Monday, April 20, 2009

TGO Biking Salagou

The weather's been so changeable recently that the moment you see some sun, it's best to make a dash for it while it lasts. It doesn't usually last long, either.

Last Saturday, Meteo France promised us a sunny morning, with a nasty wet afternoon. Biking in the rain is no fun, so my TWDB and I decided to go for a short ride so we could be back before we got wet.

Avoiding the motorway, we took the old N9 (now 619) to St Paul et Valmalle, then minor roads to Aumelas and Le Pouget which took us through hills and windy roads perfect for the bike. There was a signpost to Dolmens which we were tempted to follow but left for another day. At Clermont l'Hérault we took the road to Mourèze which was the start of our tour around the Lac de Salagou.

It's a fantastic spot for sports of many sorts - water sports in particular, such as windsurfing, but also mountain-biking and walking. The soil is a dramatic red colour from iron oxide deposits and provides a colourful contrast to the much-rained upon recently green vegetation.

We drove through tiny villages - Salasc, Octon, Celles (in the photo) with their old stone dwellings and mini modern communities. We passed a good number of fishermen both on the water and sitting peacefully on the banks. The route is indicated green on the Michelin map, with good reason. The air was clear and warm - quite perfect for the bike.

At Le Puech, we stopped for lunch at the Auberge du Lac sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed a remarkably fine meal at a place we suspected was a tourist trap. How wrong we were! It was all freshly cooked and delicious, washed down with a glass of the local very dry fruity white wine.

From there we took a track above the lake to the barrage - an amazing feat of engineering as they often are - and thence, with black clouds threatening, back to Clermont l'Hérault and the motorway home.

We didn't quite manage to avoid the rain drops, but stayed ahead of the worst of it and arrived dry but slightly washed...

Future plans include a weekend at one of the campsites, with the car and mountain bikes. It's not all up and down - the lakeside track was pretty flat, with fab views for little effort.

We've done the circuit, next time we must stop and explore in more detail.


  1. The abandoned village of Celles is our favourite spot for swimming and off-licence fishing -- although TBH very few of the fish in there are worth eating. If you're lucky enough to get a pike, you're in for SERIOUS kitchen work making quenelles de brochet.We've always believed that the reason Celles was abandoned was a miscalculation -- the surveyors thought the water level would come higher then it actually did. Good story, anyway.

  2. The Auberge looks very nice. Last time I looked it was a rather crappy place serving a campsite. I'll definitely give it my patronage when we're in residence in July.

    It's not really at Le Puech -- it's at Les Vailhés, another abandoned village by the lake. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Definitely worth the detour, expat, especially if you're down that way anyway.

    They give the address at Le Puech, but you're right, it's just up from Les Vailhés, but maybe as that's an abandoned village it doesn't have a postal presence any more.

  4. Yes, I'm sure that's it.

    It's hard to imagine now, but that track you drive down to get to Les Vailhés -- now designated the D140e5 -- was part of the N9 before the Lac was created. Yes, that was the main road to the coast in those days (up to 1965).

    The French wikipedia says that Celles and Les Vailhés were abandoned because the original plan was to raise the water level in two stages -- first to 139m, later to 150m. Celles being at 144m, it was officially doomed. Not until 1996 was the decision taken to hold back the waters permanently.

    More useless wiki-info: Celles officially has 25 habitants, and the mayor is Joëlle Goudal Brandalac.


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