Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Red Red Hills of Hérault

I left you in Castres, in the delightful London room of the Hotel de l'Europe. Whatever plans we had for a leisurely lie-in were cut short upon looking at the weather forecast. Heading our way was a nasty storm, so we hurriedly got our stuff together, had a quick instant coffee from the selection in our room (I took a cappuccino which was quite filling - luckily), and jumped on the bike.

The previous evening had been mild and pleasant. The following morning was cold and damp. We set off into a misty 12°C along the D622 to Brassac, not seeing much.

Limited views of the countryside
I did note along the way an intriguing signpost to the "Trembling Rock of Seven Fakes" (Rocher tremblant de Sept Faux). It's one of the snazzier natural features of the granite that makes up the Sidobre site, a unique geological area 15 km long by 6.6 wide and 7.5-20 km deep. Along the road you can see giant granite boulders among the trees. The trembling rock is so-called because despite its 900 tonnes, you can move it with a mere wooden stick.

We outran the rain, thank goodness but the weather stayed cold and misty until we crossed into Hérault where it turned warm and sunny HURRAH!

Sunny St-Pons-de-Thomières
By this time, we were in search of breakfast, or brunch as it was pretty late. We stopped at a boulangerie, but they had nothing but unappetising croissants. I'm on a gluten-free kick at the moment to see if it has any effect on my joints, so I wasn't going to jeopardise that for a dodgy croissant. So far eating thusly hasn't had a noticeable effect but I've only been eating gluten-free for a couple of weeks. It takes several weeks to see a difference so I'm told. Unfortunately.

We continued on towards Bedarieux, going past the lovely village of Olargues (a PBV).

And on to Bedarieux where hunger got the better of me and we stopped at MacDo for a chevre wrap. It was either that or just a measly salad. I was sure my joints could survive a wrap...

At Carlencas we turned off the main road and rode towards the Lac de Salagou. It was there we came into red hill country.

The red stone is locally called 'ruffe' which is a name particular to Hérault, from the Occitan word 'rufa' (from the Latin rufus - red). It's made up of clay sediments and iron oxide.

The pale area is a wheat field
 My DB said it reminded him of certain landscapes in the US.

A landscape of contrasts
Every now and then, you can see a basalt chimney which is evidence of intense volcanic activity in the distant past.

Basalt chimney near La Lieude
 We were on a small road, all the better to admire the dramatic scenery.

Between the layers of rock you can find a thin layer of shells

You sometimes see messages written in shells. Usually a declaration of undying love within a heart. So romantic.

A look-out post has been built on this basalt chimney
Near the hamlet of La Lieude is a basalt chimney with a look-out post. I think you can walk up to it which I'm sure gives a fantastic panorama over the area.

Love the stripy vineyard
At Salasc, we turned up in the direction of Octon and the lake.

Most people were enjoying lunch out on terrasses, including a large number of bikers. We didn't stop, having had our delicious MacDo wrap in the elegant surroundings of the commercial zone of Bedarieux...

Love this chappy, me hearties!
I've never noticed this little guy before. I don't know if he's a recent addition, but isn't he fab? He stands proud over the camp site.

Lac de Salagou, ruins of village of Celles in the distance
There's an excellent restaurant on the hills overlooking the  lake and ruined village of Celles. At least it was excellent when we went there last, which was some time ago admittedly. It's the Auberge du Lac at Le Puech. The menu still looks good.

We finished our trip along the green roads not long after this, taking the autoroute back as far as St Paul et Valmalle, then coming off to divert through Montarnaud and Grabels.

The colours are very vibrant at the moment. It's a terrific time to travel about the region. Spring is well-advanced and the warmer weather has brought the leaves and flowers out all fresh and new.

I feel so lucky to live down here.


  1. Ah the delights of a McDonalds wrap - hope your joints survived it :-)

    Can't believe they encourage people to wiggle that rock with a stick - the H&S bods here would have apoplexy!

    1. My joints were none the worse for it, for the moment... (da da daaaahhh).

      I don't think the rock is as delicately balanced as it looks, enough to fall over anyway. And there is a metal band connecting top to bottom, so it could be worse... :)

  2. The Auberge du Lac isn't really in Le Puech -- but we've been over this before. It's a delightful restaurant, made over from what used to be a crummy camp-site "alimentation"

    1. Yes, I know, but as it's address is officially Le Puech, I put it in just in case someone wanted to find it.

  3. I love the video moving that rock! Incredible. Another lovely journey - and you do live somewhere wonderful :)

    1. Yes, the back roads are just full of visual treats. It's great fun exploring them.


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