Quirky, quaint and hidden gems  – so very French

After all those blue skies in the last blog we then had four days of wild weather with gusts of up to 70 km/hour blasting through the backstreets behind the harbour, knocking rubbish bins over and howling round the eaves. Looking out of the window, my eyes and ears told me to expect cold weather, and so I muffled up with a scarf and coat, and yet it wasn’t cold at all. The temperatures were still in the high teens and, whereas a wind this strong in other parts of the country would be a cold wind, here it was a warm one.  The Mediterranean has its own unique weather patterns, quite different to other areas, and certainly far removed from the weather I was used to in Wales.

Dark skies….

Happily, the sun returned and we were able to start exploring once more.

The oyster beds on the étang.

My theme this week was meant to be about the quirky and the quaint things that we come across in our travels. There is never any shortage of those in France. But then we visited a magnificent abbey, became addicted to Vermouth, stumbled across some incredible sculptures and so the theme has extended. This is what happens in France! There’s no point in fighting it – best to just let it happen.

I’ll begin with this notice I saw in the church in Marseillan.  It’s nice to see a church with a sense of humour.

Loosely translated it says ‘It’s possible that you may hear the word of God whilst you are in this church. However he is unlikely to contact you by telephone. Please turn off all portable phones.’

This next picture was also taken in Marseillan, The French love to paint murals on the side of their buildings, often slightly tongue-in-cheek. This example of sailors doing what sailors do, and in fact what any self-respecting Frenchman unfortunately still does, managed to be charming despite the subject matter.

We spent an afternoon in Pézanas, wandering the narrow back streets and being utterly beguiled by this town of artists. Creativity was literally in the air and if I had more space at Le Shack I would have bought so many things.  Unfortunately, we are as full as we can be, so I resisted temptation. But I was sorely tempted by this owl.

A wonderful shop dedicated to sauces, vinegars, herbs and spices. I was tempted by a mango vinegar, two words that somehow feel like they don’t go together, but I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what to do with it.
A maze of backstreets to get lost in.
Pretty signs.

France is a country of hidden gems. Time and time again we have looked at a map, spotted a lake or a particularly scenic route and driven to it with no idea of what to expect. We are rarely disappointed and usually find something of interest or that is simply beautiful.  This next picture was where we had our picnic lunch after a walk around the Lac de Vailhan

Glorious autumn colours.

Marseillan is the home of Noilly Prat, who make Vermouth. This isn’t something we have ever tried, but as it was literally on our doorstep we felt we should at least sample it. Sumptuous! Now we are addicted.

There is something about giant wooden barrels that is pleasing. It might be the craftsmanship that goes into making them, their sheer size and age, the rich colours – probably a combination of all these things.
This is one of their advertising campaigns, rather dated now. But a woman in a bikini always works! Or it does if she looks like that…

The Abbaye de Fontfroide near Narbonne is one of those standout places that stay in the memory. It is magnificent.

We climbed up to a viewing point and took this shot looking down on the abbey.

Constructed in warm sandstone the interior is spartan, the walls bare, but it is the sheer grandeur of the design that takes the breath away.

We also found some wonderful sculptures in the grounds.

Spooky but so powerful.
Spooky…but endearing.
Hope she doesn’t break free and start wandering around.
This is what she’s made out of. Rat traps.
This isn’t spooky, just beautiful. It’s Arbutus unedo, the strawberry tree. We’ve seen them everywhere, a cheery splash of colour as winter comes ever nearer.

Our time here is drawing to a close. We leave on Sunday, heading back to Le Shack after two wonderful weeks. We’ve got plenty to keep us busy when we get there as the back wall of the cabin is falling down. I feel a session of DIY coming on.

Hope all is well with everyone. Be in touch again soon.


10 thoughts on “Quirky, quaint and hidden gems  – so very French

  1. You certainly managed to see a lot during your stay. I love the owl. He would certainly have house room here. I agree that places visited spontaneously are often the most rewarding. Good luck with the wall rebuilding!


  2. A lovely ramble through life in France. I’ve never had Vermouth or Mango vinegar, but both sound like the level of sophistication I should aspire to. Enjoying discovering your blog.


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