Sunday, January 29, 2023
HomeTravel WritingLights, Flamingoes and a Fortified City.

Lights, Flamingoes and a Fortified City.

 So what occurred there?? I had half a dozen images and a half written submit 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 submit on my return, and take my time writing about France.

BUT, on my return from France, each photos and textual content concerning 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 will be such enjoyable.   So, three hours after boarding in London, we have been in Paris, the place we’d spend our first night time.    

To be sincere, I would 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 counsel something had modified.  

Nevertheless 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 world 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 among the engaging locations you may attain from it by prepare, (or may attain round 100 years in the past after they have been painted.) They’re doing a ravishing job of the renovation, and all of it regarded fantastic. I needed I may very well be standing beneath 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 dust 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 – nicely, the sight and sound of individuals.  Some on bikes, however primarily simply strolling round. There isn’t a doubt that Paris has made actual progress in the direction of its purpose of changing into a inexperienced metropolis.  

It was nice how the outdated streets mirrored sounds of voices and laughter, not site visitors,  and I nearly fancied that the ambiance might need been related 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, inventive place to be.

My buddy and fellow blogger Jeanie had impressed on me that we should see Atelier des Lumières, a sound-and-light present in an outdated foundry. Its programmes normally centre on painters with a reference to Paris – and there definitely have been a whole lot of these. The current important 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 individuals coming and going. 

Jeanie has described her personal impressions of the place right here, and I hope you may get pleasure from 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, a protracted gallery above the principle concourse, and even a form of railed water pond in a single nook (one thing to do with it being an outdated foundry, I assume.)   The imagery is projected in all places, and at instances the entire place appears to maneuver round you or sweep you away with it.

I assumed the musical accompaniment was terrific – each piece nicely chosen and all of it nicely carried out.  Despite the fact that you do should be there to get the total 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 actual fact we stayed to see a few of it twice – however I needed we would 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 resulting from take the prepare to what’s usually one of many sunniest cities in France – Montpellier.  

As we rushed by means of the countryside at 200 km an hour, although,  I could not assist noticing that the superbly sunny Paris climate was progressively giving option to greyer and greyer skies … and as we drew into Montpellier, the home windows truly 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 instances within the 12 months when Montpellier’s climate was as dismal as London at its glummest? AND I would made the basic mistake of arriving all able to sightsee on Monday, the day in France the place nearly every part is closed!  I put it right down to the truth that I’m merely out of form in reserving journeys overseas after two  years of Covid.  

There was little level in attempting 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, pricey.  It appeared that in the entire of Europe, solely Spain had worse climate than us.  Nonetheless, it had stopped raining regardless that the gale power 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 at times for a couple of hours.  I wasn’t within the temper for Maguelone’s huge 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 remains to be very austere.  The Associates of the Cathederal have been working a restaurant close by, and it was packed, however they appeared to quite get pleasure from telling us we have been too late after we turned up determined. 

I am glad to say that I felt higher the subsequent day and the climate reverted to its ordinary 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 outdated corners and fascinating outdated buildings ….

and some curious characters.  

 It was a great way of getting a really feel for the world at this explicit time of 12 months, and regardless that we obtained misplaced within the woods on the way in which again, it was nonetheless a very good day.    Subsequent day we visited what turned out to be one in all my favorite locations on the journey.   Sète is likely one of the Occitanie area’s important ports. It has a small community of canals, plenty of fascinating boats, fishermen historical…. 


and fashionable….

It’s a relaxed, laid again place, the place you are feeling individuals come to get pleasure from themselves. The climate was not but proper for being on the seashore, however there’s a nice sweep of blue flag seashore which is an enormous attraction within the season. We have been pleased simply exploring.  The spotlight might need been a scrumptious lunch within the good little restaurant you may see within the image under: LA MAISON VERTE – stomach of pork casserole for me and asparagus for T.   It was a very good meal however the principle factor for me was merely sitting out within the solar in a tranquil French sq., with a powerful sculpture of an octopus to have a look at. 

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

T and I spent a very long time taking photos of this octopus. The sculptor, Pierre Nocca, did a high-quality 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 informed 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 combating a lonely battle in Sète about this.

 the city additionally had one of many nicest icecream outlets I’ve seen. Would not anybody prefer 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, standard within the area.

I did not see it as the massive match is on 25 August, however I discovered this on Youtube.   It appears a bit sluggish and a bit tough however I would like to see these stunning boats taking pictures alongside the canals in actual life. 

  Sète was in placing 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 huge craggy wooded hills and cliffs.    Its identify means “St Guilhem the Abandoned” and its large abbey, a web site 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 actually I feel it may turn into uncomfortably crowded within the peak of the vacationer season, but it surely was fairly pleasant after we went.  Under is an image taken in the principle sq., exhibiting a part of the abbey on the suitable hand facet. 


Should you look very intently certainly on the prime of the tallest crag within the image, chances are you’ll spot ruins – the locals have named them the “Giants Citadel”  and created a fantastic legend about them, however in actuality they’re very outdated fortifications overlooking the entire space. We walked up one of many slender, stony donkey paths within the hills and obtained a high-quality view of the village (under).  You possibly can 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 appreciated to discover it extra.  We had glimpsed a few of its attribute salt marsh and flamingoes at Maguelone, but it surely 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 world can also be well-known.  We solely caught a couple of glimpses down forgotten facet roads of a special and older panorama of reeds and water, which I discovered very engaging.  Here 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 individuals truly reside inside – as a result of it’s a correct city in there, or a minimum of a big village.  And the native individuals want their vehicles and outlets and church.   The guests, in fact, should stroll.

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

I appreciated this lighthouse, which was added onto one of many huge towers a couple of centuries in the past and will need to have provided a welcome however dim and flickering gentle in a storm. 

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

Now I am eager to have a look at the thought 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 a couple of hours later and be all able to catch a prepare to the centre of Biarritz or Barcelona.   

Vive l’Eurostar!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments