September         2007
VOL. 11               NO. 3
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

  Languedoc-Roussillon: the other South of France

              the other south of France

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Franco-American Portraits:
  ~ Consuelo Vanderbilt Marlborough Balsan
  by Arthur Gillette

Letters from Occupied France
  edited by Arthur Gillette

Around & About Paris: Montmartre
  by Thirza Vallois

The Bookshelf:
  ~ A Traveller's Wine Guide To France
Domaine des Castelles
              Domaine des Castelles, Aude

   Languedoc-Roussillon / Part One

  Walking with the Camisards
      by Scott Anderson

   The Loire Valley
   by Corina Clemence

Historic events, prolific winemaking, lovely Mediterranean beaches and mountain foothills...all those terms could easily describe Provence, but they also describe Languedoc-Roussillon. 

This 'other South of France' survived a tumultuous history rife with religious wars and fierce struggles with both Spain and France in an attempt to maintain its Catalan roots.  From the horrors of the Albigensian Wars to the use of the region as a bargaining chip between France and Spain over several centuries, Languedoc and Roussillon have never been quiet.  But, today, one finds an astounding peace and tranquility ~ while just below the surface its population is still ready and very willing to protest the next incursion by the government into their rights, traditions and culture.

Romans settled here, the Visigoths invaded, and the centuries passed.  This beautiful, rugged region of France is now the perfect destination for visitors, naturists, back country explorers, spelunkers and historians, as well as those who simply want to settle in the south amid endless vineyards and beautiful beaches with the Pyrénées mountains as the backdrop. 

This issue will focus on Languedoc-Roussillon ~ a part of France coming into its own both as a tourist destination and a winemaking region in the 21st century.  This sunny part of France is and was the source of most of the ordinary table wine served in French homes, but today it is turning out superb wines that have achieved AOC classification and are sold the world over.  We will take you to some of the great attractions of Languedoc in this issue, and continue with more plus the very special Roussillon in the next edition of our newsletter.

As a special addition to our feature, we welcome Scott Anderson, a resident of Languedoc, to FRANCE On Your Own with his article Walking with the Camisards.  Scott provides insight into a part of Languedoc history with which many of us may not be familiar.

But, this feature on Languedoc-Roussillon will only be Part One of two parts, the second of which will come in December after we have returned from France.  Focusing for a few weeks on the region all the way to (and perhaps across) the Spanish border, we hope to be able to give some personal insight into this mysterious land of garrigue, Cathars, cassoulet, and Roquefort cheese.

Also in this issue we will spend some time in Paris:  first getting to know Consuelo Balsan, in our Franco-American Portrait...a very unique lady with quite an interesting life.  We will also visit Montmartre with Thirza Vallois, author of Romantic Paris, as she illuminates the most interesting aspects of this wonderful hilltop neighborhood overlooking the City of Light.

Finally, our French Wine Report focuses on the Loire Valley from the viewpoint of a château owner, Corina Clemence,  whose article intertwines the lovely wines of the region with the many fascinating things to do and see before and after vineyard visits and winetasting!  We further provide some information about the wines available throughout the Loire Valley.

We hope you enjoy this issue and the rest of the summer season into autumn.  And for those of you traveling to France as we will be, bon voyage!

Look inside

  to learn about the Camisards, a group of Protestants who fought their despised rulers and made history.


>  to continue reading communiqués in our series Letters from Occupied France...dramatic, real-life messages between France and the United States during what are known as France's darkest days.


> and come along with us as Arthur Gillette steps back in time to paint a Franco-American Portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan.


> to join Thirza Vallois in a history lesson ~a very interesting history lesson ~ about Paris' hilltop neighborhood of artists and intellectuals: Montmartre.


> to accompany us to Languedoc in Part One of our two-part series on the Languedoc-Roussillon, the land of Cathars, Roman architecture, local cuisine and an abundance of wine ~ a land punctuated by fine beaches, sleepy villages, interesting people and a Catalan culture and patois.

  PARIS ENIGMAS . . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
                                                                                                                               by Arthur Gillette

Question from the last issue:  Paris' oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf (New Bridge!), sports an equestrian statue of the king probably most admired by Parisians, Henri IV, originally erected by his widow, Marie de Médicis, soon after his assassination in 1610. According to legend, the king's raised right arm and the horse's belly are not hollow.  What is said to be in them, and why?

Answer:   The original statue was melted down in 1792, during the French Revolution. At the monarchy's restoration in 1815 the replica you can now see was erected, using metal garnered from statues of Napoleon. Parisians jeered: "See, it takes two emperors to make one good king!" The smelter, however, was a Bonapartist and, to avenge his offended hero, is said to have placed an effigy of Napoleon in Henri's right arm and a swatch of the Emperor's writing in the horse's belly. Will we ever know if this is fact or myth?

Our new question: When inaugurated in 1607, Paris' Pont Neuf was innovatively unique among the capital's many cross-Seine spans. What feature was so special about it? (For extra points, name a second unique innovation featured on the Pont Neuf.)

Contact Arthur Gillette,  and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
 by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages

[See the answer to this edition's question
revealed in our December 2007 issue.]


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