Imagine our surprise when exiting a restaurant in Castelnaudary and seeing these!

Especially in a supermarket (Géant) car park.

We’d only had half a bottle of white wine – honest!

I’m sure you can work out some of the scenarios going through our minds…

Turns out, they were advertising a circus that was in town that week.

I’m no fan of the circus, I’m afraid, and those that have live animals are particularly offensive to me, as a massive animal lover.

Enough said. Perhaps I should run a slogan competition for the wittiest caption to accompany my rather poor photos but then again…







And now for something completely different…

Although we now have a house we don’t have any beds! As a result, we have been staying in a local hotel. However, there was one night when the hotel was unable to accommodate us and so we succumbed to the charms of a night on water. The ultimate way to experience the Canal du Midi.

Our Dutch barge was called ‘Péniche Kapadokya’ and is owned by a delightful couple of professional photographers, Patrick and Mado. They live on the barge with their son and dachshund.

On arrival, we were welcomed with an apéro which we took on deck; a wonderful opportunity to watch the boats navigate the nearby lock.

Our cabin, although bijou, was beautifully decorated and had everything one could need, including a full size shower. The bed was extremely comfortable and we slept like logs!

If you ever have the opportunity to spend a night on this part of the Canal du Midi, I can thoroughly recommend the Péniche Kapadokya.


Evening view of the barge


Our delightful hosts


Péniche Kapadokya


Breakfast on deck

Well, we’ve only gone and done it!


Bought a house in France. Should I change the name of this blog, I wonder? Should FancyingFrance become LivingthedreamFrance? I’ve no idea! Any suggestions welcome.

Our house is in SW France, in Castelnaudary , in between Toulouse and Carcassone. If we stand in the front garden we can see the Pyrénées on the horizon and if we walk out of our back garden gate, we are on the towpath alongside the Canal du Midi. More details to follow!

Having a home here is somewhat bitter sweet as my dream has been financed by an inheritance. Enough said…

Anyway, I’m having moments of sheer joy, followed by others of feeling overwhelmed with everything we have to do and, equally, appreciating so much what we have. Watch this space!

Do you speak estate agent…?


These are photos of the exterior and interior of the estate agent ( realtor) we have been using, in France. We had a personal recommendation and I think we have been very fortunate to meet someone who is the opposite of a stereotypical estate agent. The lady in question is funny, charming and has gone out of her way to follow our brief. The cynical, amongst you, are probably thinking – well, it’s her job – and yes, of course it is! Nevertheless, we are delighted with the seven houses she has shown us so far.

Here are a few sample photos but they don’t really do justice to the amazing homes we have seen…

What has been very interesting to me, from a linguistic point of view, is some of the house buying vocabulary: une atmosphère cosy, style loft industriel, fosse septique, en cathédrale.

And what is it about mezzanines? I have never come across so many houses with a mezzanine level, no matter the age or style of the house!

Floor plans – what floor plans?? I’m used to house details with floor plans included. No such thing over here.

Anyway, it’s all very exciting and slightly terrifying! Watch this space….



A month…in France!

Well, here we are back in Languedoc Rousillon or ‘Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées’ as it has been known since January 2016.  Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? This is the provisional name for the combined regions of Languedoc Roussillon and Midi Pyrénées; no surprises there. The definitive name for this area will be decided in October this year.

We are staying in an Airbnb house, sampling the lifestyle and viewing some properties  that are for sale. Watch this space…


The owners of our temporary home, very kindly, greeted us with a bottle of Limoux, a local sparkling white wine. They also gave us a bottle of ‘syrop de violette’, so that we can make a ”Kir Royal  toulousain’. Now, I love a kir whether it be made with blackcurrant, blackberry or peach liqueur but I’m afraid the violet one didn’t work for me, at all. Although, I must say, it looked very pretty in the glass!


We couldn’t let our first day end without a visit to a pâtisserie! Here’s what we bought:


Interesting door knockers!

I find as I get older, I am much more aware of small details around me. I guess it’s because I don’t have any young children competing for my attention! On a recent trip to Castelnaudary, I was very taken by this door knocker…

And here is the door on which it stands…


Do you notice the small details too?

I’d love to know!

Cassoulet (or sausage and beans French style!)

I’ve always enjoyed cassoulet and have even tried cooking one or two! Therefore our stay in Castelnaudary, which is said to be the birthplace of cassoulet, had to include sampling this delicious local dish. In the town itself there are lots of restaurants offering cassoulet, including La Belle Époque which we visited. We tend to go for the set menus but not on this occasion as the waiter had advised us that their cassoulet was very ‘copieux’. He was right!la-belle-epoque

There is even a Cassoulet Festival which takes place in Castelnaudary during the last weekend in August, with tastings, a gourmets’ market, a floral procession, entertainment, shows and concerts!

So, what is Cassoulet? It is basically a slow-cooked casserole containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes mutton) and white beans. The dish is named after the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides, in which the cassoulet is cooked.

During our week in France, as well as visiting Castelnaudary and Toulouse, we also went back to Carcassonne. Interestingly, there is still a difference of opinion about the true birthplace of cassoulet. Does it come from Castelnaudary, Carcassonne or Toulouse? Every cassoulet has its own special local features; however we decided not to put this to the test by trying one in every town!

Are you a cassoulet fan or have you ever cooked one yourself? There are so many recipes for cassoulet that it is hard to know which link to give you! There are traditional, quick, cheat, student and even frugal recipes available. Here’s  a link to a Raymond Blanc recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1400/raymond-blancs-cassoulet

Or how about this Julia Child you tube clip?

I’d love to know if you like or cook Cassoulet or maybe you have a recipe to recommend. Do let me know and other thoughts or comments would be welcome too!