Béziers to Carcassonne
This is a sample itinerary for the cooking enthusiast who wishes to develop some culinary skills during their week on the water.
We can tailor this week, depending on what our passengers are interested to learn and their skill levels. They will also be taught basic knife skills, food handling and the importance of presentation of the dishes prepared.
Sunday – Béziers.
A champagne reception welcomes you on board and gives you a chance to meet the crew. During this first evening there is an opportunity to talk with the chef and discuss your cooking interests and you will discover what you will prepare during your week on board. Later that evening, enjoy your first dining experience on board.
Monday – Cruise to Capestang. Lunch preparation Quiche & Terrine .Tour Oppidum d’Enserune. Cooking lesson Tarte au Citron and Caramel sauce.
A morning cruise along the beautiful Canal du Midi to Capestang. The Canal is one of the most beautiful in France, with many locks, bridges and tunnels. This morning we start with our first cookery lesson in the well equipped kitchen of the Alouette, we are preparing lunch today and learning how to cook the classic French Quiche Lorriane and also a county style terrine, which is very popular in this area.
In the afternoon, visit Oppidum d’Enserune, a pre-Roman hill-top settlement and one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. The top of the hill affords a panoramic view of the pond of Montady drained in 1247 and transformed into a curious pattern of cultivation. Return to the barge, and continue with the cookery lessons, this afternoon we will prepare a wonderful lemon tart served with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Perfect for your dessert tonight on board.
Tuesday – Cruise to Le Somail. Prepare a Gazpacho summer soup. Visit Abbaye de Fontfroide. Lesson Rack of lamb and red wine and tarragon sauce.
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast as you take in the grandeur and beauty of the Canal du Midi, with its fine locks, buildings and aqueducts, scarcely changed from their completion over 300 years ago. During the morning, there will be chance to return to the kitchen and prepare a summer soup – an avocado and cherry tomato gazpacho which we present in a long tall glass for maximum effect! After lunch, visit l’Abbaye de Fontfroide, a Cistercian monastery founded in the 11th century. Now privately owned, the abbey has been lovingly restored with a well-kept garden and peaceful cloister.
On the way back to the boat, stop at Château Auris for a wine tasting. Tonight Rack of lamb is on the menu, this can be a tricky dish to cook correctly and we learn how to marinate and prepare this dish, also served with this is a rich sauce made with red wine and tarragon that goes wonderfully with this meat.
Wednesday – Visit Narbonne and the market. Cruise to Homps. Preparation of Bourride.
This morning, experience the wonderful covered market in Narbonne with the chef, help choose the ingredients for dinner tonight. The market is ablaze with colours, smells and sounds, it is a truly amazing sight. Narbonne is a lively Mediterranean city playing an important role as a wine-producing centre. The municipal, military and religious architecture, the river banks of the Robine and its shaded boulevards, all contribute to its charm. Enjoy lunch at a bistro just in front of the market, which specializes in local seafood fresh from the Mediterranean sea, just a few miles away.
Then return to the barge for an afternoon’s cruise to the port at Homps. Tonight, with the fish we purchased at the market we prepare the local delicacy – Bourride, this is a stunning dish made with fresh local vegetables and finished at the last minute with the addition of monkfish and mussels and served with a garlic mayonnaise.
Thursday –Visit Minerve. Cruise to Trebes. Mediterranean cooking lesson
After breakfast, visit Minerve, an old village on a limestone cliff, which dominates the vineyards below. Its now ruined castle was once a Cathar stronghold besieged and captured by Simon de Montfort. This village is full of history of days gone by. On the way back to the boat stop at Peyriac-Minervois for a wine tasting. Return to the barge for lunch and then enjoy the ever changing views from the comfort of the deck or perhaps walk or cycle along the tow path.
There is another cookery lesson planned this afternoon, using produce purchased from the market, we learn all about Mediterranean style cooking, with the emphasis on light fresh ingredients using olive oil, herbs and vegetables. Tonight we moor in the pretty town of Trebes.
Friday – Cruise to Carcassonne. Visit Carcassonne. Cassoulet lunch. Fresh Pasta making
Finish the week with a tour of Europe’s largest medieval fortress – Carcassonne. Explore the intricate fortifications of the two castellated walls, one inside the other, about a mile in circumference. The views from the battlements towards the Pyrenées are stunning. Visit the Cathedral remarkable for its stained glass rose windows, elegant Romanesque nave and Gothic transepts. Carcassonne is famous for the dish Casssolet, it is a casserole combining beans and sausages, we visit a restaurant in the old Cite and the chef explains how this dish is made and we stay here for lunch.
Mean while the chef is busy preparing for your final cookery lesson, homemade pasta. Pasta is an amazing dish, very easy to prepare and so versatile, we prepare a ravioli filled with some seafood, and then prepare a white wine reduction sauce, a scattering of baby vegetable and sprinkled with fresh dill. A perfect dish to finish the week with. There is a farewell gala dinner on board.
Saturday – Carcassonne.
After breakfast disembark and transfer to the local train station. (If you wish to make alternative transfer arrangements, please discuss your requirements at the time of booking.)