in the village where they have a house. In reality I was absolutely hopeless (the situation never occurred where I might have said, ‘sur le Boulevard St Michel’ or Je ne veux pas boire de vin’!). I was rather thrown in at the deep end on the evening we arrived as we had been invited to dinner with five of their friends, all of them with as little English as I have French! Poor Tony and Craig had to translate for us. Of my seven evenings there, four were spent in the company of their friends – lovely people – and great food!
An Evening at Le Clos des Framboisiers
In the villages I was captivated by the terracotta-tiled roofs, pale honey coloured walls, shuttered windows and railings draped in lacy lilac wisteria – everything I imagined of southern France, but what took me by surprise were the number of advertising hoardings and soulless retail parks on the edges of the villages. Nevertheless they did not stop my enjoyment – and ignoring those I otherwise found the experience enchanting.
People watching in the square at Narbonne
Vide-grenier at Ventenac-Cabardes
Vide-grenier at Azille
At a morning market in Carcassonne I bought three pairs of shoes (call me Imelda) at a grand cost of 6 Euros – and no, the spotted ones aren’t odd (well yes the are in the photo) as they each have a partner, but I rather like wearing one of each. Much more fun!
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