Monday, March 7, 2011
Carcassone, Beziers, and St. Guilhem le Desert
Yesterday, we got an early start and drove 155 klm to Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is spectacular - a huge medieval walled city built in the 12th century and well-preserved. It wss a beautiful sunny day with deep blue sky. We had an excellent lunch in a cafe within the walls, then drove back to Montpellier via the villages along the Canal Midi and through Beziers, another interesting old city with a huge cathedral. The evening light coming through the rose window was lovely. We found our way back home, Neil bravely drove, through the outskirts of Montpellier, the street construction, and the circuitous route around the historic section. It was a challenge. Dinner at home was a relief. We were all glad not to go out again.
I could see why Languedoc is the largest wine producing area of France. We drove through thousands of acres of vines in the broad flad valley east and south of Carcassonne.
This morning we slept a little later and drove up into the mountains north of Montpellier. It is a short drive, only about 45 minutes, and the rough rocky mountains are arid but dramatic. There are many gorges in the area cutting through limestone cliffs. The Herault River is green and clear. The bridge is the "Devil's Bridge" where, supposedly, St. Guilhem threw the devil to his death. We especially loved the small village of St. Guilhem le Desert which dates from the 11th century. It is wonderful to walk the small roads and allys, climb the hills behind the village, and sit in the quiet cloister of the church. We had another wonderful lunch overlooking the gorge and the Herault River. There were hundreds of trout visible in the water below the restaurant.
The car is safely tucked back into its slot in the Europecar lot. It's stressful to drive in and around Montpellier. Once out in the country, the roads are beautiful and easy to negotiate. Neil did an admirable job!