Another Rail Trail!

Well it appears that today might be our last day of warm and sunny weather with no wind.  We headed off to the north west of here back into the ‘Montagnes Noirs’ of the Central Massif but this time for a cycling adventure on the ‘Passa Pais’ voie verte (an old converted rail bed).  We started in St. Pons de Thomiere and headed east…although a bit chilly when we started out, it warmed up throughout the day until we were down to T-shirts again!

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We made it to Olargues on the Juar River (which runs just below the trail) for our picnic…an ancient city inhabited at one time by the Visigoths, Vandals and then Romans.

The vistas from the trail were beautiful…and yes, you can see Mount Caroux in the background which is where we hiked in the Gorges a few days ago.

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The bees were busy in this late blooming heather…

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Capitelles and windmills

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Today was another bluebird walking/hiking day…in T-shirts!!!  There was no wind so we went to the top of the limestone escarpment above St. Chinian and this is what we saw…

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Lots of ‘dry stone’  (I.e., no mortar) walls some of them up to 4 meters across…and quite a few shelters also built ‘dry stone’ style called ‘capitelles’ or ‘borias’.

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And more beautiful scenery…

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Beziers

Today it was back to the Canal du Midi where we cycled to Beziers from Columbiers to have a look at the famous Nine step locks…quite a feat of engineering to accomplish back in the 1600’s!  Another lovely picnic in the sunshine beside the canal and then back past Columbiers to have a look at the tunnel and the view of the Montady drainage area.

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And tonight another BBQ…

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Les Gorges d’Héric

Yesterday we ventured back up into the Massif Central which are the mountains just about 30 kms north of here.  We had read some rave reviews about this hike through the Heric River gorge on TripAdvisor so thought it would be worthwhile….and it was fabulous!

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After slowly climbing up the gorge for 5 kms, we arrived at the hamlet of Héric.  Amazing that people actually live up here!!!

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More sunny days…

The wind has finally subsided!  And we continue to explore this gorgeous area of Languedoc-.Roussillon…its abbeys and castles and ruins….

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And here is how we get there…

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Today we drove to St. Pierre de la Mer, one of the many beaches south of here on the Mediterranean Sea.  We cycled a very lovely loop through vineyards and pine forest at the base of some limestone cliffs and then back along the beach.

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#5 of the Top 10 places to Retire!!! (From CNBC website)

5. Saint-Chinian, France

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Vineyards near Saint Chinian, France.
Paul Atkinson | Getty Images

In the true south of the country on the shores of the Mediterranean, this town of about 2,000 residents is a bustling market town popular with locals who come from all around the region to taste the locally grown produce and artisan goods — a truly French experience. Though it may be small, Saint-Chinian has everything you need for daily life — local produce shops, restaurants, bars, doctor’s office, dentist, pharmacy, a health shop, wine cellars — yet it is still a small, charming little town, barely more than a village, typical of the region and packed with history and lots to see and do.

What else do expats cite as the reasons they chose this part of the world for retirement? Better weather tops the list for the mainly British and northern European expat population seeking bluer skies, but also the opportunity for more outdoor living… good-quality, fresh food… fantastic and accessible art, history, and culture… dependable and high-quality health care… beautiful and varied countryside… good infrastructure yet little to no traffic… and, above all, a slower pace of life that comes inherent with this tranquil, peaceful town.

La Joie de Vivre

Living in France!  What a concept…even if it is only for a few weeks.  We have settled into a ‘home-away-from-home’ routine that fits us to a “T”!

Although we don’t have croissants with our coffee every morning, when we do, it is always a real treat.

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Every day we plan either a hiking or cycling adventure including a picnic and sometimes visiting a new town to explore its cathedrals and castles/roman ruins and often it’s market day.

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The best ‘marché’ we have found is the Sunday market in St. Chinian…wow!  So many kinds of olives and olive oils to taste (the Lucques or Luccas are my fave!)  and cheeses…cow, goat and sheep.  A huge head of butter lettuce and some handfuls of fresh arugula (roquette) provide us with a weeks’ worth of salads!  The leeks are superb in omelets and rabbit stew.

We have cycled a few more kilometres on the Canal du Midi…very lovely with gorgeous views of the snow capped Pyrénées!  But prospective cyclists beware…it is quite a rough track and in places quite narrow…we are VERY glad we did not bring our touring bikes and it is wonderful that our hosts where we are staying are providing us with super light and fully equipped mountain bikes!  If only we had not sent our bike shorts back to Hilversum!  Oh well, the days are getting shorter so we don’t have as many hours in the saddle anyway.

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The mountain bikes have also allowed us to explore the rail trails, side roads and vineyard paths up to hilltops with long and beautiful views.

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Today was super windy so we hiked up a hill across the road and discovered some ancient (?) ruins among the vineyards.

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And yesterday we met an elderly Frenchman walking his dog….and his goat!

and then there is the foraging….today we discovered delicious ‘raisins on the vine’ and almonds…

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Well tomorrow is Sunday…we will be off to the market in St. Chinian and then to a hike in the hills….stay tuned….