Mèze, France. August 2016
Helen Rose Outdoors
Etang de Thau.
Mèze is a small town located in South West France and I spent a day there this summer while visiting the local area. The weather was hot and sunny. Mèze is located on an étang which makes it more interesting as a beach resort. Étang de Thau is the largest of a string of lagoons (étangs) that stretch along the French coast from the Rhône River in the foothills of the Pyrenees on the border to Spain in the Languedoc-Roussillon. Though it has a high salinity, it is considered the second largest lake in France. The beach appears to be like a seaside resort but it is technically a lake and has high salinity being fed from the sea further away. The étangs as the lagoons provide the right sort of environment for wild life such as flamingos. Unfortunately, we did not see any flamingos during our visit.
An important port since Phoenician times, Mèze has always primarily been a fishing town. During the Roman Empire, the town lay on the main Southern route from Italy to Spain – the ‘Via Domitia’. Romans brought wine to the area and left a legacy of architecture including two of the town’s churches. The production of shellfish, especially oysters, has been the mainstay of the Mèze economy for almost a century and the whole Basin de Thau area has built an international reputation for the quality of its seafood including oysters but we did not sample them. We did walk along the beach and lunched at a café overlooking it. What better than to enjoy a leisurely lunch overlooking the sea or more correctly, the lake.
When we arrived by bus to the town, we headed immediately for morning coffee in a café overlooking the harbour. The harbour is the base for the water jousting boats. Water jousting is a sport practiced principally in France but also Switzerland and Germany. It is a form of jousting where the adversaries, carrying a lance and protected only by a shield, stand on a platform on the stern of a boat. The boat is propelled by oarsmen or, in some cases, a motor may be used. The aim of the sport is to send the adversary into the water whilst maintaining one’s own balance on the platform. The jousters stand on a wooden platform on their boats. As the two competing boats draw level with each other, each jouster, protected by their shield, uses their lance to push their opponent off the platform and into the water. The exact rules of the contest vary from region to region and country to country. It takes place annually in Sête probably since the seventeenth century.
Old Town Church
St-Hilaire Church in the old town is a 15/16th century church retouched many times after its reconstructionand is a typical building of Southern Gothic. This church was much altered by the middle of the fifteenth century at the initiative of Etienne de Cambrai, Bishop of Agde. As usual, the interior was lovely and cool after the heat outside.
We only had a short day in Mèze but a lovely contrast to the hill village we were staying in.
Coming attractions, The Rhine and Dornoch.
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