Languedoc, Minerve and Villeneuvette June 2014
Helen Rose Outdoors
On my most recent visit to the Languedoc in France, the weather was very wet and every day we looked at the weather forecast to find the driest places to visit. We visited Villeneuvette and Minerve, both very interesting places historically in the region and located in very pretty countryside. Although our village was very wet during my stay, I still enjoy the morning visit to the bakers for fresh bread for breakfast. There is nothing like the baguettes and fougasse loaves fresh from the baker’s oven in France. A is now in charge of the trip to the bakers and I am the assistant shopper! Unfortunately, it was too wet to sit out on the terrace with our aperitifs looking over the rooftops to the vineyards.
Our first trip was to Minerve which was the Cathare stronghold and is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France, perched high at the junction of the gorges of Brian and the Cesse. It is located near the Canal du Midi which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is surrounded by the Minervois vineyards. In fact, during July and August, it is possible to meet the wine producers and taste their wines at the Olanzac market in front of the Tourist Office. On the way to the village we stopped to admire flowers that were exclusive to the area.
In the 13th century, Simon de Montfort laid siege, to the impregnable fortress village. Four catapults were set up around the village, -three towards the city gates and the fourth – the largest named “Malevoisine” to destroy the well. The village was well protected with double surrounding walls, and overhanging ledges; but this did not stop the fear that Montfort gave. For the Viscount Guilhem of Minerve knew that the 200 men of his garrison couldn’t resist the onslaught, if the gates should fall. He saved the villagers and his self. Little is left of the fortress, except for the “candela” – a single slender octagonal tower. Minerve is a hodge-podge of narrow alleys, topped by a simple 12th century church. Nearby is a charming museum of full of figurines showing the history of the Cathars and Minerve.
The following day we left the rain behind in the village to go to Villeneuvette. It lies close to the town of Clermont l’Hérault. Villeneuvette is a small village made up of a group of buildings initially erected in the 17th century to create a royal clothmaking factory and provide accommodation for its workers. Apart from a hotel and restaurant, the buildings are now restricted to residential use, many for holiday purposes. Creation of Villeneuvette was promoted in 1677 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert the noted finance minister of King Louis XIV. It was one of his many initiatives to develop France’s industrial base. Power for the factory was hydraulic with water supplied via different water courses from existing basins. The factory was privately owned and produced cloth for the king including uniforms for his armies. The factory was in existence until 1955. Since 1995 the village has been classified as a “Zone de Protection du Patrimoine et du Paysage” recognising the originality and importance of its heritage. The original inscription above the gateway was “MANUFACTURE ROYALE” but was later rather crudely changed by the Republic to “HONNEUR AU TRAVAIL” – Honour in work.
We walked through the gateway to a charming square and then along the main street and up some stairs to start the walk to the main basin of water. It was an interesting walk through the trees to the basin along by a water course. I had noticed some French ramblers in walking boots and with walking poles. I was not equipped and did the walk in fashion brogues. Surprisingly, they survived the rougher walking over tree roots! The village is a model and in Scotland we have New Lanark created by David Dale along similar lines to Villeneuvette
On our way back to the village from Minerve we stopped at a winery. No visit to France is complete without a wine buying trip as this is the home of fine wines. Hopefully on my next visit to France, the weather will be kinder to us.
Coming attractions: Ailsa Craig, Trossachs Three Lochs and Venice.
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