Thursday, October 6, 2022
HomeTravel WritingLights, Flamingoes and a Fortified City.

Lights, Flamingoes and a Fortified City.

 So what occurred there?? I had half a dozen pictures and a half written put up about some fascinating issues in London, however we have been simply off to France, so I saved it and went off to catch the Eurostar.  My plan was to publish the London put up on my return, and take my time writing about France.

BUT, on my return from France, each footage and textual content in regards to the London stuff had gone! I do not perceive it… however anyway right here I’m –  and I’ll write about France proper now.  

We glided by prepare, one thing we’re aiming to do extra of, partly for eco causes, partly as a result of it is so stress-free but additionally as a result of when travelling on the Continent, stopovers may be such enjoyable.   So, three hours after boarding in London, we have been in Paris, the place we’d spend our first evening.    

To be trustworthy, I might fallen a bit out of affection with Paris the final time we went, which have to be ten years in the past now.  It had appeared soiled and traffick-y, and first impressions of the bear-garden that was the Gare du Nord did not recommend something had modified.  

However it had!  

 We took the metro throughout city to an cheap little lodge very close to the Gare de Lyon prepare station. I used to be positive the realm had been a little bit of a dump, ten years in the past. However now, the Gare de Lyon was within the throes of an enormous renovation.  Wow!  Under is an image of some splendid murals exhibiting a few of the attractive locations you’ll be able to attain from it by prepare, (or might attain round 100 years in the past after they have been painted.) They’re doing a lovely job of the renovation, and all of it seemed fantastic. I needed I might be standing below the tree within the far proper panel and look out throughout that azure sea.

This space can also be close to the Coulée verte, a railway line now made right into a linear backyard and chasing away the faint aura of grime and drabness that I had recalled.  And all of the street-clogging site visitors that had bothered me a lot earlier than had been changed with – properly, the sight and sound of individuals.  Some on bikes, however primarily simply strolling round. There is no such thing as a doubt that Paris has made actual progress in direction of its purpose of turning into a inexperienced metropolis.  

It was nice how the previous streets mirrored sounds of voices and laughter, not site visitors,  and I nearly fancied that the ambiance might need been comparable when all these well-known and soon-to-be-famous painters have been hanging out in Paris on the flip of the final century.  It actually felt like a pleasant, full of life, artistic place to be.

My pal and fellow blogger Jeanie had impressed on me that we should see Atelier des Lumières, a sound-and-light present in an previous foundry. Its programmes normally centre on painters with a reference to Paris – and there definitely have been a whole lot of these. The current fundamental programme options Cezanne, the shorter one is about Kandinsky, and the theatre’s about half an hour’s stroll from our lodge. It had a late opening, so we arrived round 9 PM to seek out it fairly busy with folks coming and going. 

Jeanie has described her personal impressions of the place right here, and I hope you will take pleasure in studying it.  As she says, it is an immersive all-round expertise.  You might be free to wander round in a big area with pillars and large partitions, an extended gallery above the primary concourse, and even a type of railed water pond in a single nook (one thing to do with it being an previous foundry, I assume.)   The imagery is projected in all places, and at occasions the entire place appears to maneuver round you or sweep you away with it.

I assumed the musical accompaniment was terrific – each piece properly chosen and all of it properly carried out.  Although you do must be there to get the complete impact, here is a clip of one in all my favorite components.   It’s a few minutes of the Cezanne programme, carried out to the music of the Savages’  Dance in Rameau’s opera-ballet “Les Indes Galantes”.  

It was value lacking a night meal for – in truth we stayed to see a few of it twice – however I needed we might organized to remain longer in Paris, as a result of there have been additionally some very nice, pleasant, fascinating and cheap eating places on the way in which to it.   Nonetheless, subsequent day we have been as a result of take the prepare to what’s usually one of many sunniest cities in France – Montpellier.  

As we rushed by way of the countryside at 200 km an hour, although,  I could not assist noticing that the superbly sunny Paris climate was regularly giving option to greyer and greyer skies … and as we drew into Montpellier, the home windows really started to streak with rain. By the point we have been out of the station, chilly rain was falling steadily. How had I managed to decide on one of many few occasions within the yr when Montpellier’s climate was as dismal as London at its glummest? AND I might made the elemental mistake of arriving all able to sightsee on Monday, the day in France the place nearly the whole lot is closed!  I put it right down to the truth that I’m merely off form in reserving journeys overseas after two  years of Covid.  

There was little level in making an attempt to look spherical Montpellier in freezing drizzle with no person round and nowhere to go indoors.   So we drove to our Airbnb, which was good sufficient, an residence in a contemporary villa about 15 km out of city, & we hoped the climate would enhance subsequent day…

Oh, expensive.  It appeared that in the entire of Europe, solely Spain had worse climate than us.  Nonetheless, it had stopped raining despite the fact that the gale drive winds have been nonetheless arctic, not that the flamingoes feeding within the salt marshes within the coastal space Mageleone appeared too bothered.   It was all a bit like November on the Essex coast, the place the winds rush over the ocean from Russia.  Fairly good, actually, when you imagined it as that, and there have been additionally white peacocks, which I do not assume you get on the Essex coast.  

 However I used to be feeling drained – a legacy I consider my Covid an infection, which had cleared up however nonetheless returns from time to time for just a few hours.  I wasn’t within the temper for Maguelone’s massive attraction,  a huge medieval abbey, constructed on a spit of land within the sea.  It’s a place of excessive darkish ceilings, lengthy flights of historical stone steps, and intense spirituality. Though it is partly restored, and does a minimum of have electrical gentle, its ambiance continues to be very austere.  The Mates of the Cathederal have been working a restaurant close by, and it was packed, however they appeared to quite take pleasure in telling us we have been too late after we turned up determined. 

I am glad to say that I felt higher the following day and the climate reverted to its standard sunny self. It stayed vibrant (although not that heat) for the remainder of our journey.  On our first day, we took a six or seven mile stroll to a neighbouring village, Murviel-lès-Montpellier, which has Roman ruins, a pleasant village store, good woodland, a number of quaint previous corners and fascinating previous buildings ….

and some curious characters.  

 It was a great way of getting a really feel for the realm at this explicit time of yr, and despite the fact that we received misplaced within the woods on the way in which again, it was nonetheless a superb day.    Subsequent day we visited what turned out to be one in all my favorite locations on the journey.   Sète is among the Occitanie area’s fundamental ports. It has a small community of canals, numerous fascinating boats, fishermen historical…. 


and trendy….

It’s a relaxed, laid again place, the place you’re feeling folks come to take pleasure in themselves. The climate was not but proper for being on the seaside, however there’s a nice sweep of blue flag seaside which is a giant attraction within the season. We have been comfortable simply exploring.  The spotlight might need been a scrumptious lunch within the good little restaurant you’ll be able to see within the image beneath: LA MAISON VERTE – stomach of pork casserole for me and asparagus for T.   It was a superb meal however the primary factor for me was merely sitting out within the solar in a tranquil French sq., with a powerful sculpture of an octopus to take a look at. 

 I do not assume I’ve ever seen a sculptured octopus earlier than. It was half of a giant fountain,  with two water-spouting dolphins, a transparent reference to Sète’s fishing trade.

T and I spent a very long time taking footage of this octopus. The sculptor, Pierre Nocca, did a tremendous job  contemplating octopi are so wriggly, aquatic and boneless, and it’s genuinely imposing. Which makes it appear unhappy that one of many native delicacies is octopus pie.    The pies look good, however I did not strive consuming one.   Octopuses are very clever and I’m advised that when you get to know them you discover they’re actual characters, as a lot as a cat or canine can be. Nonetheless, I used to be preventing a lonely battle in Sète about this.

 the city additionally had one of many nicest icecream outlets I’ve seen. Would not anybody wish to have one in all these? 

There have been additionally adverts round for a neighborhood biscuit made within the form of one of many shields utilized by opponents within the outstanding sport of water jousting, well-liked within the area.

I did not see it as the large event is on 25 August, however I discovered this on Youtube.   It seems to be a bit sluggish and a bit tough however I might like to see these stunning boats taking pictures alongside the canals in actual life. 

  Sète was in hanging distinction with Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, which we visited on one other day.  This historical place is within the gorges of Hérault, away from the flat coastal area, and in an space of massive craggy wooded hills and cliffs.    Its title means “St Guilhem the Abandoned” and its enormous abbey, a website of pilgrimage, was established there within the Center Ages as a result of it was so distant and inaccessible.  

It is now not abandoned, and in reality I feel it might develop into uncomfortably crowded within the peak of the vacationer season, however it was fairly pleasant after we went.  Under is an image taken in the primary sq., exhibiting a part of the abbey on the appropriate hand facet. 


For those who look very intently certainly on the prime of the tallest crag within the image, you might spot ruins – the locals have named them the “Giants Citadel”  and created a fantastic legend about them, however in actuality they’re very previous fortifications overlooking the entire space. We walked up one of many slim, stony donkey paths within the hills and received a tremendous view of the village (beneath).  You’ll be able to see extra of the Large’s Citadel on the left, however you are warned to not climb as much as it as a result of it’s now unstable.

 On one other day we went southeast of Montpellier to Agues-Mortes, the place the Camargue area begins. The Camargue has miles of salt marsh designated as a Ramsar Wetland Website and we’d have favored to discover it extra.  We had glimpsed a few of its attribute salt marsh and flamingoes at Maguelone, however it and Aigues-Mortes are too close to Montpellier and are too constructed as much as provide glimpses of the wild horses or bull ranches for which the realm can also be well-known.  We solely caught just a few glimpses down forgotten facet roads of a unique and older panorama of reeds and water, which I discovered very engaging.  This is a spot exterior a farm close to Aigues-Mortes. 

So, Aigues-Mortes (thought to imply “Useless Water” within the Latin of the Romans who lived there first) is a  well-and-truly fortified city.  

It has 4 gates, that are open to motor site visitors since folks really stay inside – as a result of it’s a correct city in there, or a minimum of a big village.  And the native folks want their automobiles and outlets and church.   The guests, in fact, must stroll.

And here is a map of the place – it’s a first rate measurement however you’ll be able to see how contained it’s.  It should appear very unusual to be there in the event that they ever put the portcullises down. 

I favored this lighthouse, which was added onto one of many monumental towers just a few centuries in the past and should have supplied a welcome however dim and flickering gentle in a storm. 

After which, we discovered we had run out of days.    I needed we might stayed longer and explored extra. I actually do assume Covid has narrowed my horizons greater than I realised.  I had, in some unusual method, nearly forgotten that you might get on the prepare and go elsewhere, and I might booked our tickets again to London far too quickly for my style.

Now I am eager to take a look at the concept of one other prepare journey to France, maybe in autumn, and maybe even getting so far as Italy or Spain.  It nonetheless blows my thoughts to assume I can cycle to the prepare station in London, catch a prepare, step out into the center of Paris just a few hours later and be all able to catch a prepare to the centre of Biarritz or Barcelona.   

Vive l’Eurostar!



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