The Pig Yard

South of France 2003...

Holiday Locations

Our holiday to the South of France was one that neither of us were really looking forward to. Nothing had seemed to be easy about organising the trip, we were both stressed, Steve especially and the idea of travelling to Stanstead late in the afternoon then landing at Montpellier in the dark, driving for nearly an hour on unknown roads on the "wrong" side of the road was quite daunting but we needn't have been concerned.

We arrived in Cazouls d'Herault just after 23:00 to find our hosts had left a fridge full of food and a welcoming French stick with all home comforts. The following morning with the sun beating down and a leisurely start life started to take on a whole new meaning.

Jane slipped into her shorts and posed by the pool with the certainty that we would be sampling its delights before the day was over.

The villa was on the edge of the village with French neighbours on either side which was really nice because we'd imagined that we might be part of a complex or new estate.

The hire car is a Skoda, yes Steve demeaned himself to drive a Skoda in preference to a Ford Fiesta however the air conditioning may have influenced his final choice or perhaps he was just too tired to care.

Cazouls is a very small village with only a Post Office and a church to boast of as its civic amenities. We participated in the former but left the latter to the locals.

There was a village square with cool, shady trees and some seats where we sat whilst waiting for the Post Office to open. We kept forgetting that everywhere closed between 12:00 and 15:00, during the hottest part of the day - "mad dogs and Englishmen". If you look closely at the picture you can see the bikes propped up against the seat.

The church in Cazouls was pretty enough with a pleasant tower and unusual rounded end wall however it held hidden "delights" as we discovered on out first night.

The church clock strikes every hour and half hour, on the hour it chimes the number of hours and then two minutes later it does it all over again. It seems to be designed for those people who never listen the first time and say " how many chimes was that?", two minutes later there it is again. This is not good if your having troubling sleeping because it's a "strange" bed and it's too hot.

The town of Beziers seemed to be worth a visit and the guide books talked of mediaeval charm so we thought we would make the thirty minute drive. This was the first major town Steve had driven into and he had some concerns when he kept looking across to his navigator for support only to find her in gentle repose with eyes closed behind sunglasses.

The town itself was a bit of a disappointment but it did have some pleasant squares, avenues and rues. Jane found the equivalent of a car boot sale outside a local church and she was desperate to bring back some "collectables" for which Steve interpreted in Anglo Saxon as junk.

Beziers introduced us to the concept of "Rue de dog shite". It seems the French love their dogs and are quite happy to allow them to crap anywhere so that they share the delights of "scraping the shit right off of their shoes" - a Rolling Stone lyric... We're sure this must hold some special delight for those mademoiselles who were sporting open toed sandals.

The bridge and Cathedral at Bezier is spectacular. Whether by design or an unwillingness to accept change, the French have managed to retain their ancient architecture.

We visited an archaeological site between Bezier and Narbonne that dated back 600 years BC. It was on the top of a hill with views for miles around and would be an easier area to defend from other marauding villages. At one time the population was around 8,000 before they disbanded the hill and moved into the more fertile valley. They had uncovered pots that were over a metre high and perfectly in tact.

However we found the landscape more interesting, particularly an area that was called Montady Lake. In mediaeval times it was a lake in a natural basin and the peasants formed a guild to drain the lake. The engineering required to drain the lake and keep it from filling is quite inspiring. What is visible now is a field layout with a circle in the middle and radiating fields with drainage ditches at the edge of each field. We were so fascinated because it appears to be alien in its size and design.

Sete is a beautiful sea port with the old charm of a working port combined with the commercialism of a tourist town. Fishing Trawlers were along the quay unloading their morning catch whilst the tourists watched from fashionable restaurants.

The apartments on the opposite side of the port had hardly changed in hundreds of years.

The villa had some bikes so we just had to use them. We cycled to a couple of nearby villages. This is Jane sitting in the village square of Caux with an ornate fountain in the background.

Sunglasses, shorts and big smiles were the order of the day until we got to Roujan when it started to rain. Steve with his eye for the weather assessed it was not just going to be a quick shower so we had a quick lunch by the side of the road and headed for home.

It is said that the South of France has more Roman buildings in tact than Italy but we cannot see how this is possible. However this Roman bridge is proof positive that either the Romans built things to last or everything was over engineered.

The Parthenon styled building in the middle of Nimes is monumental. After nearly 2,000 years it is still in very good condition and now hold examples of Roman mosaic floors.

Apart from the Roman buildings Nimes did not have a lot going for it. There were plenty of "Rue de Chien Shite" and drainage smells made all the worse by the temperatures creeping up to 33 degrees Celsius.

In the centre of Nimes is the arena. We had hoped to be able to tour the inside but unfortunately we arrived in the middle of a bull fighting fiesta week and bull fights were being held.

Manufacture Royale was a small village with a factory at its centre. Although the factory was no longer producing anything, and it was difficult to discover what it used to produce, the village had retained its charm and tranquillity.

Cirque de Moureze was an area of geological interest. Calcite fingers pointed up out of the surrounding soil and it was a very strange landscape. We walked for about an hour in the heat of the late afternoon having taken the short walk but it was possible to take a three hour walk if you had the energy.

Aigues-Mortes had been recommended to us as an excellent place to visit and we did think we wouldn't have time but on the last day of the holiday we drove into it by accident on the way to the airport.

Thankfully we had time to stroll the walls of this very old walled town. It is large enough to be impressive but small enough so that you can see from one side of the town wall across to the other side. All the time we were there swifts screamed across the sky in their hundreds.

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