July 2019

 

About Intimate France — We travel every spring and fall to Europe's most beautiful destinations. Our small groups (usually eight travelers, never more than 16) guarantee you the utmost in personal service and attention to detail. Learn more about us or contact Intimate France.
 

Harbor, Collioure, a fishing village on the Med.

 

A photo essay

LANGUEDOC 2020 – CARCASSONNE
AND THE MEDITERRANEAN

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

I consider the French region of Languedoc to have all the charm and none of the crowds of the more commercial (and adjacent) area of Provence.

 

It's been three years since I traveled in Languedoc, and I can't wait to return there in September 2020. Details of the tour.

 

These images will give you an idea of the riches you'll find in just this one small corner of Europe.

 

WALLED WONDER: Mighty Carcassonne's massive ramparts.
 

City officials have done a good job keeping modern neighborhoods from encroaching on old Carcassonne. From any exterior angle, nothing but mighty ramparts, bristling with crenelations and imposing towers, can be seen.

 

LIGHT ART: Collioure is enchanting day and night.

 

It doesn't get much better than gorgeous Collioure, which dips its toes in the Mediterranean just a few miles north of the French-Spanish border. As befits a genuine fishing village, the seafood here is outstanding.

 

RIVER TOWN: Albi sits astride the Tarn River.

 

Albi, the birthplace of French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, is a lovely town built chiefly of red brick. The cathedral here looks more like a fortress than a church — completely understandable, as it was built soon after French nobles and the Catholic pope put down the "heresy" called Catharism or Albigensianism

 

CLOISTER: The fine Romanesque carvings at Elne.

 

Some of Europe's finest stone statuary can be found in the cloister of the cathedral of Elne, a few miles north of Collioure. The white marble cloisters, dating from the 12th to 14th centuries, display a variety of designs representing biblical figures, animals and plants.

 

ARTIST'S PALACE: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

 

The 19th century artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec spent much of his early life in Albi, where his family owned a splendid palace. (His father was descended from the Counts of Toulouse.Henri was a skilled artist, generally considered post-Impressionist, and the palace today displays many of his works. Those not familiar with Toulouse-Lautrec's art are often impressed with how accomplished he was.

 

CASTLE ROCK: Fortress atop a crag, village of Penne.

 

Some French villages are clustered around a rocky spur with a church on the top. The founders of the charming village of Penne had a better idea — a fortress.

 

PENNE: Listed as a Most  Beautiful Village of France.

 

In the 1980s, the mayor of the small and exceedingly picturesque French village of Collonges-la-Rouge had a brilliant idea — a nonprofit association that would gather together the country's most beautiful villages. Today, the association is thriving and there are around 150 villages on the list. And yes, each is absolutely adorable. Penne is one of them. 

 

 MIREPOIX: Arcaded village is also a Most Beautiful.

 

A little southwest of Carcassonne, Mirepoix is another Most Beautiful Village. The main square (Place des Couverts) is one of the finest surviving arcaded market squares in France. The shaded walkway makes it possible to beat the summer heat while also allowing merchants and cafes to spread their tables, chairs and wares out of the sun.

 

LOCAL HUMOR: On a back street of Mirepoix.

 

This photo store dressed up its entrance with a half-barrel of flowers, accompanied by a printed sign.

 

The sign posted above the flower pot reads:

 

"Notice to passersby still able to read.

 

"The receptacle situated just below these words is a flower pot, not a trash can.

 

"Definition of a flower pot: Receptacle intended to receive flowers and only flowers.

 

"Definition of a trash can. A trash can is in the proper sense a container destined to receive discards, in particular household trash.

 

"The difference between these two definitions is certainly subtle but it does exist. Please take note.

 

"Good day or evening."

 

 

 

 

 

TIDBITS AND THOUGHTS
ON TRAVEL IN EUROPE

Ricardo Labougle photo

Frescoed chapel, Pallars Subirà, Spain. More

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

It's a wide, wonderful and sometimes weird world out there, and the Internet makes it easier than ever to tune in to the downright bizarre as well as to the merely odd.

 

In just a few minutes of web surfing, I came across a healthy crop of insider tidbits and travel oddities. Herewith a select few.

 

Max Pixel photo

Eating etiquette in Europe — pizza with a fork.

 

Observing dining customs in Europe is a fascinating cultural experience. For starters, most Europeans hold their forks in their left hand (tines down) and the knife in their right. The knife "helps" the food onto the fork. There is no America-style switching of utensils from hand to hand.

 

Although it's very common to eat about anything, including a pizza or a hamburger, with knife and fork, this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

 

In the pretty Italian town of Perugia, I saw an Italian family (parents and kids) picking up pizza slices to eat.

 

In the same vein, I've witnessed Italians ordering cappuccino or caffe latte in the afternoon, despite being told (many times) that these drinks were breakfast-only. 

Pxhere.com photo

Euro notes and coins are in use in 19 EU countries.

 

 

In a post at ottsworld.com, travel blogger Sherry Ott notes that merchants in Europe take a more hygienic approach to exchanging bills and coins with customers.

 

Ott writes: "I notice that when I'm in Europe and buy anything at a market or shop they prefer you to lay your money down on the counter instead of handing it to them." She goes on to wonder why this practice has not spread to the United States, where hygiene in public places is considered very important.

 

Pxhere.com photo

She didn't get the memo about pigeons in Venice.

 

 

USAToday quotes Christine Sarkis of SmarterTravel.com as noting two unusual laws, and wouldn't you know it, both citations are from Italy.

 

According to Sarkis, "Venice ... has cracked down on those who feed (pigeons). The new law ends a long tradition of pigeons landing on tourists who are willing to exchange some avian bacteria for a photograph or two."

 

Down the peninsula a bit, she continues, "Rome is now enforcing a municipal ordinance outlawing eating and drinking in areas of 'particular historic, artistic, architectonic and cultural value.'" To avoid a fine of around $600, she advises tourist to "steer clear of landmarks until you're between cones."

 

Juanma Ramos photo

Artist Santi Moix with his fresco, Pallars Subirà.

 

Thanks to www.housesittingtravel.com, we learned how Spanish artist Santi Moix was asked to completely fresco a church in the tiny Catalan village of Pallars Subirà.

 

The site notes: "Not a religious man, Moix was reluctant but finally accepted the challenge as long as he was given complete artistic freedom. The results, reopened June 2017, are stunning."

 

                                                                                  

 

 

WE'RE ENROLLING FOR 2020

 

Our Intimate France 2020 tours are now open for enrollment. See the lineup below or on our website here: www.intimatefrance.com

 

If you want to join one of our small groups, early action is advised — as most tours max out at eight travelers, they can fill months in advance or even a year or more.

 

Charming wine village of Eguisheim, Alsace, France.

 

Burgundy-Alsace, France,
May 3-15, 2020

                                                                                  

 

 

Overview, Bacharach, on the Rhine River.

 

Romantic Germany,
May 17-29, 2020

                                                                               

 

 

Pilgrimage village of Rocamadour, France

 

Dordogne, France,
Sept. 6-18, 2020

                                                                               

 

After dark, Cité of Carcassonne.

 

Languedoc, France,

Sept. 20-Oct. 2, 2020

                                                                                  

 

ARCHIVED E-NEWSLETTERS 

 

• MARCH 2019 —  BORROMEAN CATS PART II

• FEBRUARY 2019 —  BORROMEAN CATS PART I

• NOVEMBER 2018 —  THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

• JULY 2018 —  THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

• MAY 2018 —  CURRENCY IN EUROPE 

• DECEMBER 2017 — JUST BACK FROM BASQUE 

• NOVEMBER 2017 — JUST BACK FROM DORDOGNE

• SEPTEMBER 2017 — HOTEL MONEY GRAB

• JULY 2017 — THE LATEST TRAVEL SCAM

• APRIL 2017 — DORDOGNE'S NEW CAVE REPLICA

• FEBRUARY 2017 — BEST OF EUROPE PART II

• JANUARY 2017 — BEST OF EUROPE PART I

• NOVEMBER 2016 — MEDITERRANEAN SPAIN

• OCTOBER 2016 — LANGUEDOC, S. FRANCE
• SEPTEMBER 2016 — SWISS AND FRENCH ALPS

• AUGUST 2016 — PROVENCE, FRANCE

• JUNE 2016 — BURGUNDY AND FRENCH ALPS