I liked Narbonne on first sight last spring. The canal through the heart of town, the architectural mix, the ducal palace, and the acclaimed indoor food market all won me over. I’ve wondered if the town is too quiet; in any case, it’s hardly devoted to my kind of culture: classical music, choral music, opera, art museums and galleries, classical and contemporary dramatic theater. There are historical sites and museums at least. It seems that as for events, pop music rules. Well, it was the home of Charles Trenet, and that must be respected! If you think you don’t know Trenet: bet you know Bobby Darin’s version of La Mer. You can hear Trenet’s own performance on YouTube. And if that makes you think of Paris sidewalks (rather than Narbonne’s) and puts you in the mood for more such French tunes, listen to Trenet’s Que reste-t-il de nos amours?
And for what else there is to like: the canal here, Canal de la Robine, connects the Aude river to the Canal du Midi. Lots of cruising possibilities, bike paths, pleasant walks in this area. Even better, the Mediterranean is but about 9 miles from the heart of town. A single bus ride of 20-30 minutes gets you to beautiful beaches.
So, I’m trying to figure out: do I most love this southern town, with its proximity to the Mediterranean and with its wonderful southern produce, or do I prefer to be somewhere central where I Paris, Burgundy and the Loire are all within easy reach? Starting from Narbonne makes for a long drive or series of trains …
This time, I stayed in an apartment near Trenet’s house, on the opposite side of the railroad tracks from the city hall and the marketplace. It was a comfortable neighborhood with good transportation connections, still very close to everything.
If I were to try to live here, I would probably have to be further from the center of things (for more affordable properties). So, I did more exploring by bus. That showed me what an extensive metropolitan area there is to what I’d thought of as quite a small town. I found neighborhoods to the southeast of downtown very attractive and still easy to get to, easy to get around from. On the other hand, I took a bus to see some of the towns on the way to the coast (that is, not the shortest route, but around to the southwest a bit), and that didn’t appeal to me so much. It was just too much winding road through bare countryside, and a road exposed to the strong winter winds, at that. The area of Sigean, which I’d wanted to check out, has now been checked off.
Weather dot com had warned of dangerously strong winds in Narbonne and Carcassonne in this period, and there were fierce winds at times, but not constantly. One day was too unpleasant for touring at all, while other days could be very cold, hovering around freezing. Of course the town seemed very different without the packed sidewalk cafes, but the indoor market was still buzzing. I bought fresh fish to cook at the apartment and was thrilled to have wild caught fish so fresh and so reasonable. Narbonne is a wonderful city for high-quality food!