Thursday, January 22, 2009

A few days in the Languedoc-Roussillon


Eglise La Madeleine

Bruce in the place de la Madeleine

We just arrived home from 2 night (3 days) in the Languedoc-Roussillon, a region in south central france, it's actually just next to our region the Midi-Pyrenees. We went for 2 reasons. The first was to check out hotels and map out the rides for the tour we are doing in July, through our new business Two Wheels Good Tours and the second was in search of a bit of sun and warmer weather. We accomplished both!

It's only 3 hours south of us and a lovely drive. You can take 2 ways, one takes you east and then south through Millau (over the beautiful viaduct) and the second takes you west to Toulouse and then south. We took the first way down and the second way home. It was crazy, about 2 hours into the drive the weather was different and so was the landscape. Gone were the gorges, big hills, deep valleys, green green everywhere Aveyron, we were now into more brownish scrub landscape, but it was also beautiful. And the sun, there is was, smiling at us so strong that for the first time in a long time had to put on our sunglasses. soleil. We also haven't seen the ocean in 4 1/2 months, something we took for granted in Los Angeles (we basically road along the pacific ocean 4-5 times a week). When we turned a corner and saw the Mediterranean it took my breath away. I didn't realize how much I missed the sea. We stayed in Béziers, a small city just south of Montpellier. We chose Béziers because during the tour de france, one day will be a time trial in Montpellier and then second day the race will go through Béziers and head south towards Perpignan. It's about 1 hour south of Montpellier and we loved it, perfect location.

We stayed in a lovely 15 room boutique hotel, the same one we will stay when we do our tour. It's quaint, clean, beautifully decorated, across from the lovely Parc des Poetes and centrally located but not on a busy street. The owners are lovely too and have been very accommodating for our july tour. We took the dogs with us, but B&A babysat the chickens and Maillot, well I built a shelter for her and left her plenty of food and water, she's a cat, a stray cat, so I knew she'd be fine for 2 nights outside. We arrived and saddled up the dogs and went for a long walk around the city, stopped and had some coffee and chocolate chaud and planned our next couple days. It was a Monday, so most restaurants were closed. We ended up eating at the brasserie down the street and had an excellent dinner (sometimes they surprise you).

Parc des Poetes

The next day we hopped in the car and headed towards Montpellier, but we couldn't take the autoroute - - no no, because we needed to find a good route for bikes. For our July trip we'll be biking up to Montpellier. We found a beautiful route with views of the Pyrenees, the sea and many wineries. When we got into Montpellier we headed for place de la comédie, which is a big open square with loads of restaurants, a park, the office tourism, stores, the opera is where the team time trial for the tour de france will start. We had some lunch walked around a bit and then headed back to Béziers.

La Opera at place de la comédie

place de la comédie

The next day we had to find a route from Béziers south towards Perpignan, so back in the car we went searching for smaller roads. I must say, it's exhausting trying to read the map in the car, my eyes were spinning by the end. But we found another amazing route that's we'll do the 3rd day. We also stopped to visit the Canal du Midi and the Écluses de Fonseranes, where you have to "help yourself" to 7 locks to get up/down the river. It was amazing to watch this huge barge navigate into the lock, with only a couple inches left on each side. There is also a lovely bike path that starts in Béziers and follows the Canal du Midi all the way to Toulouse. It could be a perfect ride on the first day.

huge barge going into one of the écluses

the water came rushing out and the boat rose so fast

Before dinner we went to Les Chameau Ivre a Bar a vins just down the street from our hotel. It was really nice and their wines were amazing. Great selection of tapas too. We have already decided to bring our friends K&E to Béziers for 1 night when they come and visit in July, because K would so love this place. We had dinner at Le Patio and I went with a pasta dish that I thought was vegetarian, but when it was put in front of me realize it was some type of seafood. What though....when we came home realized it was cuttlefish "seiche" in french. Non mon favori!

I really liked Montpellier and would love to spend more time there and Béziers was lovely as well. We had good weather and it was nice to get away. We didn't have to make a fire for 3 days and I must say, it was wonderful. The hotel was cozy warm and the bed so so comfortable. It was a great trip. We will be going back in April or May so that we can actually ride the routes we have mapped out. Want to make sure they are good and that we know them well. We'll also be visiting Andorra and the Pyrenees so we can ride the routes there too. Ben our business partner already went there last week to check out the hotels, so that's taken care of and there is only 1 route into Andorra and then we'll be doing one of the great climbs "Col du tourmalet" in the Pyrenees, so we don't need to map out routes there, but we do want to ride them before our trip.

So now we are back in the Aveyron and guess's raining! argh. I guess that is why this area is so lovely and green in the spring/summer. I must say we are both missing sunny Béziers, but Maillot is one happy cat, laying in front of the fire right now.


Veronica said...

Glad you enjoyed "our" bit of France! One of the things I love about southern France is the variety of landscapes within a short drive: here, we are within easy reach of mountains, sea, garrigue, forests, and the wide open spaces of the Aveyron.

You should visit Narbonne too -- I think you'd like it, it's a charming small town with a fantastic covered market (and large open-air markets Thursday and Sunday).

Loulou said...

So happy to hear that you got some sun! And that you enjoyed the region. The wine is good, non? :)

Wish I had known you were coming, we could have met for a coffee (or a drink) in Béziers!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Veronica - what is a garrigue? We did go through Narbonne (on our way to find a good route for biking), we also stopped at a lovely enclosed park for the dogs, they loved Narbonne.

L - I had no idea you were so close to Béziers....we'll come back in april or may to do the rides, so I will make sure that I contact you before so we can get together..

Jane said...

I`d love to know the name of the hotel you stayed at. We`re planning on visiting the region this spring.

p.s. Love your blog!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Jane - it's the hotel des poetes and it's lovely, highly recommended.

Rowena said...

What a lovely little escape, and I can certainly understand why you'd appreciate a bit of sun! It's the same here with the fog, rain and cold. How I wish spring would just hurry up.

And another thing, what about more pics of your two dogs? I'd love to seem them with you two at a cafe!

Randal Graves said...

If I was a rich man, well, I'd probably live in France, so if I was a semi-rich man, I'd send you guys some loot so you could travel more. These write-ups are so much more interesting than political junk.

Plus, there's a Parc des Poètes there. We have a park with this ugly thing. :)

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Rowena - man...we are counting the days until spring. Today was horrible, gale force winds (up to 50 miles per hour), rain and cold. a huge tree fell over in front of our house, blocking the road. Argh!

Ah, the dogs...that's because you have two of the cutest dogs ever! OK, I think it's time for a dogs in france post.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Randall - thanks for thinking of us and I'll keep checking the poste for a check...ha!

We are very lucky as we'll be doing tons of travelling coming up starting in March. Bordeaux, Belgium, Italy, back to Béziers and Andorra and Luchon to ride the routes we just mapped out, Paris in June, back to and Laneudoc with our tour to ride these routes again and to watch the tour, over to Provence in July to ride Mt. Ventoux a day before the tour rides it and then see the stage and maybe some other exciting places...we'll be poor but well travelled! Stay tuned.

Nadege said...

The garrigue is like the chaparral in Southern California. It has wild thyme and rosemary, small trees and brush...
France is 80 % the size of Texas but the landscape changes every few miles. That is what I like about Europe. The mont Ventoux is a hard uphill ride but you will have a magnificent view of the Alps. When you are in the Pyrenees, you have to see the "cirque de Gavarnie". Spring will be here soon. You will have to take a ride on the Aubrac to see the wild daffodils and narcisses. I truly envy you. Thank you for the beautiful pictures.

CS said...

I really enjoyed reading this, and admire the way you're going about researching and planning for your upcoming bike tour. It all sounds fantastic (we're not good cyclists but that path along the Canal du Midi sounds brilliant!).

Cheers from Sydney.

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

Nadege - thanks for the garrigue clarification. I agree about loving france for it's landscape...we are on the corner of 4 departments (aveyron, tarn, lot and tarn-et-garonne) and all of them have such different landscapes, it's wonderful.

Yes, mt. ventoux will be hard for me...but a classic climb and something we have started to train for (we are also doing the tourmalet in the pyrenees 2 weeks before ventoux). Good thing i'm in the aveyron where it's easy to train for them.

We are counting the days until spring!

Notre Vie Juteuse said...

CS - ah, warm Sydney!! We were following the Tour down under cycling race and it has been HOT. Wish I was there right now.

Heidi said...

This sounds amazing!! What an adventure you're living!!

Cindy said...

I agree with Rowena... a dogs in France post would be fun.

Spring is sounding so good to me right now. It was 25° this morning when I went out for a run. Brrrrrr!

La Framéricaine said...

I am so delighted to hear about your trip to scout out your upcoming Tour De France trip! France sounds wonderful and all of your activities sound very exciting and engaging. Good for you!

I remember going to live in CA from OK. After 4 years my brother and I drove back to OK for a visit. By the time I got to UT I soooo missed the ocean. Mixed blessings, huh?

Wishing you springtime soon but my experiences of packing my suitcase for summer in France in June have made me leery of expecting warmth in France before July. Just about Tour time...


Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

sounds like your clients will benefit from your careful research. I went to Beziers in 2006 to look at a few properties (thus the pic of the Millau viaduct in my blog header) ... and while interesting to visit, definitely affirmed that my heart rested squarely in the Dordogne ... glad you guys had fun and thawed out a bit. Personally, I'm loving the distinct seasons.

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