A day out in Corbieres Wine Region - South of France
Amusing Tale of Ex-Pat Life in France
The 'Happy Hooker' initially conjures up completely the wrong impression, because it is actually about ex-pat life in the South of France. A highly amusing take on the activities of both the local community and ex-pat infiltrators in a small French village.
Exploring the Corbieres Wine Region
An excellent way to visit and explore the Corbieres wine region of France is to drive from Carcassonne to Narbonne via Lagrasse.
Pick up the N113 and head towards Narbonne, continue down this route until you get to the town of Trebes.
In Trebes there is a right turn which is signposted to take you to Lagrasse, take this road and in no time at all you will be driving through rolling hills covered with grapevines that are the start of the Corbieres wine region and as you continue on to Lagrasse you will be driving through the heart of Corbieres country where you will find any number of wine outlets and degustations (free wine tasting outlets) on route as you pass through Monze, Pradeiles-en-Val and Villemagne. See Map
Lagrasse centred in the Corbieres region
A good place for lunch
Lagrasse is found in the valley of the River Orbieu and features stone built bridges over the river and attractive narrow streets to accompany the abbey as the town's main features.
Like many of the small towns and villages in this region Lagrasse has a medieval influence, interestingly it's name means 'the fat one' and no it was not named after me as I was not around in the 8th century.
With its stone buildings and abbey it is well worth a stop over for lunch which you can either supply for yourself in the form of a picnic, or perhaps you could spoil yourself and eat at one of the nice little restaurants in the town, but take care you wouldn't want anyone to start calling you 'Lagrasse' so do as the French do and leave the table wanting (i.e. still a little hungry).
There are plenty of benches available at nice view points or the river bank where you can sit and relax, especially if you chose the picnic option for your lunch.
Take care when parking here though as they have car parks designated for both the locals and visitors to the town. The visitor car parks are a little out of the main town but not too far and an easy walk back to the centre will only take a few minutes which is better than upsetting the locals.
The Abbey and Bridge over River OrbieuClick thumbnail to view full-size
A few wine accessories and a book or two
The Corbieres on Film
Tour de France 2008
If you are in this region at the right time of year you might just be lucky enough to be around at the time the Tour de France goes by.
We managed to get on the route near Thezan de Corbieres which you get to by taking the D3 road out of Lagrasse towards Tournissan and Saint Laurent de la Cabrerisse where you can pick up the D611 towards Thezan.
We arrived an hour before the pack were due to go through and just followed everyone else in parking as best we could on the side of the road near a junction to the main Tour de France route and then walking to a good vantage point.
It was probably 2 hours later that they came though but for pretty much the whole period there were sponsors throwing out free samples and selling official Tour de France souveniers making it a real party atmosphere, with everyone scrambling for the freebies, although once you got them they were usually passed straight to the kids that were around.
I must have counted at least 6 other languages or nationalities in the crowd as well, Dutch, German, English, American, Australian, Swedish and of course French, but I am sure there were probably more.
You know the racing pack is approaching when you see all the helicopters carrying the media that circle over the leaders. It has to be said when they arrive you need to be ready because they are gone again in seconds.
If you are really dedicated you jump in your car and go and find another vantage point, but for us that was good enough and we headed back to our car to continue our trip through the Corbieres.
Tour de France near Thezan de CorbieresClick thumbnail to view full-size
Next stop Portel des Corbieres
To finish your tour of the Corbieres region I would recommend that you head for Portel des Corbieres via the D611 and then the D611A. This route will take you through Donos, Saint Esteve, Montplaisir and Les Campets providing a very pleasant scenic experience on the way.
If you haven't already found a suitable degustation then you will find one of the best wine tasting venues available at Portel de Corbieres called the Terra Vinea: Languedoc's Wine-Tasting Disneyland. You don't need to make an appointment as there are several departure times for the tour throughout the day and this venue has been highly recommended to me by a French friend, click on the link for more details, it's well worth checking out.
This is a pretty full day in it's own right but if you fancy winding down on the beach you are not too far from Gruissan Plage which is a lovely sandy beach just south of Narbonne Plage and can be reached with a quick blip up the A9 towards Narbonne, you will see the signs as you near Narbonne.
Gruissan is a lovely little seaside resort in the configuration of a fortified town which is the typical style adopted during the Cathar period. It's narrow streets curve around the 13th-century Tour de Barberousse, bit of a dodgy climb, so hang on to the kids, but once at the top of the tower you can admire a stunning view over the surrounding lagoon - brilliant for the sunset if you are at the end of the day.
To get back to Carcassonne you can either take the peage or wend your way back through the countryside depending on your preference having had what was hopefully a very enjoyable day out in the South of France.
We run a gite about 40 minutes from Carcassonne which you can find out about by visiting our website French Holidays Aude, the website also has a travel advice section to help you make all your travel arrangements and a travel shop where you can purchase from a range of products to accessorise your holiday.
So if you are interested in a holiday near Caracassonne or Toulouse and would like travel advice for the region then please visit the website by clicking on the link above
For flights to France and Europe take a look at Euro Traveller UK for the cheapest flights and listings from all the low cost budget airlines
Gruissan and Gruissan Plage
Which is your favorite wine
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