Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Travelling through Haut Languedoc and les Grands Causses

For the last long weekend of May, my DB and I decided to take the motorbike and ride west to Castres. It was a lovely day, so I packed a picnic and we set off on the autoroute to Lodève, then took the charming D35 towards Lunas, a village of 400 inhabitants and a castle.

In the late spring, the gorse was out, lighting up the rolling hillsides with brilliant flashes of gold and heavenly sweet perfume.
Monts d'Orb
We took the tiny D135e2, a single track lane that wended its way through fields and forests. No crazy driving possible on this little road, we were able to admire the scenery at a leisurely pace, and it was well worth it.
Forests of Monts d'Orb
We disturbed a raptor along the road. It was by the road on our left and suddenly burst out across the front of the bike just feet away. I managed to get a photo of it as it flew off to our right.

At a few metres from us!
This is a shady spot along the tiny road, going through the forest of the Monts d'Orb.

Barely room to pass another vehicle...
We found a delightful picnic spot at the end of the D138 at Ceilhes-et-Rocozels situated by a lake and a camp site. A few picnic tables were dotted about which meant we could sit comfortably in our biking gear instead of uncomfortably on the ground. I looked towards the lake, my DB looked towards the bike. The toads on the banks serenaded each other at top volume and plopped into the lake as we approached the water's edge.
Not long after Ceilhes, we crossed into Aveyron, following the D902 which is green along the River Dourdou between Fayet and Camarès.
Another green road took us to Belmont-sur-Rance and it's dramatic church spire at the top of the hill.

From Belmont, we rode south (D32) to Lacaune, greeted at the entrance to the town by a splendid metalwork ham. Not quite Aoste or Parme, but I'm sure it tastes lovely. We didn't stop to find out, however.
Wonder what they produce in Lacaune...
One of the prettiest photos is this one at Lacaze - I love the green of the trees with the grey of the buildings, and the odd spot of dark purple, plus the lovely village and imposing bridge. It's very different in style from villages where I live in Hérault, but isn't that far away.

Pretty Lacaze
We reached Castres via Vabres and Brassac having telephoned ahead to reserve a room at the Hotel de l'Europe there. After a stunning ride, we were delighted to find our hotel was equally stunning in its own way. Here is the lobby, lit from above by a glass roof.

Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
The hotel blurb says that the building is a 17th century mix of baroque - part-Italian, part-Spanish
Keeping the evil spirits at bay? Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
I love the little crypt set into the exposed bricks on the landing. The colours positively hummed in the late afternoon sun. My reaction on walking into the lobby was simply "Wow!".

We were assigned the London room - how appropriate - which was a good 20m² and boasted a large bed, comfy chair, desk and ancient typewriter. For writing all those murder mysteries the Brits are so good at no doubt. On the wall were 12 small photos of famous Brits including Hitchcook, Lady Di, Queen Elizabeth I, etc. The bed could be backlit by a blue light for a smoochy atmosphere.
London room, Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
There was ample room for us and our kit!
London room, Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
The bathroom was a revelation with its large bath/jacuzzi. All this for 77 Eur!
Room for two! Hotel de l'Europe, Castres
A short walk from the hotel was the elegant central square, with its stylish buildings and vast open space.

We got a plan of the town from the hotel and walked around taking in the main sights. It didn't take long as Castres is a small town, and very compact as it used be walled. Along the river are the old tanners' houses which reminded me a little of Florence.
Tanner's houses, Castres
We finished our walk in the public gardens designed by André le Notre with its swirling low bushes, sculptured trees and very few flowers. Other places of interest in Castres include the Goya Museum located in a splendid former bishop's' palace, which houses the largest collection of Spanish art outside the Louvres.
Gardens designed by André le Notre, theatre in background
The Hotel Renaissance looks fab from the outside. It's a 4* hotel so I expect it's pretty fab on the inside too.
Hotel Renaissance 4*
We tested the bath/jacuzzi before dinner to the full and enjoyed the pummelling and water massage à deux. Sunday evening in France is not a good time to be looking for a restaurant even over a holiday weekend, but our hotel receptionist reserved us a table at Le Cercle a short walk away where we had a very pleasant meal and some good wine. It was about the only place open apart from dodgy kebab shops.

The bed was extremely comfortable and difficult to leave the next day!


  1. Wow! What a weekend, that is the most romantic stunning hotel - ever! That yellow on the staircase, love it. And inside, so fresh and clean and modern.
    Very important question: what was in the picnic?

    1. It was a very simple picnic, Jody. I'm trying to avoid gluten at the moment (for my joints) so I got a sourbread loaf (pain au levain) for me, and a baguette for my DB. He had half of it with cheddar and lettuce, and I had slices of sourdough cos it was a fatter loaf with some cheese/lettuce and some peanut butter. I took a bag of fresh peas along too, plus a couple of apples. Very basic. :)

      The hotel was amazing value. The size of the room was impressive, and they had really gone to a lot of effort to decorate it well. I think the yellow-walled lobby had originally been an outside courtyard. Certainly looks that way, and it was an inspired decision to glass it over.

      We didn't get to try the breakfast buffet at 11 Eur, and there was no restaurant although there's a bar, which is why we had to eat out. We were delighted with out stay there.

  2. What a perfect trip. Beautiful landscape, super hotel and Castres looks like a very beguiling town. Must try to get there one of these days. Well done getting a shot of the raptor; that's not easy.

    1. It was a lovely trip.

      I could have got an even closer shot of the bird but my finger kept slipping on the sliding cover. Typical! :)

  3. Just catching up on blog reading - this is fabulous. The hotel is perfect and the drive sounds wonderful with plopping toads and metalwork hams! Laughing at you looking at the lake and your DB looking at the bike.

    1. Yep, he's passionate about bikes. :)

  4. I was thinking what stunning scenery and then you used ' stunning' for the hotel (deservedly). All truly gorgeous and so glad to see your DB was gentlemanly enough to give you the view!

    1. It was no hardship looking at his bike, I can assure you, Anya. He was given the choice and didn't hesitate. We could always have sat side by side, too. :)


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