Saturday, May 16, 2015

More Rain, Narbonne and a Friend in Aix-en-Provence

Friday, 15 May, 2015:


We awoke to another overcast, drizzly day in Toulouse. After our usual quick breakfast of a café au lait and a croissant, we decided that it was pointless to walk around Toulouse in this weather for which we came totally unprepared.

We did not bring an umbrella or any kind of jackets to deal with this colder weather as we expected to be warm both weeks of the Circumnavigation.

Still, on the way to our car, we did see lots of reminders that we were back in France.



I have no idea what this is all about

The Canal du Midi in Toulouse

This canal used to be extremely important commercially for the shipping goods across the South of France connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Today it serves as mostly a barge/boat canal for leisurely tourist travel.

A spa barge on the Canal du Midi

Colorful barges were the norm on
this stretch of the Canal du Midi

It started to rain HARD as we drove
by Carcassonne seen in the distance

We had thought about stopping at this magical town with its awesome castle but a combination of the rain and the fact that we had been there before made the decision easy, FORGE ON!

Blue skies at last, but where were we?

Never been here, lets go!

Beautiful landscapes near Narbonne
after the rains had swept through

Narbonne has a canal too that
connects to the Canal du Midi

We have got to do laundry SOON!!!

Victor Hugo is big all over France

Memorial to Narbonne's
WWI and WWII soldiers

Narbonne's Market Halle

It should be obvious that buying truly fresh food at any major market like this one anywhere in Europe is a great idea. What is not so obvious to many travelers is that these markets also have some really good and inexpensive restaurants.

The plan was to find one for lunch today.

They sell horse meat which we love

All of their little restaurants were
crowded at lunch time

Bread Arch


The food vendors were closing up

But the diners were in full force

We finally found two seats at a small table at one of the Market's restaurants and proceeded to order a great meal.

It started with beverages

I ordered a steak rare
which was GREAT!

A meat and potatoes man, I have no idea what that salad is doing on my plate.

Laurie's Steak Tartare

Being the tough animal that she truly is, she ordered her steak raw with lots of seasonings and a raw egg to boot.

We shared her Steak Tartare and, I must admit, it was pretty darn good.

After lunch espressos

Cartoon character themed
waters were big here

After lunch, we agreed that we needed to do a little walking/exploring in Narbonne for the sake of our constitutions.

There was a car show in Narbonne
today on the Place de L'Hotel de Ville

About 30 vintage Corvettes lined this square. We did not know that this many Corvettes existed in all of Europe much less Narbonne.

Narbonne's City Hotel de Ville or
City Hall

Right next to it is Narbonne's Cathédrale St-Just et St-Pasteur built between 1272 and 1340. Let's take a gander.

Were the required gargoyles . . .

. . . all . . .

. . . up to code?  CHECK!

Cloister archways . . . CHECK!!

The candles were a heady 2 Euros each

Laurie next to the main altar

The Blessed Virgin Mary

A typical low key side altar

This praying knight was fascinating

The detail on his armor was amazing


She is Laurie's favorite saint.

The view of the main altar
from the last pew

Mary greeting us as we left the Cathédrale

View of the cloister walls

Smoke break

Narbonne is simply another beautiful French city that is not to be missed. I get tired of friends back home planning their European travels with Paris as their only French stop.

True, Paris is one of the greatest cities in the world and should not be missed, but France has so much more to offer than just Paris.

To truly understand and appreciate France, its culture and its people, visitors really must get on the road and see what this marvelous country has to offer outside of the Paris city limits.

Random thought:
Offensive Linemen should all be Rhinos

We blew by this classic French car on
the toll road like it was standing still

While I'm on this subject, let me say that the cost of our rental car was steep as expected.

The cost of the diesel to run our highly efficient vehicle has been surprisingly low.

It is the expensive toll roads all over Spain, Portugal and France that we must take as a time savers that is killing our collective wallets.

The flip side is the freedom of the road. The ability to pull off into offbeat towns that catch your fancy like Espinho, Avilés, Llanes and Narbonne the last few days, to just name a few, is the big plus of renting a car. Overall, the trip so far has been worth the money to be sure.

We pushed on to today's final destination, the intriguing city of Aix-en-Provence.

Les Deux Garcons is a great place
with a bit of local history

The name of this restaurant translates into The Two Boys.

As schoolmates growing up in Aix-en-Provence, the writer Émile Zola and the painter Paul Cézanne were the best of friends.

Zola would eventually move to Paris and become a famous writer during his lifetime.

Cézanne meanwhile became an obscure painter during his lifetime spent mostly in Aix-en-Provence. He was able to exploit the countryside's light to paint incredible images that would unfortunately not truly be admired until after his death.

On the occasion of Zola's return visit to Aix-en-Provence the two old school chums famously met at this restaurant to catch up on old times and new. Eventually the restaurant became known simply as Les Deux Garcons in honor of Aix-en-Provence's two favorite sons and this meeting.

Why did we go there for a drink tonight you ask?

Because it was THE place in the city
for two friends to reunite yet again

I met Gabriel Maginier in 2013 on my first trip to Aix-en-Provence. He is a coach with the DI Argonauts Amercian football team. They were in DII in 2013 and after an undefeated 2014 DII championship run, earned the promotion to France's top league featuring the best eight teams the Gaul has to offer.

In the Fall of 2013, Gabriel came to California for a whirlwind two week American football intense visit. During his stay he saw an NFL game (Chargers), three college games (San Diego, USC and UCLA), one Junior College game (Santa Monica College), two Newbury Park H.S. games (Varsity and JV vs. Agoura H.S.) and college practices at California Lutheran and Stanford.

Tonight we hooked up again in his city where he was the perfect host!

Aix-en-Provence was decked out
for nice Spring evening

Entry to Le Petit Verdot

After a short stroll around the interesting streets of Aix-en-Provence with Gabriel as our guide, he led us to this spot for dinner.

Their menu was incredible

We were still quite full from lunch and did not expect to order anything.

Then the aromas from the kitchen wafted towards our table.

Just a little something
was called for, don't you think?

Laurie's duck foie-gras with a chutney sauce was amazingly good.

I ordered the cold asparagus soup which was equal to the foie-gras in taste and splendor. The white ball at the top edge of the soup was a scoop of Parmesan cheese ice cream.

Yes, Parmesan cheese ice cream, I said. I know that it sounds weird to say the least but damn it was good.

Again, it seems as if the French know a bit about cooking with style, elegance and a bold vision.

Who knew?

After dinner we parted ways with Gabriel and headed to our hotel as we were tired from another interesting day on the road.

Again, the people like Gabriel that we have met through our time coaching in Europe are the best part of the EuroBall experience.

MERCI Gabriel, it was so good seeing you again to talk about football and rediscover your city!

Speaking of great people we have met through the EuroBall experience . . .

Next Circumnavigation Tour Stop: Lyon, France!!!

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