Tuesday, 11 July 2017

France: Contrasts in l'Herault

The French school holidays are upon us - where has the year gone? - so last week we dashed away or a few days at the seaside, ostensibly to eat some Bouzigues oysters, but also for a potter around the villages on and around l'Etang de Thau.

Marina at Mèze

Sète was the must see town, although the minute we walked out onto the canal side I realised we'd been here before some thirteen or fourteen years ago with friends. Our overwhelming impression then was that the town was quite possibly the dog shit capital of France and in those days there were many, many contenders for the prize. Fortunately things are much improved, although there is still a lot of work to do in Sète!

Sète was just so busy, stuffed full of tourists as we had expected, and we also steered clear of the beach resorts around Marseilan-Plage after a fruitless search for somewhere to park for free, so it was a pleasure to arrive at Mèze, with its little plage and harbour full of yachts and pleasure craft. 

The town itself was a perfect maze of clean and narrow streets, festooned with flowers and plants.

In search of more of the same we headed inland a few kilometres to the circular small town of Poussan and although the initial approach to the medieval village was fairly modern and business-like, not terribly pretty, but this is a real functioning place not a pseudo theme park like the Cite of Carcassonne. Once we were up and walking around the ancient narrow streets, the contrast with the tourist town of Mèze was marked.

We entered through an arch at the top of the town along the Rue de l'Eglise and into the Place de l'Eglise which also houses the remnants of the chateau, and whilst there was stunning carved stonework around some doors and windows, the whole place felt as though it lacked love. There were few plants or flowers beyond weeds and many of the buildings were in a poor state of repair or had been modernised with a lack of regard for their heritage.

This little town was intriguing with a phenomenal amount of history and architectural interest and yet there was hardly an information board to be found. Without a doubt we were the only tourists wandering around despite it being the first week in July.

The last place we visited on this little tour was Montbazin, dominated by La Chapelle Saint Pierre and its frescos, but I liked the run down nature of this wall of the chateau, now used by the commune as a school.

What a few days of contrasts, and it confirmed my view that the most interesting places are often those not overly striving for tourist footfall. 

Oh, and Bouzigues oysters are right up there! We'll be back.

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