Narbonne, South of France

Columns of beautiful flowers decorated the already beautiful streets that stretch alongside the Canal de la Robine – a UNESCO World Heritage site. We drove in to Narbonne and were pleasantly surprised at the cheap parking in the little mini-carparks just off the main road. We made our way to Les Halles, an indoor market, open every day for locals and tourists alike. Our arms felt warm in the sunshine and our son, usually unfazed by the change in climates, even exclaimed how hot he felt.

The market, which has recently celebrated it’s 100th birthday, is situated in a pavilion with a beautiful facade, featuring ornate pillars and the window panels were covered with a large black and white image of some of the early market stall workers.

Inside, the colours, sights and smells were incredible. Market stallers were super friendly, smiling, speaking English after hearing my accent! Olives, cheeses, cured meats, dried sausages, fresh fish, fresh meats, pastries, bakers, fresh fruit, vegetables… I could go on, but I’m making myself hungry again! The variety was wide and the choices were hard! We bought some goats cheese from a vendor who was very happy to slice the cheese for us as we had forgotten to bring any cutlery with us and we were buying for our lunch. We also bought a pepper-coated dried sausage, I guess the French equivalent to salami. Our son’s addiction to cherry tomatoes was met with some on-the-vine tomatoes which were deep red in colour and very tasty – even for me – a non tomato eater! One of the fruit vendors recommended us some flat nectarines, which were sweet and firm. 

After our tour of the market we wandered along the canal which was lined with trees either side, creating shade. In the gaps between the shade of the tree canopy, they had some colourful blinds of different shapes, adding to the colour and shade. I guess they had the potential to look a bit tacky, but they were done tastefully. The colours weren’t too bold and the shapes were organic and varied in size.

We wandered in the direction of the cathedral which we could see above the treetops. Our children played on the pedestrianised area along the canal and locals seemed to enjoy the laughter and playfullness of our two, with teddy and a doll called Baby (their “imaginatively named comfort toys).

Outside the cathedral was a busker who was brilliant, singing and playing some original and some classic tunes on his guitar. He was skilfully picking and singing away and we stood around enjoying the ambience he had created. Before long, my body cleverly told me I needed a coffee by making my head ache – it’s a clever body, not an addicted one… so we popped over the road for un café. The Petit Train passed us and the kids enjoyed getting some forced waves from some other tourists. 

In the centre of the square there is what looks like a large hole which you can walk down in to. Tourists seemed to be very interested in it, and, having done very little research for this trip. I thought I’d go and investigate! From what I gathered, water used to flow under the city and it was a section of where it passed.

With the sun’s heat relentlessly beating down on us, we found an ice cream boutique where we enjoyed some local flavours. The cassis sorbet is a recommendation!

When we returned to our car we realised that my daughter’s soft doll, Baby, was missing. So I went for a run, backtracking our route and enjoying the fact that more running meant more guilt-free cheese and wine! Amazingly, Baby had been picked up and put on the balaustrades next to the canal, where she appeared to be sunbathing and enjoying the view!

A fleeting visit to Narbonne, but there was so much we were able to take in. We were blown away by the kindness of the locals and how embracing they were of us holidaymakers. If we are back in the region, perhaps without little ones, or when they are older, we will look to explore more of what the city has to offer.

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