Friday, November 28, 2014

Highlights of the Midi: Olives

Olives growing in the Languedoc
Among the most beautiful sights in the countryside surrounding the Canal du Midi are the groves of olive trees with their silvery-green leaves and twisted trunks. The Languedoc region's dry, hot, summers and mild winters provide the ideal climate for olives, and they have been cultivated here for centuries.

Many varieties of olives are grown in the Languedoc, for both general consumption and pressing into the wonderful golden oil that is so highly valued in the kitchen. There are always one or more vendors at the local markets with mounds of locally-grown olives of every sort: green, black, oil cured, Picholines, Lucques, Négrettes, Noirettes, and more.

Cooperative Oleicole L'OuliboA Visit to the Olive Mill

If you love olives, you won't want to miss a visit to the Coopérative Oléicole L'Oulibo, near the village of Bize-Minervois. L'Oulibo is a growers' cooperative where olives from across the region are brought to be pressed into oil.

L'Oulibo offers guided tours that include a 20 minute film, The "Odyssey Olivier", a chance to see the oil press operation, and stroll through their olive grove, where display panels feature a history of the olive tree. The highlight of your visit will be L'Oulibo's shop, where you can sample all of the many varieties of olives and oil, and pick up a few bottles to take home. The shop also offers a wide range of regionally produced products — soaps, corkscrews and pepper mills made from olive wood, colorful hand-knit scarfs and socks — all perfect for gifts, or to keep yourself as a souvenir of your fabulous cruise week.

Learn more about visiting to Coopérative Oléicole L'Oulibo during your stay on Barge Tango.

Highlights of the Midi: Carcassonne

Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne

A cruise on Canal du Midi wouldn't be complete without a visit to Carcassonne. You will step back in time as you explore the restored medieval fortified town.

Historic Cité de Carcassonne is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The city rests on a hill overlooking the Aude Valley, and has served as a fortified settlement since prehistoric times.  Carcassonne occupies a strategic location, along the ancient routes linking the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It was been held by or ruled over by many different groups throughout history.   The earliest occupation of the site dates to the 6th century BC. Romans fortified the hilltop around 100 BC and occupied the area until the fall of the Roman Empire in western Europe. The fortification was taken over in the fifth century by the Visigoths, who founded the city. Carcassonne gained notoriety in the 13th century as a stronghold of Occitan Cathars, before they were defeated by Simon de Montfort.

In the mid-1800s Carcassonne underwent extensive restoration, a controversial project undertaken by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet-le-Duc began the restoration work by ordering structures destroyed, that over the centuries, had encroached on the ruins of the ancient fortifications.  Many of these structures were themselves quite old, and often were constructed using rubble from the battlements.  The restoration is criticized by some for being less than completely authentic, but there is no doubt that Viollet-Le-Duc's work was genius.

Today Carcassonne provides a wonderful experience for visitors who walk the narrow, car-free streets and tour the restored battlements at the heart of the old city.  Carcassonne is home to several one- and two-Michelin-starred restaurants, an abundance of cafés, as well as enough boutiques and shops to fill the afternoon with exciting retail opportunities.  For a unique before- or after-cruise stay, try one of the hotels located within the walls of the old city.

Learn more about a visit to Carcassonne during your cruise on Barge Tango.

Discover Canal Cruising aboard Barge Tango

Join us to discover the world of luxury barging on the canals of France.  In the weeks to come we will share the secrets of this wonderful method of travel.  We'll give you the inside scoop on cuisine, wines, can't miss visits, and how to plan your own French canal cruise.  Learn more about luxury barge cruises aboard Barge Tango at