Restaurants in THUIR

While in this charming town, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, I ate at a local neighborhood café for lunch and at a more upscale restaurant for dinner: good food and excellent service at both (just in case you venture this way, but bring your GPS!) See why HERE

1. Le Café Bleu (lunch):


Gambas flambees a l’Armagnac

Salade au poulet et roquefort

2. La Patio Catalan (dinner):


Lobster soup

Salade frisee

Salad and sardines

Fruit crumble and ice cream

Olive Oil Tasting near Perpignan

On my way from Perpignan to Thuir in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, I stopped at “Moulin Saint Pierre,” (link in English) an olive oil production mill, with 30,000 trees in their grove, and a beautiful reception area and shop. The young lady there was very welcoming and explained the entire process, as the owner stood in the glass-enclosed, modern factory area (not open to visitors for security reasons). He had just been to New York City to introduce his line of olive oils to restaurants and their chefs and to importers and waved to us through the large, glass window!

After tasting some of the delicious olive oil, I purchased some and browsed the shop area full of soaps and other regional goodies containing olive oil!

Huile d’olive vierge extra, douce et fruitée. Non filtrée. Caractéristiques : Estagnon métal doré, excellente protection à la lumière. Capacité : 200ml
Bouchon : Bouchon verseur à tirette rétractable.

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Below is a video in French showing how to make ice cream with olive oil and figs – Bon Appetit!
Mercredi 22 : Glace à l’huile d’olive, figues au vin et aux épices.
Pour voir la vidéo, cliquez ICI then scroll down on page

Médiéval Château de Castelnou

I recently visited this 10th-century castle, built around 988-990, to serve as a military center and principal town of the Vicomte of Vallespir.  Castelnou castle is the best example of a medieval fortress  existing in the Roussillon region and was built in the shape of an irregular pentagon, in which two of the sides join at right angles.  Inside the castle, its history and way of life in the Middle Ages is exhibited through a medieval ambiance with tapestries, statues, and armor.

The chateau is also a producer of AOC wines, with its vineyards full of mediterranean vines:  grenache noir, syrah, mourvèdre, old carignan, and muscat.  The grapes are harvested by hand and made into high-quality wines: “Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d’Age,” “Côtes du Roussillon Rouge et Rosé,” and “Muscat de Rivesaltes.”  I sampled only one of the reds, which was too dry for my taste, so passed on trying more or buying any.

Just below the castle, the medieval town of Castelnou, with its art galleries and souvenir shops woven along the quaint, cobblestone streets, has been rated as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Escargot Thuirinois: A Snail Farm

While I was in Thuir, in the Midi-Pyrénées region, I visited a snail farm: not something I really had planned on doing, but thought it would be interesting and oh so, French.

The reception area was a small trailer, with regional products displayed for purchase, where the owner cordially explained his business. It turned out that since the harvesting season is from March to mid-May, there wasn’t much to see other than empty crates and crinkled, Polaroid photos of the various stages of snail development.

I hadn’t really thought about how snails reproduce, albeit slowlyand learned that they lay eggs.  I also learned that the soil in which they mature cannot include fertilizer, as it burns the snails eyes, and that it takes about 3 months to reach snail adulthood.

This farmer raises about 50,000 snails each season, first in indoor plastic crates as an incubator, then they are transferred to the outdoor soil.  He said that generally, there is a 30% snail mortality rate (who knew?), and even higher with a too hot or too cold variation in temperatures. He showed enthusiasm and passion for his craft, even though there was an absence of les escargots à la catalan (recipe below).

Recipe credit: Symdicat Producteurs Pyrénées Orientales


(prounounced “to-ear” and “beear”)

I recently visited the town of Thuir, not far from Perpignan and in the most southern area of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. The sidewalks in this town are marble; the town was full of charm.

Thuir is home to “les Caves Byrrh” that houses the largest oak vat in the world (1,000,200 liters) in its production of “Byrrh,” an aperitif wine since 1873. I took a guided tour and learned it was first used medicinally as a tonic, as it contained quinine, and was sold only in pharmacies. The mixture of a variety of spices and zest (orange, cinnamon, coriander, cocoa, and coffee) gives each type of wine its unique flavor; the company also produce Dubonnet, a dry vermouth.

Of course, I did a wine tasting after the tour, and ended up buying a bottle of “SOHO” liquor, flavored with cherries and ginger, which could be added to champagne – sounded delicious and definitely ‘sold’ me!

Test your knowledge of “Byrrh” in this quiz (in French with answers provided)

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Chambre d’Hôte – A B&B somewhere

I was meeting a friend near Perpignan, and had booked a room at the same place she had chosen, just 15 km.  She had rented a car at the Perpignan train station, but we arrived on a Sunday, and so, the car rental agency was closed.   She would have to go to the Perpignan airport to pick up her reserved rental car; we found the taxi stand outside the train station.  However, it was lunchtime, but luckily, one of the drivers was nice enough to take us to the nearby airport.

Apparently, the car rental receptionist was not so friendly, until my friend started speaking in French  and then, all went well.   She finally got the rental car, and we took off towards the center of Perpignan, or so we thought…..due to road construction, that exit was blocked, and we ended up circling for about an hour trying to find our way – always ending up back near the airport.  This was annoyingly amusing, but getting serious, since our time was running out to be served lunch at most places in France.  We finally found a town square in Perpignan (at least, I think that’s where we were) and had a good lunch at some outdoor cafe. We stratagized on how to get out of where we were, in heading the right direction, over a glass of wine.

OK, the next hurdle was to find the Peu de Causse B&B in the small medieval village of Sainte-Columbe-de-la-Commanderie, 15 km (9 miles) from Perpignan, so onward we went.  I can’t tell you how many roundabouts we took (stopped counting) looking for the B&B village signs (weren’t any). when I phoned the B&B, the owner said it was difficult to give directions from where we were — pardon?

So, you ask, why didn’t we use a GPS?   Well, we had two going at the same time (a Garmin with a woman’s voice and the car GPS with a man’s voice) – a true battle of the sexes, but neither had a clue about the blocked routes! We were even starting to call both of them a few choice names.  We thought about opening the Michelin map iPhone app to make it really interesting, but refrained.  Finally, using a good old-fashioned paper map, we found the B&B.

By now it was “apero” time, so we drank some Muscat (free, small sample bottle) as we sat in the center of the stone-walled courtyard and took a deep, relaxing breath.  We had dinner reservations somewhere, but we would worry later about how to find the restaurant, not to mention returning in the dark of night.  I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the GPS man and woman would be  “night owls” and therefore, more helpful!

All in all, it was a nice stay in a renovated stone farmhouse, with a delicious breakfast served, in a quiet area near Thuir – personal note:  a car is a necessity…not sure about the GPS though!

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Snow in October

Wikipedia map

I recently traveled to the Pyrénées-Orientales departmentof France, which is the most southeast department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, bordering Spain.

The weather was nice and sunny, but cool in the evenings.  One morning, I was surprised to suddenly see snow on the Pyrénées – what mesmerizing beauty!