Vive la France!

Vive la France!

Welcome to my blog -- follow us as we travel around France.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Languedoc - Day 7: Market Day in Pezenas; St-Guilhem-le-Desert

This morning Jan & I took our cameras with us when we walked into the village for bread, and I'm sure we were the talk of the village as several people saw us snapping pictures. 

We got to Pezenas about 10:00 this morning to go to the market, but first we walked through some of the cobbled streets and looked in the shops.  The shops were open today!  I'm sure the locals are in tune with the opening and closing hours of the shops, but it is hard for tourists to figure out when something will be open.  Generally, most shops close at 12 or 12:30 for lunch and reopen at 2 or 2:30, and most stay open until 6:30 or 7.  The Pezenas market seemed bigger and busier than the one in Clermont last week.  Lots of people.  The stalls are organized pretty much by type.  At the top of the market are the meat, poultry, fish, and cooked food vendors, then the olive and charcuterie vendors.  In the middle are the clothing vendors -- everything you can imagine from underwear to shoes, to hats.  Finally, the fruit, vegetable, and flower vendors.  We bought mostly fruits and vegetables, plus some fresh flowers.

We ate lunch on our terrace today -- the day started out cloudy, then cleared up, and was beautiful.  After lunch we went to the Gorge du l'Herault, which is the canyon carved out by the Herault River.  The department (like a county in the US) that we are in is l'Herault, named for the river.  Our destination was a village called St-Guilhem-le-Desert.  There is an abbey there, as well as a wonderful village square dominated by a huge plane tree.  The buildings are all very rustic, and the village is shadowed by a mountain where the original old abbey was built -- you can still see the ruins.  St. Guilhem was born in the 8th century and was a friend of Charlemagne. He served under Charlemagne, and became the governor of Aquitaine.  He was engaged in and won more battles, and eventually returned to France, but his wife was dead, and he decided to devote himself to a quest for solitude.  Even though Charlemagne didn't want him to leave his service, he gave Guilhem a relic of the Cross, and Guilhem brought it to the abbey and retired to the monastery.  The village is a United Nations Heritage Site.

After having read "The Pillars of the Earth," it was easy to see how the abbey had been built (the current abbey dates to the 12th & 13th centuries, which is also the time frame for the book).  Wooden templates were built, so that the stones could be laid over them to form the arches.  Once the mortar dried and was properly seasoned, the wooden frames were removed.  It is so incredible that they were able to build structures like that in those days -- no cranes or machinery -- just winches, block & tackles, pulleys, and hard work.  Every stone had to be dressed by hand to exactly fit the stone next to it.

As we drove back to the house, it clouded up, and actually rained a little while we were eating dinner.  Hopefully, it will clear up again by morning.  We are close enough to the Mediterranean that the cooler marine air comes in pretty quick.  The weather has actually been perfect -- sunny, blue skies, and warm enough to go without a sweater most of the time.

Our plan for tomorrow is to take it easy and to stay pretty close to home.  We'll drive around and visit the nearby villages and perhaps find a winery to visit, and a good place to have a Sunday lunch.

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