Sète canals

Sète: where the Canal du Midi meets the Mediterranean for a spot of jousting

The two boats moved towards one another, one blue, one red. From each boat rose a ladder, with a boy perched on a platform at the end, high above the water. As the boats became parallel, each boy raised a 2.8 metre wooden pole and I watched, perplexed, as they tried their best to dislodge …

Continue reading Sète: where the Canal du Midi meets the Mediterranean for a spot of jousting

Carcassonne citadel

A stopover in Carcassonne: oui ou non?

Need to buy a replica medieval helmet and sword? Fancy flouncing around in costume like a Kate Mosse character?  All this can be done whilst visiting the fortified city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s up there at number 20 of France’s most visited sites. In summer, the main town has a vibrant …

Continue reading A stopover in Carcassonne: oui ou non?

In search of Dordogneshire: Bergerac in the time of Brexit

Back when I was researching English incomers in the Ariège Pyrenees, many people cited Dordogne as a kind of benchmark. It was a way to disassociate themselves from that stereotype of Little England: 'I think people come here because they don't want that Dordogne thing. They want to take part in the French culture. They …

Continue reading In search of Dordogneshire: Bergerac in the time of Brexit

Jardins de la Fontaine, Nîmes

A stopover in Nîmes: slow travel in the South of France.

It’s the first day of spring, although the Jardins de la Fontaine smell more like early summer. Half the population of Nîmes is sitting on the lawns of the 17th century park, like the Uber Eats cyclist taking a break, and the other half are in the outdoor cafes of the old town. I walk …

Continue reading A stopover in Nîmes: slow travel in the South of France.

Technicolour Dreams: a day at the France Show 2019

“I wonder if punters don’t just want to read about the romantic Peter Mayle/Place in the Sun fantasy?” remarked a literary agent to me when I was writing A House at the End of the Track. I'm happy to say I’m proving him wrong. Apparently the book is sparking people’s dreams to move to France …

Continue reading Technicolour Dreams: a day at the France Show 2019

My favourite summit: Pic Rouge de Bassiès 2676m

I don’t know why the smooth golden dome of this summit has taunted me ever since I spotted it on the horizon of Pyrenean peaks in the Ariège. Its distinctive profile seemed to pop up everywhere I went. Rising up smoothly on one side, the dome breaks off abruptly where its eastern side has been chiselled away, no doubt by long-ago ice action.
I’ve wanted to stand on that summit for years, although I’d turned back twice.
This October, seeing a window of clear, cool days, I was going to do it.

Étang d’Areau from Col de Pause

The Col de Pause is a starting point for some wonderful walks, as well as an up-close view of Mont Valier. This entry describes a walk up to the pastures known by various spellings: Areau, Arreau, Arréou and Areou, and its emerald green lake.