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.
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!
After slowly climbing up the gorge for 5 kms, we arrived at the hamlet of Héric. Amazing that people actually live up here!!!
The wind has finally subsided! And we continue to explore this gorgeous area of Languedoc-.Roussillon…its abbeys and castles and ruins….
And here is how we get there…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was super windy so we hiked up a hill across the road and discovered some ancient (?) ruins among the vineyards.
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…
Well tomorrow is Sunday…we will be off to the market in St. Chinian and then to a hike in the hills….stay tuned….
After saying good-bye to our trusty steeds and a day of riding on trains from Tours to Narbonne (via Bordeaux) we really needed a stroll to get some air. Narbonne is another lovely ancient city with a canal running through the center. It was a major crossroads during Roman times with the Via Domitia connecting The Iberian Peninsula with Rome.
The next morning we visited ‘Les Halles’ (or covered market) where I bought a collection of spices, since we were soon to be heading out in our rental car to our gite in the country just north of Narbonne. We took the back roads and stopped at a few towns along the way…walked along the Canal du Midi in Capestang and a picnic by a vineyard in Puisserguier. Next stop at the SuperMarche to load the car with groceries…wow what a treat that was…no longer limited to a trunk bag on my bike!
Finally we arrived at a very bumpy narrow road that led us down to the Orb River where our little house awaited us. Quelle surprise! It is exactly what we have been looking for for the past few months while researching places to stay in this area!!! Actually even more than we had hoped for! Peaceful, tranquil, on the river with kayaks and a dock, big windows and doors leading onto a patio overlooking the river and green hills, all the amenities for a comfortable stay…and 2 mountain bikes!!!! So we don’t have to give up the cycling yet! The owner, Celine, gave us a heap of red and green peppers, cherry tomatoes , rosemary and thyme from her garden. And the Mediterranean climate is so much warmer than the Loire!
Despite the morning drizzle we went for a stroll around the ‘neighbourhood’ through olive groves and vineyards on a hilltop with views all around to other hilltop towns….Murviel-des-Beziers is our closest…about 5 kms away. It is all so beautiful…I have run out of words…stay tuned for more pictures…