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TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

Old Jul 10th, 2022, 11:20 AM
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Thanks for keeping up the photos and the reports! Uzes indeed has become quite popular for summer homes. I hear it come up frequently in my expat groups. The trip down below the Pont de Gard look fantastic. There are also good views from the top, from the trails. I think I prefer the Arena of Nimes to the one in Arles.

You've made it through the hottest part of France in peak season and survived! It does seem like it is peak season there, from the shots of some of the towns, although there is so much beach in that part of France it doesn't make a difference.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 04:29 AM
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Day 13 : PEZENAS

Sunday is market day in Aigues-Mortes, and my wife is obsessed with markets. After breakfast and an obligatory visit to the market, we finally set off for Pezenas, our home for the next 2 nights.


Aigues Mortes market


While passing through Palavas-les-Flots, I took a wrong turn and landed up on a road right by the water’s edge. However, in a welcome surprise, at this very spot we witnessed the largest flock of flamingos we’ve ever seen. I caught some of the spectacle on camera.



Fishing

... taking off

..and in flight


We made a short stop at the gritty and lively port town of Sete.


Walking towards Sete from the parking lot

Colourful streets of Sete

View from the bridge over a canal in Sete


We made another short stop at Marseillan Plage.


At the beach

Along the palm tree lined boulevard


We finally arrived in Pezenas, and collected the keys to our apartment from our hosts. I had read good things about Pezenas, but it surpassed every expectation – it’s one of the prettiest towns we’ve seen in France, not just the Languedoc.

Many of the buildings / houses in Pezenas feature very interesting doors. So much so that Pezenas even has a museum dedicated to doors (very interesting visit!).





The Door museum

The historic centre is a maze of cobblestone streets and a delight to wander in aimlessly. Pezenas is a gem - we took lots of pictures, here are a few.


Jewish quarter

Charming street

Charming alley

Constant reminders this was Moliere's town

Ice cream break at Marguerite !

Our apartment had kitchen facilities, so we largely self-catered, but I’m aware Pezenas boasts some highly rated restaurants. We slept early, as a busy next day awaited us.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 05:14 AM
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This continues to be fascinating. Your photos of Pezenas show that it has a lot of charm.

Flamingoes, just when you'd given up hope! That gets a day off to a good start.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 05:17 AM
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Sète is indeed a bit gritty, but that's what I like about it. It has not been prettied up artificially like a lot of the other towns.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 05:46 AM
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Love the photos of Sete and Pezenas. I love taking photos of doors, too! Happy you finally got to see some flamingoes!
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 06:03 AM
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Day 14: PEZENAS, EXPLORING THE HERAULT

We had charted out a busy day of driving around the Herault for this morning. Fodorite Stu Dudley’s Languedoc itinerary gave us a lot of great ideas.



Our first stop was the wonderful les plus beaux village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Wow !


Pont du diable at Aniane, en route to St Guilhem

Gellone Abbey

Charming street

Charming street with arch

St Guilhem from afar



We then set off for St Maurice Navacelles to drive the winding D130/717 (these are extremely narrow mountainous roads, so need careful navigation) to Blandas for the glorious Cirque de Navacelles. The Vis river eroded this section of deep valley and created a lake (which eventually dried up). It’s a sight to behold.


View from first belvedere

The tiny village of Navacelles at the bottom of the valley (popn : 350)

View from second belvedere

Rugged terrain, with snakelike roads


We made a short stop at the fortified les plus beaux village of La Couvertoirade.


Walls La Couvertoirade

Inside the village

Inside the village


We then drove south to the man-made Lac du Salagou, with wonderful views from near the ruins of Celles (a town that was evacuated during the creation of the lake). The iron rich soil gives the surrounding hills a distinct Martian red appearance.


Celles, on the shores of Lake Salagou

The iron-rich soil lends a red hue


Our final stop was Moureze. The Cirque De Moureze is a natural park of limestone rocks eroded by wind and water over millions of years, yielding unusual and eccentric shapes. We hiked the easy yellow-trail (Route des Courtinals) which starts at the visitor centre and ends in the village of Moureze. It took us alittle over an hour.


View of the landscape





Finishing up in Moureze !



Admittedly, this was super-active and exhausting day, but ranks amongst our fondest memories of this trip.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 06:41 AM
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Musée de la Porte! Only in France could you expect to find something like that! Pezenas is gorgeous, hadn’t heard of it before. Sète is one of the unexplored little towns on the French Mediterranean coast, but so worth it for this very reason.

DH and I love to take pictures of windows on our travels, need to look at doors too now…
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 07:11 AM
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Hérault is one of my favourite areas. Thanks for these lovely photographs.
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Old Jul 11th, 2022, 07:07 PM
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Once again more memories. We visited all those places in 2014 when we stayed in the Herault near Clermont l'Herault. We also enjoyed Pezenas. Did you have a petit pate de Pezenas ? This is a specialty reputed to originate from Clive of India who used to holiday in Pezenas. We also enjoyed our walk around the Cirque de Moureze. Another lovely area.

You certainly covered a lot of ground and it is nice to see people travelling to regions other than Provence and the Dordogne. There is so much to se all over France.
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 05:25 AM
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Day 15 : COLLIOURE

On a dreary Tuesday morning, we set off on our long drive south to Collioure. We passed through Beziers, and made brief stops at La Franqui beach (near Leucate) and Peyriac-de-Mer (an interesting little town with a wooden walkway circling the lagoon).


Peyriac-de-Mer

Leucate La Franqui beach


Collioure is a tourist magnet (it drew the likes of Matisse and Picasso too!) and was the busiest destination across this trip. Thankfully, our hotel had an onsite secure garage, so I didn’t need to find parking.

The skies were still overcast when we got to Collioure. The two most prominent buildings that immediately catch your eye are the 13th century chateau and the Notre-Dame-des-Anges church, with a tower which once operated as lighthouse.


Chateau Royal

The Eglise with its iconic tower. Those black heads bobbing in the water are French marines who were undergoing diving training !


Thankfully, It began to clear up by afternoon. Collioure’s web of little cobblestone lanes with pastel-coloured buildings (a distinctive Spanish / Catalan flair) are a delight to get lost in.







We then walked along the beach, and hiked up to the old windmill for some sweeping aerial views.


Walking past the beach, windmill and Fort St Elme visible in distance

View of beach from windmill
View of Fort St Elme from top

View of Collioure bay and town from windmill


After we descended, we visited the Cellier Dominicain (wine relieves all fatigue and muscle strain!) which stocks local wines, and used to be a church!


Inside !

Outside


As we returned to the bay, a music concert (with some cover versions performed in English!) was in progress - wonderful setting for some rock music.


The band, onstage

The audience


A few last (and lasting!) impressions, before we called it a night.


Artist studio

Anchovy shop

The pastel hues of Collioure




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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 05:30 AM
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Thank you for all your wonderful comments, and following along.

rhon, I wasn't aware of the Petit pâté de Pézenas (which you'll pardon, as Robert Clive isn't exactly Mr Popular in India . Anyway, you've given me one more reason to return!
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 06:06 AM
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I would be in heaven at a store dedicated to the anchovy.
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 06:26 AM
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I love your photos of Collioure! I remember reading about Collioure in someone's trip report quite a few years ago, and I always wanted to visit. It looks beautiful!

Can you give us a recap of your itinerary? Such as how many nights did you spend in each place?
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 07:23 AM
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Originally Posted by shelemm View Post
I would be in heaven at a store dedicated to the anchovy.
Haha, I was thinking the exact opposite, not where a vegetarian like Anuj, or myself, would like to be! Said in jest shelemm, no offense meant 😃
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 08:37 AM
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ANUJ, any idea who those musicians were? We saw that the ex-Bad Company guitarist lived in that area. Funny thing, the local newspaper got his name wrong in their article and reversed surname with given name! Or, maybe Mick Ralphs did that on purpose, taking the piss by giving the naive journalist his name backwards as such.

Great to see Collioure imagery---not enough here. Merci monsieur.
I am done. End the
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 01:24 PM
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A few more days, and many more wonderful photos. I'm so glad you found the flamingos. I was thinking they knew to hide off the beaten track

Pezanas has gotten really popular, too, i've heard, with prospective expats and tourists (like Uzes). The full streets and polished storefronts contrasted) with the emptiness of the plus beaux villages d'Hereault. We visited a few in Occitanie and marveled at how empty the streets were, even in "high season" I hadn't associated gritty with Sete, but I can now see it (the same with Adge)

I also enjoyed the wonderful shots of the beaches, without a huge amount of development. Some great sandy stretches there. Unfortunately some of the towns have some less than inspired architecture, I found.
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 02:05 PM
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I’m finding your report very interesting, and look forward to your ongoing updates.
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 11:18 PM
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shelemm and geetika, I did find a shop dedicated to a specific fish intriguing. I understand Collioure has a tradition of fishing anchovies and tuna dating back to the Middle Ages, and even celebrates an annual anchovy festival (Fete de l’Anchois)! It reminded me of the Dordogne, where the cuisine centred around a specific bird. But hey - I'm vegetarian,so what do I know?

zebec, unfortunately I don't know. We arrived late (after our little hike to the windmill), so missed the introductions. However, from what we could gauge (there were other performers too), they seemed local talent.

gooster, I agree and we're not particularly fond of beach resort towns either, but only stop to stretch our legs, during long drives.

adelaidean, co-incidentally your Northern Italy TR was very helpful for our trip to the Dolomites back in 2018 - I hope we will go back to that spectacular region !
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Old Jul 12th, 2022, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo View Post
I love your photos of Collioure! I remember reading about Collioure in someone's trip report quite a few years ago, and I always wanted to visit. It looks beautiful!

Can you give us a recap of your itinerary? Such as how many nights did you spend in each place?
I recall reading Collioure described as a "St Tropez, before Brigitte Bardot arrived". While it's certainly discovered and quite overrun by tourists in summer, Collioure does manage to retain its charm.

As regards my full itinerary and sequencing, here it is
CLERMONT FERRAND 1 NIGHT
MONT-DORE 2 NIGHTS
SALERS 2 NIGHTS
LE PUY EN VELAY 1 NIGHT
VALLON PONT D'ARC 1 NIGHT
UZES 3 NIGHTS
ARLES 1 NIGHT
AIGUES-MORTES 1 NIGHT
PEZENAS 2 NIGHTS
COLLIOURE 1 NIGHT
PERPIGNAN 1 NIGHT
NARBONNE 2 NIGHTS
MONTPELLIER 2 NIGHTS
PARIS 2 NIGHTS

As you've figured, our travel style is fast-paced and we prefer moving bases rather than backtracking. I've noticed guidebooks often include Touolouse, Albi, Cordes-sur-Ciel etc. in the Languedoc, but that's stretching the definition. Anyway, we visited a lot of those places at length when holidaying in the Dordogne &, Lot a few years ago, so didn't return.

A notable exclusion this trip is Carcassone (which is certainly worth visiting/staying), and that's only because we've been there (infact spent a night) before.
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 01:36 AM
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Day 16 : PERPIGNAN

Wednesday is market day in Collioure, so no prizes for guessing where we were after breakfast.


Market day in Collioure


We decided to take a long and scenic detour from Collioure (along the Eastern Pyrenees) to finish up in Perpignan, inspired by Fodorite Stu Dudley’s Languedoc itinerary. Our first stop was the les plus beaux village of Castelnou.

Along the way, we pulled up at a viewpoint, from where we could see Mont Canigou and also Castlenou, seemingly nestled in the trees, in the distance.


First views of Castelnou


There was much excitement in Castelnou, at the town square (?) as a dog had seemed to have recently given birth to an adorable litter of pups.


Castelnou

Street in Castelnou, nope that's a cat


Our next stop was Serrabone Priory, way up in the mountains in an indescribably serene location that seemed so far removed from any traces of civilisation.


Serrabone Priory

Views from the grounds


We drove by the beautiful Abbey de St Michel de Cuxa, near Prades.


Abbey in the distance


We headed further west to Villefranche-de-Conflent, another interesting les plus beaux village.


Entering the walled village of Villefranche-de-Conflent

Streets of Villefranche

Square in Villefranche

Shop selling mushrooms, with an attached mushroom museum !


We headed towards Casteil, and circled around in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Abbey St Martin du Canigou from the road, but it eluded us. The (pedestrian only) road to the abbey is very steep and challenging (I hear the first thing you see when you arrive is a defibrillator!) and we couldn’t sync in with the fixed time-slots for visits, so we gave it a miss. The photos look spectacular, so our loss entirely.

We then took the N116 to Ille Sur Tet, refuelled at one of the hypermarkets and continued to Perpignan. We got lucky with free parking just behind our hotel, and checked in. The heatwave finally seemed behind us, and temperatures were back in the high 20s/low 30s (celsius).

Perpignan’s Spanish influences and history are evident as you walk through the town. It’s a large city and visibly rough around the edges - we didn’t veer too far from the centre.


Cathedral

Wall mural !

Colourful street

Colourful street

Le Castilet, the last remaining remnant of Perpignan's walls

Along the quay

Charming square

Last edited by ANUJ; Jul 13th, 2022 at 01:53 AM.
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