Welcome to our blog for Chez Maison Bleue, our holiday cottage and B&B in the hills south of Carcassonne. Scroll down to explore the different categories listed on the left, click the centre of the photos to enlarge. Hope you enjoy it, feedback welcome – be nice! We hope to welcome you to our very French holiday home in the south of France.
On a gloriously warm, early Spring day, leave the car and walk from the door of our holiday cottage in southern France. Reasonable fitness is required for this circular hike from Camon to Belloc. Take the Voie Verte, green way to Camon, the roses offer a beautiful, fragrant display against the mellow walls of this ancient bastide.
A left turn in the village follows a steep road to some lovely forest tracks, deep in Cathar country. The dappled shade affording some welcome protection from the heat of the sun, even in Spring. There is a choice of well marked routes to the pretty hamlet of Belloc. We followed the river until it was apparent that the “footbridge” shown on the map was a tenuous looking zip wire with a bit of frayed rope hanging loose.
In summer you could probably wade across quite safely but today the river ran fast and deep so we made our own path through some dense forest, eventually reaching grassy meadows and an alternative return route to Camon. A number of private spots along the river bank committed to memory for picnics and “wild” swimming in a few weeks time.
On a glorious April morning in southern France, we cycled to Mirepoix market through lush green landscapes unable to contain the Languedoc Springtime any longer. The cycling is easy for anyone of reasonable fitness, about an hour and a half along the mainly flat Voie Verte – greenway. Still plenty of snow on the higher Pyrenees, our guests took the cable car in Ax Les Thermes and had lunch on the mountain.
Beautiful, ancient towns & villages are on the doorstep of our bed and breakfast and holiday cottage in southern France, the Abbaye and ramparts of medieval Camon:
And broody Chateau de Lagarde looks down with disdain in its ruinous state, there are fireworks in summer and Repas Gourmands in the evenings celebrating local produce:
Then onto Mirepoix for the best farmer’s market in the region. Lunch in one of the many pavement cafes is a treat – and a must for sustaining the return journey.
The Pig Walk is one of the first hikes we did from our holiday cottage in the south of France and remains one of my favourites. The path from the Voie Verte, the greenway, towards Lake Montbel is steep, however, all the hard work is done in the first hour, you can then enjoy lovely, open views across wildflower meadows to the near Pyrenees. The pigs live in the woods, you can smell and hear them before you see them. Today there were 4 or 5 weaners, happily snuffling around the forest floor, previously we have met huge sows with their newborn litters.
You can descend to the edge of Lake Montbel and spend another happy half day exploring its perimeter and taking a dip, or, take a left turn through an ancient, seldom trod forest to Chalabre for a well earned treat from the boulangerie or a cold beer. From Chalabre it’s an easy stroll home or take the steep hill – lovely views – via the tiny Chappelle du Calvaire.
Introducing a few extra goodies to say thank you to all our lovely guests who wish to return to our self catering holiday cottage or bed and breakfast in southern France:
* A bottle of local fizz, Blanquette de Limoux on arrival (cottage guests)
* Complimentary breakfast on your first morning (B&B guests)
* 1/3 off weekly prices Nov – April (excl Xmas & New Year)
* 2nd week half price Nov – April (excl Xmas & New Year)
Our 3 bedroom self catering cottage from only 495 euros per week, elegantly appointed B&B rooms, from just €68 per night for 2 people – even better value just now at current £ exchange rates.
If you feel like something more adventurous than a chlorine soaked pool next summer, then “wild” swimming close to our holiday home in southern France may appeal.
Lac Montbel (5kms) is a huge expanse of shimmering, emerald green waters, busy only in July and August, even then it’s possible to find secret places along its shores off the [beaten] track.
We have walked the perimeter (16kms) in just a few hours. There are a couple of cafes and picnic areas, however, better to find a bit of sandy shore all to yourself for a lunch (or supper?) of local bread, cheese and wine purchased that morning at Mirepoix market.
Lac Puivert is 11kms from our holiday home and is much smaller, the medieval Cathar chateau provides a magnificent backdrop. A gently sloping shore and calm waters make for safe swimming. Early or late in the day outside July and August you may have it to yourself. Night markets each Wednesday in summer sell food that you can enjoy on the trestle tables set out by the lake, or bring food for a barbeque. The Fete du Lac in July ends with spectacular fireworks, exploding across the lake.
Carcassone Plage is a bit further, perfect when combined with a day out to the medieval Cité. Only a few minutes from Carcassonne, the lake, its sandy beaches and palm trees are a great alternative to the coast. There is an adventure park in the forest, bits of rope were hanging scarily across the lake and lots of things seemed to be going on very high up (age 4+, March – October).
The mighty Hers flows past the village. 3kms drive or cycle along the road brings you to a rough track through the woods leading to a great spot by the river. A tiny pebble beach, shady meadows, a deep pool for a decent swim, and flat rocks where the kids love to scramble to catch those pesky crayfish, a perfect summer’s day.
In the wilds of the Corbière hills, on a limestone ridge 800m high, magnificent Peyrepertuse is the impregnable medieval fortress where 1000 years ago fleeing Cathars sought shelter from persecution by the Catholic church. Accessible to all with reasonable mobility, sturdy shoes and 6 euros, you can drive much of the way then take the shady, uneven path to the ramparts. The Mediterranean shimmers on the horizon and there are good views of neighbouring Queribus chateau.
Calm in the valley among the vines, there was a strong, warm wind blowing around the ramparts – don’t visit if the wind is strong in the valley. About an hour from our holiday home in southern France, take a diversion through the dramatic Gorges de Galamus and visit l’Ermitage, the hermit’s house, and Le Grotte de St Antoine (a mini Lourdes) on the way.
Great guests! Our party of Belgian bikers heading out from our B&B south of Carcassonne. We had a lively week, Sonnac sur l’hers seems very quiet just now.
Now summer is here and the balmy warm evenings are allowing us to eat out on the terrace of our French holiday home, Chez Maison Bleue. The salada, lettuce are in plentiful supply and tomatoes are getting cheaper on Mirepoix market so we are serving more and more salads as a first course at dinner. Although we do some simple salade jambon, salad with the local cured ham, I like to serve warm salads. Unlike in England, here in the south of France warm salads are very common. The most common warm ingredient is lardons, small pieces of fried bacon, but other diced meats are also used. An Ariege speciality is gesier, the gizzard of a duck. Although it sounds pretty awful it is absolutely delicious! If you are not feeling quite so adventurous try this chicken salad for a great light lunch.
Prepare a bed of lettuce with a circle of tomato slices around the outside of the plate and maybe some peppers or red onions finely sliced – anything you fancy really but leave space for the chicken in the centre. Next take a skinned chicken breast and cut into strips. Put a little olive oil in a pan and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic (home grown here) some herbs de Provence, and a little chopped dried chilli (the amount depending on how hot and spicy your taste). Heat the pan and fry the herbs and garlic until the garlic starts to brown then add the chicken strips turning them to brown on all sides. Keep tuning until cooked through, this will only take a few minutes. Put the chicken strips onto the centre of the salad and pour over some of the oil and fried garlic as a dressing, serve immediately.
You will also find cold soups on the menu at our B&B, again not a popular thing in the UK where soup is something to warm you up. Our holiday home is close to Spain so Gazpaccio is very popular. With all the delicious and plentiful tomatoes and vegetable from the potager or from Mirepoix market, it is a beautiful entree on a hot evening. The other classic cold soup is crème vichyssoise. This classic dish is only associated with France because of its name and the fact that it was invented by a French chef. In fact it was first served by Louis Diat the chef at the Ritz – Carlton Hotel in New York in the summer of 1917 and is now considered an American dish. It is essentially a leek and potato soup with a significant amount of cream. It should be made well in advance and chilled for at least two hours before serving. It is important to only use the white part of the leek as the soup should be pure white in colour.
So we will continue to serve have hot salads and cold soups for dinner at our B&B in the south of France. They make delicious and healthy starters or a light lunch dish.
Camon, a Plus Beaux Villages de France, 5km from our holiday home in southern France, hosts the Fête des Roses each May (18th 2014). A spectacular display of colour and scent, the result many years ago of a gift from the Municipality to each householder of a climbing rose. The Abbaye dominates; spend a delightful morning exploring its ramparts, the church, and the narrow streets of the ancient village.
Whether self catering in our holiday cottage or a guest at our bed and breakfast, the restaurant at the Abbaye, Camon is a holiday treat.
Chalabre is the nearest town to our holiday cottage and bed and breakfast, an easy 3km ramble or cycle ride along the “Voie Vert”, the old railway line that is great for gentle exploration of the Aude and Ariege. Beautiful tree-lined avenues, medieval streets of huge, ancient houses and the confluence of 3 rivers make for a very satisfying afternoon’s exploration. And of course, the ubiquitous boulanger and pavement bars, all you need for a holiday in France.