Chapter Fourteen – Leisurely Languedoc Sunday Drive
Day Fourteen: Wine Wine And More Wine, Taking A Sunday Drive, Sensational Scenery, Are We At The Marigold Hotel, Chateau Of Disrepair, Rekindling The Memory Of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Stockholm Syndrome, Brits Galore and We’re Ready For The Big City
On a very gray morning, Tracy and I had to make a choice: Did we want to take a long drive to the Gorges du Tarn, or a much shorter loop to small towns and gorge ourselves for lunch? We chose the latter as five or six hours of driving didn’t have much allure, especially since rain had been predicted.
Our early Sunday drive would take us to the towns of Roquebrun, Cepes and Olargues. With all the vineyards we passed by (not only here, but in every region we visited), we remarked that even with our vast wine consumption, we couldn’t make a dent.
We still think that of the numerous wine regions we’ve toured in France, we are most enamored with the scenery of Alsace-Lorraine and the Routes des Vins.
…and we sped (well, not too fast) past Ceps to Olargues, where we thought we might have lunch.
It was still a little early, so we pressed on after taking a quick look at the town and driving near a red bridge, which some call (I guess incorrectly from what I read) the “Eiffel Bridge.” In my research I read that this bridge over the River Jaur was constructed between 1886 and 1888 and was not the “Eiffel Bridge.” However, on another site, I read this bridge near Olargues was built in 1889 by Gustav Eiffel. Either way, the bridge was definitely red, and we were most definitely hungry.
Our stop for lunch was in Lamalou-les-Bains at the Hotel-Restaurant Belleville. As we sat waiting for my hamburger and Tracy’s Greek Salad, we noticed that we were not the oldest people (for a change) in here.
There were lots and lots of really old people eating. Tracy said, “It looks like we’re eating at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” although Judy Dench and Maggie Smith were nowhere in sight.
As we were to find out, Lamalou-les-Bains is a spa town that has been welcoming visitors since the 13th century. The hot and cold waters are used to soothe a number of maladies including rheumatism and sciatica. I’ll probably need to stay here the next time through.
The town also provided us with a mystery…although Tracy and I took picturesin town, when we went back through our extensive trip library of pictures, no photos of Lamalou-les-Bains exist on either of our computers. Come to think of it, I did see the ghost of Rod Serling as we departed town.
We had one more stop before heading back to Pézenas to pack. The Château de Cassan is a former royal Priory that changed its name after the French Revolution. It was built in the 11th century, and according to the below sign (I think), Charlemagne founded it in 805 (and nobody threw stuffed pigs at him like they did in Carcassonne).
Inside was a different story. We paid our €7 and entered. The visit, while mildly interesting, was disappointing. This place definitely needs some TLC, and I just read that the chateau is closed in 2017 to replace the roof, so hopefully they have found some funds to help restore it.
There were a few interesting rooms, including the kitchen…
…the music room…
Fortunately, in a few days Tracy and I would get our chateau fix when we toured both Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte…
First we stopped at a famous statue of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin at Square July 14. Poquelin is better known by his stage name, Molière. The Languedoc and Pézenas area inspired Molière for many of his famous plays. Molière was forgotten by many after his death, but Pézenas rekindled his memory in the 19th century, and a marble bust was put up complete with a set of characters. Lucette, a Languedoc peasant girl from one of Molière’s comedies, holds up a bust of Molière.
Molière’s last play and his sudden death contained a tinge of irony. He had worked hard in many plays through the years, which had taken quite a toll on his health. In 1673, during a production of The Imaginary Invalid, Molière, who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, had a coughing fit and a hemorrhage while playing the hypochondriac Agran. In a “show must go on” moment, he carried on and finished the performance, only to collapse at the end. Molière died a few hours later.
Our dinner on this evening would be at La Pomme d’Amour (photo below from TripAdvisor). We had no reservations, but were able to secure the last table on the patio. There were more people here than we had seen at any restaurant in Pézenas (perhaps because it was Sunday and other places were closed).
My four-cheese pizza was outstanding…
…while Tracy went the vegetarian route with a salad that included corn, peppers and grapefruit.
There were lots of Brits at this restaurant, and we started conversing with a couple next to us from Sweden, who were remodeling a home they purchased here in Pézenas. We learned their son is a doctor in Sweden, and their daughter, who lives in NYC, was expecting her first child (their first grandchild). It was a delightful way to end our Pézenas stay.
Although we were tiring of visiting small, but cute, towns, we could not have been happier with our choice of Pézenas and the Hotel de Vigniamont as our lodging selection in this area. Babette is right up there with the best host we’ve encountered at any hotel or B&B.
As a matter of fact, our choice of lodging in Beaune, Bonnieux, Uzés and Pézenas all rank in the Top Ten of places we’ve ever stayed (yes, it pays to plan).
Small town life would be in our rear-view mirror (or for us, the caboose) tomorrow, as we would hop on the speedy train to Paris, where we would encounter four days of the best weather in the history of all our trips to our favorite big city. Tomorrow, among other things, we would climb up a monument we haven’t visited in decades. It would also prove to be a place where my question of balance (wow, two Moody Blues references in one post) would become seriously tested. (Hint: Balance didn’t stand…literally…a chance.)
Next: Day Fifteen – On Track To Paris, Camille Appeal, Oh How I Love The French, Timing Is Everything, “284 Steps…Only”, Have A Nice Trip, The I Fell Tower, Bruised Ego (among other things), We Are The Champs, That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles, The Garden of Two Larrys, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Soup, Jewel Heist and Our Most Comfortable Bed