Helen Rose Outdoor Diary: Languedoc
I have been to the Languedoc in France many times on visits but never when it has been so hot. This summer they had several heatwaves or Canicules as they are called there. This part of France is so steeped in history that there are always new places to explore with lovely little villages on the hills. The Languedoc is in the central part of the South of France on the Mediterranean Sea. Today it produces more than a third of the grapes in France. This year may not be a good harvest as the heatwaves have affected the vines adversely. The local second language is Occitan. It is a convenient place to visit as it is only a two and a half hour flight from Edinburgh to the tiny airport at Beziers.
Being near the Mediterranean Sea, we went to the beach near Vias. Vias Plage is a quiet beach, ideal for children and adults alike with shallow warm waters and golden sand. It is certainly one of the best Languedoc beaches – sheltered and easily accessible even in the height of summer. Vias Plage is situated close to the Southern French city of Biezers. It has some of the warmest water on the Languedoc coast. We walked along the edge of the water one very quiet in the morning. For lunch, we went to the supermarket café near Marseillan which offers an excellent choice of food and keeps up the French tradition of quality food, buckets of mussels, olives, good bread and wonderful cakes plus much more…. The problem is that replete with food an afternoon nap was required! In the evening we walked around the vineyards to feed the pet donkeys nearby. One little white one was bullied by the others so had to stay on his own.
We went to see a friend Eric at Gabion who makes dolls houses www.lansdown-arts.com His workshop is based in a very old building in the village and was once the Bishop’s House. Gabion means a basket or container filled with earth, stones, or other material and used in civil engineering works or (formerly) fortifications. This could be why the name was given to the village. Eric’s dolls houses are very ornate and built in the French fashion of an expensive house.
Another day, we drove to the Millau Bridge designed in 2002 by Lord Norman Foster, a prominent British architect. The bridge was built between two hills to take the traffic away from the village in the valley and has been very successful. It is the tallest bridge in the world with one of its masts 343 metres high – it is a cable-stayed bridge. It looks like a smaller version of the Queensferry Crossing over the Forth River in Scotland which resembles a ship with sails. The masts there are a mere 273 metres high!
Saint- Rome de Tarn
On a very hot day we travelled to Saint- Rome de Tarn. The village was fortified in the eleventh century to resist invasions and part of these ramparts remain visible. It is fascinating seeing property for sale in these French villages that was built in the 17th century. After a lovely lunch in the café we explored the village before going down to the river which is fairly wide and good for swimming. There is a cordoned off part for safe swimming with a lifeguard. Suddenly, the safe area emptied of swimmers as there was a snake in the water. The lifeguard quickly caught it, removed it and everyone went into the water again. We walked along the bank of the river to the waterfall in the shade of the trees and had an al fresco dinner at the riverside.
Market at Pezenas
On the last day, we went to the market at Pezenas which is a very pretty town. The market was busy with not only fruit, vegetables, lots of olives, cheese, cold meats but also clothes and more. I bought some bags of lavender to hang around the house. It was too hot to linger long and we made for a shaded café to meet friends and indulge in fancy cakes from the local patisserie. At the weekend was Bastille Day and is mostly celebrated on the Saturday nearest to 14 July. When we returned to the village, there was a brasucade on the square which is the regional (Languedoc) word for food cooked on a wood-fired grill (usually vine stumps, souche) are burned and sausages etc are cooked over it. A singer entertained. Since the public areas of the village, particularly the Square, were modernised it has lost some of its character but it is still great to visit. No matter how many times I go back to the area, there are still more places to visit in this lovely corner of France.
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Thanks to Phil Vine for the photo of Vias Beach.
This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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