Since tucking in, my DB (who unfortunately is very fond of Christmas cake, meaning less for me...) and I have made it a point of getting out and about at the weekend in order to walk off the effects of delicious but calorie-laden cake.
Being in a bit of a January slump, we have not wanted to travel far. Our aim is to get out at the best time of the day and to do roughly 10,000 steps, after which we can stuff our faces with cake happily guilt free.
This month has seen us head half an hour on narrow winding roads north to Domaine du Mas Neuf near Lauret, and forty minutes or so on the main road west to the Forêt Domaniale de la Gardiole just south of Gigean.
Hérault has been inhabited since time immemorial and we saw some of the vestiges of ancient habitations at the top of a rocky spur (éperon) overlooking Lauret. They date from chalcolithic times, 2200 BC.
|Vestiges similar to the ones found at Cambous|
|Looking north towards Mont Aigoual|
|Looking west towards Mont Ventoux, Lauret in the foreground|
|How's that for a blue sky?|
|Dry-stone wall, or courtine dating back to 6 BC|
...funnily enough, we came across a refuge on our walk through the Gardiole forest. There was the same type of dry stone wall construction, and a restored (or original) refuge.
We were on a discovery path which had little stone labels to identify the local flora, so I found out that the annoying, vicious little holly-lookalike bush that is native to the garrigue is actually called Chêne kermès. It grows and is cut back regularly in the pine wood opposite my house with the result that you cannot stroll through the wood in sandals because you get attacked by its nasty ground-level spiky leaves which lodge themselves painfully under your toes until you pick them out. Anyway, I now what the stuff is called.
It was a couple of hundred metres beyond this point, after a slog uphill that I suddenly remembered that I hadn't locked the car. Or had I? Oops. I couldn't remember, so after a bit of humming and hahing I thought I'd better go back and check, and discovered that I hadn't. Nothing unfortunate had occurred, so we set off again along a different path which took us to the top of the hill, a lovely wide path, and some spectacular views.
|Lovely wide path suitable for all, with the Causse d'Aumelas wind farm in the distance|
|So chilly there was still ice on the puddle|
|Me being blown about with my back to Vic le Gardiole and the sea|
During a lull in the wind, we managed to find a sheltered spot in the sun to have our lunch, away from the hunters and their fluorescent jackets, dogs, horns and guns. Just as we were finishing, the wind picked up again, so I gave thanks to the wind gods for their kindly respite. Maybe they'd stopped for lunch too.
We had parked the car in the car park serving the ruined Abbaye Saint Félix du Montceau (11-13C) and decided to have a look around upon our return.
|Abbaye Saint Félix du Montceau|
I'd visited the abbey before, but restoration is under way, so it looked different to the last time I'd been there. The grounds are a pleasant place to stroll; you can see the remnants of the prison, pilgrims' quarters, herb garden, infirmary, and so on. Some replanting of the medicinal herb garden had taken place, with labels to identify the plants.
I seem to remember this is a very popular place in warmer weather, and even on a chilly January day, the car park was half full by the time we came back. This could have been because there was an added attraction of donkey rides for the kiddies. We'd passed a donkey stables on our way up with lovely winter-coat-fluffy donkeys standing peacefully about in the paddock.
My treat upon return was a lovely Yorkshire cuppa with a fat slice of Christmas cake. Thanks mum!