To Pézenas - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 23, 2022

To Pézenas

Daylight Savings Time went off for the winter this morning, and we’re awake a couple of hours before breakfast will be available at 8.  Had we known what thin gruel it would be when it was delivered we might have walked across the river to try to find a cafe instead, or at least get an earlier coffee infusion.

While we wait, I open the window briefly to listen to the crows on the opposite bank.  They’re just beginning to stir, and then suddenly there’s an explosion of motion as the first wave takes to the sky.

Crows don’t care about the time change. They leave when there’s light for flight.
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A few hours later we’re out the door, biking downriver toward the sea for about a half mile before turning back north.  We’re backtracking the last three miles of yesterday’s ride into town because this is the best bike route to Agde from the west or north, if Eurovelo is to be believed.

Rachael isn’t convinced though, not caring for the unpaved mile it gives us to start the day on.  We’re not far from town when I hear some grumbling from the rear followed by the assertion that we’re never coming back to Agde.  We’ll wait a few years for the memory to fade, and then I’ll remind her of the two fantastic meals she raved over here.  That should do the trick.

Leaving Agde, weaving past the line of basalt traffic cones that obstruct the path. Some are more poorly placed than others, making you choose between risking slipping into the brush or the drink.
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We’re never coming back to this town again!
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Keith AdamsAh that's not such a horrid surface. DC has lots of allegedly paved streets that are worse.
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4 weeks ago

It doesn’t take long though before there are other distractions to take one’s mind off of one’s butt.  For example, there’s this wonderful cat - secure enough that it doesn’t feel the need to slink off the sidewalk when someone walks past close enough to step on its tail, and curious enough that it would like to know just what’s in those saddlebags.  Pretty quiet town it’s living in, obviously.

Excuse me, but I was here first.
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Bruce LellmanI love this cat.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bruce LellmanHe’s got a lot of character, alright. After he gave up on Rachael he sauntered over and checked out my panniers too. Unflappable.
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3 weeks ago
What’s in it for me?
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Typically for me, I haven’t done any research at all about what’s on the itinerary for today.  Unless there’s some obvious attraction to steer toward I pick our routes by looking for quiet paved roads with a suitable distance and elevation profile for the current state of the weather and our riding muscles.  For today I came up with two choices, both loaded to the Garmins.  The shortest is barely 17 miles, and the one we’d have chosen if the day turned wet; and a somewhat longer, more roundabout alternative if we’ve got the weather and will for it.  Other than that though, I haven’t looked at all to see what we’ll happen upon.

It’s a pleasant surprise then when we enter Bessan and find a quietly attractive country town with a lively Sunday market in progress - the best kind of place to stumble upon without preconceptions.  We stare at its modest sights for several minutes and then I’m drawn in by the temptations of the market.  I’m sorry it’s too early in the day for a quarter of roasted chicken, but I do come away with some hazelnuts and figs to supplement the day’s lunch.

Entering the historical center, Bessan.
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Eglise Saint Pierre, Bessan. Off the frame on the left Rachael is on the phone with Susan discussing the zoom camera, which is in the mail on the way to the Pézenas post office. With luck I’ll pick it up there tomorrow.
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Eglise Saint Pierre looks to have been built from the same basalt that much of Agde was.
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Hotel Belpel, an ancient private mansion opposite the church. Also a baguette on its way home from the Sunday market.
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The big B stands for Belpel.
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I’m always sheepish about taking shots at markets, but the attendant smiled and stood back to give me a clear view. Then he gestured down to the other end of the stall for me to check out as well.
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Beautiful, but not really the thing for a picnic lunch.
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Olives though? That’s a possibility.
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Now this will definitely work. I’m offered a date to sample, which is delicious; but I walk away with sacks of figs and hazelnuts.
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So Steve will think of it as a real market.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesHold that stall, I 'm on my way!
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4 weeks ago
Mom looks like she’s had just about enough of this young lady’s theatrics.
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Keith AdamsBut what a cute moppet!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsShe’s endearing alright. I was lucky to catch her in this brief pose, like she’s struggling to keep her balance.
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3 weeks ago

So Bessan was great, and all the better for having been unexpected.  Also great is the ruined flour mill and arched bridge across the Hérault at Saint-Thibéry.  The town, built at the confluence of Thongue and Hérault, has a deep history.  The town was situated on the Via Domitia, the old Roman road linking Italy and Catalonia - the oldest Roman Road across Gaul.  Its Benedictine abbey dates to the eighth century and was a stopover on one of the older routes to Compostela.  Its deepest roots though are Celtic, dating back four thousand years.

Saint-Thibéry‘s mill was built in the 13th century and is one of the best preserved mills in the region.
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Two of the stones from the old mill. There’s a third one on the side of the mill, repurposed as a picnic table.
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The remains of the bridge across the Hérault. Originally having nine arches, it is alleged to have been built as a part of the Via Domitia, the first Roman road across Gaul.
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Looking back at the mill. From this direction it reminds me of the one in Annecy.
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Keith AdamsIt looks almost like the sharp prow of a ship.
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4 weeks ago

Shortly afterwards, we come across one more unexpected delight - another ancient bridge, this one at the northern edge of Saint-Thibéry but crossing the Thongue.  I admire it as we bike across and intend to stop for a sideways view from the opposite bank but forget to do so when I’m distracted by the aisle of plane trees ahead.

Crossing the Theong on Saint-Thibéry‘s Pont Vieux, built in 1575.
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This is exactly the mental image that comes to mind when I think of the Hérault. I really love this country.
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Just past Saint-Thibéry we come to our decision point.  It’s only five miles to Pézenas  by the shortest route, which seems silly to take on such a nice day.  We turn northwest instead and add about fifteen miles in a fishhook to the northwest.  It’s a beautiful, quiet ride the whole way.

Looking north to what I think must be Claremont, though at the time I mistook it for Pézenas. I was surprised, thinking that from this direction it looks like Pézenas is built on a hill. I didn’t remember it that way.
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Gorgeous country, and a gorgeous day to be on a bike.
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Vines, plane trees, and the hills across the Hérault.
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Video sound track: Firefly, by Jasmin Williams

We’ll be in Pézenas  for three nights!  Plenty of time to tell you about the town (which we’ve been here twice before after all) and our excellent apartment - especially since it looks like we’ll be housebound from thunderstorms tomorrow and have plenty of time on our hands.  For now let’s just look at the town’s landmark, the Collégiale Saint-Jean on our way to dinner.

Also, a note on our dinner, which was also excellent, at Casa Lorca.  A Spanish restaurant (the owners are from Galicia), the food was great, the atmosphere appealing, the wine fine - and I got the last of my choice for tonight, a Tempranillo.  Our server emptied the bottle into our two glasses then told us it was the last bottle of the season - the restaurant closes for the winter in just a week.  And unfortunately they’re closed for the next two days as well or we’d be coming back.

The Collégiale Saint-Jean.
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The buildings surrounding the Collégiale Saint-Jean bask in its glow.
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The Collégiale Saint-Jean.
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Ride stats today: 32 miles, 1,200’; for the tour: 1,376 miles, 82,700’

Today's ride: 32 miles (51 km)
Total: 1,375 miles (2,213 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 11
Comment on this entry Comment 9
Keith AdamsIt's time for you to begin to worry: my immediate reaction to several of today's photos was borne out moments later as I read the captions or the interspersed narrative. You're starting to think like me, and that should be cause for concern on your part. :)
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsI’m not worried. I think it’s the opposite, and a healthy sign. You seem quite impressionable.
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4 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesYou seem to be crowding into the same southeast corner of France as us. Is there a chance of a meetup?
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesWe’ve had our eyes on that too. We’ll definitely cross paths if you’re bound for Marseilles, but I think we’ll be east of you by the time you get this far south. Do you have an EDA for somewhere around Arles?
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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonIf you would say see you in Arles in a week, we could be there!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesWe’re in the ballpark anyway. We’re just planning on being there one night, but if we’re in town the same night let’s find a restaurant that works for both of us (not McDonalds!).
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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonMcDonalds never works for us!
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3 weeks ago
Janice BranhamScott and Rachael, your daily entries have me daydreaming about heading straight back to France. Thanks for the fantasy.
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3 weeks ago
Rachael AndersonTo Janice BranhamFrance is wonderful and has a wide variety of landscapes!
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3 weeks ago