Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Great Place for Boys - Pont d'Issensac

Summer is well and truly here. The temperature during the day hits 35°C and we're keeping the shutters 'entre ouverte' which describes how they are almost shut but not quite so letting in some all-important light - enough not to have to turn the lights on which would just add to the heat and be extremely depressing!

I went and sweated several litres at zumba on Saturday morning; it is really unpleasant exercising in such heat. In fact, I swear I'm less fit in the summer than at other times of the year because it's just too hot to move.

Of course, if I took advantage of swimming in the river when I take my youngest and his friends there, it might help... We went twice this weekend to the Pont St Etienne d'Issensac. The boys love this spot and they are not alone.

Pont St Etienne d'Issensac

None of the lads who were jumping off the river bank cliffs or indeed the bridge itself were much concerned by its fourteenth century history or by the fact that it enabled a link between the Cevennes at St-André-de-Buèges and the low country at Valflaunès. Nor that it has been much restored so there is little of the original medieval stone left, but it was always sympathetically done, to the point that it was declared a historic monument in 1948.

No, what interests them is the fact that they can jump into the water from cliffs of varying heights and be sure that the river Hérault is deep enough to break their fall rather than their neck.

On Saturday I took four boys aged 14/15. We arrived around 4pm, and found a shady spot for the car nearby. I had to cross the very narrow bridge (2m wide) in order to do this as there was no space on the Montpellier side, and saw signs to an 'obligatory' car park on the other side although I didn't park there in the end, but on a side road.

The boys went off to do their thing while I sat down to read my Kindle, dabble my feet in the cool river, and watch the entertainment. A 'mindful appreciation' of my surroundings had me listening to the buzz of happy conversation, the splashes from bodies landing in the river from the banks and the bridge (which is forbidden), and the realisation that young men made up 80% of the people there - students mostly. They were accompanied by a few lovely lasses in teeny bikinis and well-advanced tans who were there to cheer on their hero(s) and look suitably impressed. None of them were jumping into the river, maybe so as not to mess up their hair... There was a really good atmosphere too - what the French call 'bon enfant' or everyone having a nice time without being a nuisance.

Jumping off the bridge

On Sunday, I took my youngest back with two friends, and found that the demographic of the merrymakers was completely different. We arrived at roughly the same time, parked in the official car park which in is a huge, shady space on the river bank, and made our way back to the bridge. I found a space to sit near where I'd been the previous day with a good view of the goings-on. The students were absent, replaced by families, gypsies and young maghrebin men. They were all having a good time too, but someone had brought a ghetto-blaster which pumped out Arabic music, over which the lads had to yell to make themselves heard on the other side of the river and by their mates on the bridge... There was a much higher nuisance factor that day.

Lads on the highest point of the cliff

There were girls jumping in the river on Sunday too, including one with long hair that she swept from side to side as she tried to pluck up courage to jump from the highest cliff. She monopolised that spot for about twenty minutes as a crowd of lads built up behind her. My three ended up by jumping half a metre or so away from her and then from another spot until she finally made it in. I gave her a round of applause and noticed that she didn't try it again... to the relief of everyone else no doubt.

They're queuing up to jump

If you want to go there, I recommend going on a Saturday... park in the official car park (unless you have a camper van or caravan - there is a very tight u-bend) and take everything you need - there are no snack vans, toilets or other facilities.


  1. Funny how the ambiance can change from day to day...there's s nice spot by the river which is usually used by families with small children...paddling and suchlike...but on some days the banks are lined with motorbikes and dubious looking youths use it as a jumping off point for the waterfall further down...fine, but you have to keep an eye on your belongings and they too go in for ghetto blasters.

    1. Funny how I never get notification of your messages, Fly. Annoying actually...

      Anyway, yes, I suppose these places attract all sorts, and some days
      see more of one sort than another because they are free then. I've been there several times and never seen such a difference though. :)

  2. What a stunning setting for some serious fun. Looks beautiful and how brave are they?!

    1. It's a terrific spot, and fab for testing one's level of courage. :)


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