France continues to inspire.
We settle into our new home for the next six weeks, Poilhes near Beziers, 25 minutes from the Mediterranean.
We chose a tiny village house by the Canal du Midi. Terracotta flattened roofs replace the steep slate of the Dordogne region. Stone is smeared with gnarled crumbled stucco, shutters and secrets are closed shut most of the time. Plane trees line the avenues, vineyards and olive dot this areas more level landscape. The Languedoc, its ancient history has fascinated us since we first visited in the early 70’s. Then we charted a canal boat and navigated The Canal du Midi. A feat of brilliant engineering by Pierre-Paul Riquet, 1667 to 1681.
Sete to Castelnaudary we floated and motored this narrow canal twisting through marshes, entering locks to upland farms and orchards. This canal originally provided transport of grapes to the Atlantic. But 49 years ago we climb the slimy ladders to open or close one side of the lock while the lock-keeper with cigarette in mouth gives staccato conversation winching on the other side. His wife sells us eggs or whatever is growing in her garden. We in our early 20’s are young explorers. France tourism in the remote countryside was an adventure.
Languedoc is a calling I believe. For almost 50 years we find our way back to discover more of its secrets. Books by Kate Mosse, Henry Lincon and others have stirred our caldron, feeding our desire to understand something about us our relationship to this land. It quietly calls us back.
This time our compass is set towards the west, southwest. We will explore from sea level at The Mediterrean to vast vineyards and olive orchards, to the foothills and mighty Pyrenees. Hamlets, villages, thermal bains, chateaus and ruins, roman edifices and caves. Village markets, Cathar and Albigian history, pilgrimage sites and churches. The energy of its dwellings and the lands all stir that special something to believe in, remember and document. The backroads of the Languedoc will take us up the western Pyrenees spine as far as St Jean Pied a Porte. South to Spain. East to Montpellier. I need slow travels to instinctively stop to walk, converse, take a meal, linger in a village centre or vista point. We are adventurers with appreciation for old worn loved pieces I thrill to experience and share with you what I discover.