Sunday, September 27, 2015

Early Autumn Hérault

The weather here has been glorious these last two weeks. Gone are the sweaty summer days where one can do no more than search out air-conditioned spots or live in the penumbra of a shuttered existence clad only in swimming cossie and sarong (for decency... I have boys and boys' friends seemingly permanently in the house).

Hérault has been sauntering into Autumn in majestic fashion, yielding up grapes for harvest and mushrooms for picking. The hunters are out, their presence heard rather than felt, in early morning forays pitting their wits against the wily boar. Mornings surprise with a welcome chill while afternoon warmth reminds us that winter is still a way off yet. Coat or no coat? is the pressing question of 8am...

It's perfect motorbiking weather. You can ride north to the Pic St Loup stopping off at Domaine de l'Hortus to see "Les Observatoires" - large wooden structures placed in identifiable constellations (supposedly) - or ride "La Vague" in the of the wave-like hollow between the mountains of Pic St Loup and Hortus.

Seen at Domaine de l'Hortus "Les Observatoires" de Matthieu Pilaud

La Vague

La Vague

Or you can ride south, basking in the balmy warmth, invigorated by the blue of a nearly cloudless sky and energised by the sea air.

Mont St Clair, Sète, looking towards Balaruc-les-Bains
Sète, which is a hell hole on earth of too many people in the summer returns to off-season peacefulness in September despite the draw of the seaside to locals and others on a sunny weekend.

Mont St Clair, Sète looking east along the coast
There are Germans aplenty in camping cars squatting space along the canals or parked legitimately in camp grounds. It's ideal weather for the childless who can be seen reading the paper quietly inside, or fishing peacefully outside. Picnics are leisurely affairs with no small people demanding attention. Perhaps a little petanque amongst friends on a spare patch of dusty ground in the shade of sweet smelling pines.
View at lunch time
From Sète, we rode west to Cap d'Agde and had a lunch on a little island that housed the capitainerie and a little tapas bar aptly named 'Au bout du quai'. We ate our tapas overlooking the port with a motley collection of boats both large and small, mostly in need of attention.

Cap d'Agde looking towards the capitainerie island
The volcanic beaches were sandy and sparsely populated, while there was a regatta getting under its unhurried way, a lack of wind seemingly no obstacle to an enjoyable 'race'.

We visited the memorial to the 900,000 French, Europeans and Harkis who were repatriated from Algeria in 1962 after 8 bloody years of war. Not the French state's greatest moment. The memorial stone looks out over the Mediterranean, the only link to their previous lives, having escaped in chaos and despair, but lucky to be alive... Many settled in Agde and became fishermen, teachers, shopkeepers, and contributed hugely to the development of the town.

Finally, we rode back to Montpellier via the coastal road towards Les Aresquiers which is now hunkered down behind some substantial protective walls designed to save the sandy beaches from the ravages of winter storms. After crossing the bridge over the canal, the smell of the sea is replaced by warm pine as you pass through the protected forest, to be followed by decaying salt marsh plants on the Etang de Vic on the other side. The flamingoes were visible in force on the Etang du Grec between Carnon and Palavas, heads down in the water, standing on one leg, or just having a snooze whilst basking in the sun. Their colourful pink bodies added cheery touches of colour to the greeny blue lagoon.

Judging by the traffic on the roads, we were all out and about enjoying being by the sea today.


  1. The weather is glorious, isn't it?

    Have great memories of Cap d'Agde from many years ago, when in our ignorance we decided to drive to the South of France in the first week of August. Finding not a single room where we could stay, the Tourist Office directed us to the naturist site, and since it was the only option, that's where we stayed.

    We camped there for a fortnight, and after the first couple of self-conscious hours wearing no clothes, we relaxed into it and had a great time. Nudity being a great leveller, everybody was very friendly (in the most correct way, of course), and it was a bonus not having to do any laundry. :)

    I remember one family who had their dog, cat, gerbil (or possibly hamster, never too sure about the difference), a budgerigar and a tortoise with them. Delightful people.

    However, some other English people set up camp close to us and played George Formby records rather loudly, but thankfully they only stayed two days.

    1. What fantastic memories! I'm impressed you got into the swing of it, as it were, and ended up having a great time. Just goes to show that the unexpected is a vehicle for some amazing experiences. :)

  2. Yoh, girl! You're looking fabulous! I love this season - tourists gone, beautiful colours and enough sun to enjoy the surroundings without burning to a frazzle. Huzzah!

    1. Yes, it's fab, isn't it? One of the best things about living in the south. :)

  3. What a fabulous post, Sarah - beautifully written. I can just imagine the autumn warmth, the tranquillity and the views from your words alone. Just lovely.

    1. Thanks Trish. :)
      I can conjure up the pine and other perfumes even now.

  4. Early autumn is beautiful and it is good to not have so many holiday makers around. The trouble with autumn is that it is a sure sign that winter is close behind which I hate! I have never liked the cold and it seems to me to get worse as I get older! Keep well and enjoy the weather while you can Diane

    1. I think you need to live in the Bahamas, Diane. No winter there as far as I know. :)
      I like changing seasons and variety, and for the moment, I don't mind the cold. It doesn't last long here anyway.


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