You can read about Part 1 here.
Sometimes getting lost is not a bad thing. Sometimes your mistakes turn out to be a blessing. Case in point; our choosing to drive to Sete was a mistake, but if we had not gone there we never would have ended up in Pezenas, the blessing, disguised as a charming little village where we stayed on the second night of our trip.
The drive from Sete to Pezenas takes you through Meze, a seafood paradise, of which we came back to later for a meal. Meze is between a lake and the Med. Thousands of oyster beds line the waterway. Charles drooled his way through the town with oyster bars lining the streets.
With the help of our trusty TomTom and advice from the Michelin Guide, we found our way to a nice hotel in the centre of town called The Grand Moliere. Walking through the front door and into the lobby I could see why it was called “grand.” Fifteen-foot ceilings, walls covered in beautiful tapestries and carved mirrors and heavy gilded furniture.
I did my very best to butcher the French language a bit more as a non-English speaking clerk checked us in to the hotel. By the time we were settled it was late afternoon and we knew most of the businesses in town would be closing soon so we set out to see what we could before everything shut down.
Pezenas is what I think of as the perfect little French village. Winding cobblestone streets, beautiful old buildings, charming shops and friendly people. We spent about an hour wondering through a maze of streets, checking out all the shops and deciding which ones we would come back to the next day when we had more time and more shops were open.
Well rested and ready for a night on the town we left the hotel in search of a restaurant. We didn’t make it too far because we were distracted by the country western line dancing French dance troupe in the town plaza. Yes, you read that correctly, line dancing, to Alan Jackson, in France. Very strange, but highly entertaining.
On the recommendation from one of the local shop keepers we searched out two different restaurants for dinner only to find out they were fully booked. Figuring we were destined to eat at one of the touristy cafes lining the town plaza, we were really happy to stumble upon a nice little bistro tucked back into a dark corner of the village. Our waitress was incredibly sweet and helpful, the food and wine were pretty good and the fact that every ten minutes the lights went out due to a faulty circuit breaker made our dining experience very memorable.
Those of you who know me and read this blog regularly, you know that I love outdoor markets, especially food markets. So, I was super excited the next morning when we woke up and walked outside to see that the main street through town was now a big market. We grabbed a pain au chocolate and a café in the village and then spent a few hours roaming the streets, checking out what was on offer. Charles only lasted for about two hours and then took off for a beer while I continued to roam for another hour or so. Although it wasn’t the best market, it was a great way to start the day.
After the drive-by-sighting of all the oyster beds the day before and checking out multiple stalls selling fresh oysters and various other shellfish we back-tracked about 30 minutes to the tiny little town of Mezé. Once there, we chose the nicest looking seafood shack and ordered a small mountain of shellfish for lunch. I am not a fan of oysters, but Charles loves them and he couldn’t stop going on about how they were the best oysters, and the biggest, that he had ever had. I pigged out on a big pot of moules and frites (mussels and French fries) and we shared some cracked crab and a really good bottle of wine. Mezé and its great seafood were definitely worth the stop.
So far we had been lucky with the weather and with our choices of towns to visit. I guess we were due for some ugliness and that came in the form of nasty thick fog and rain and a totally uninspiring town called Millau. After lunch we couldn’t decide where we wanted to stay for the night, so once again we consulted the Michelin Guide and chose a little town somewhere in the middle of the mountainous Cévennes National Park which was supposed to be beautiful. I can’t even remember the name of the town, but I do remember the hellish drive there on twisty little roads shrouded in really thick fog. After deciding the town didn’t have anything to offer we headed toward the next town that we thought might be interesting and arrived in Millau. I don’t even want to waste space writing about this place so I will just say, don’t go there. Don’t waste your time, keep on driving and don’t look back.
On Easter Sunday morning, after a quick breakfast, we programmed the TomTom to take us to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon so we could partake in a little cheese tasting. Home to the creamy blue-veined cheese, this little town was well worth the visit. We toured the Société cheese cellars and learned all about how Roquefort cheese is made. Although the tour was given in French they were kind enough to give us a very detailed six-page paper on the whole process. Apparently, thousands of years ago (or maybe hundreds, I can’t remember) there was a big earthquake and part of the mountain in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon collapsed. The collapse created a bunch of tunnels and caves that are now used to make the famous cheese. Each cave, with its different temperature and humidity level, creates a distinct flavor for the cheese. It was really very interesting and we got to taste a bunch of the yummy cheese at the end. Nice!
Albi, birthplace of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and home to a museum that houses a large collection of his work was last on our list of things to see. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of my favorite artists and it was really cool to see so many of his drawings, paintings and lithographs. We also took a peak at the gianormous Cathedral St. Cecil next to the museum and walked around town a bit before we had to run back to the car because it had started to rain. On to Toulouse!
We had booked an 8:30pm flight home figuring that we could have a stroll around Toulouse and a nice dinner before heading to airport. Poor planning on our part as it was Easter Sunday and we got into town at about 6pm. Most decent French restaurants close between lunch and dinner and don’t open back up until about 7pm. After driving in circles for about 30 minutes trying to find a decent place to eat before heading to the airport we settled on a classic… McDonalds. Really, how sad is that. Our last meal in the South of France was at a McDonalds by the airport. Surprisingly, our Cheese Royal (cheese burger) and Le M (big mac) were pretty good.
The flight home was uneventful, which was good. We breezed through immigration thanks to IRIS (a machine that scans your iris for identification allowing you to bypass the manual immigration procedure) and hopped a train and a taxi home. Even though we were only gone for four days it seemed like we did and saw so much. It was really fun to see where the road took us and not have reservations anywhere. Of course, we took a few wrong turns, but that only made the trip more exciting. Charles and I both want to go back to the Languedoc region someday because we enjoyed it so much and there is still so much more to see. Au Revoir!