In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas

In wine there is truth, in water there is health.

We recently stumbled upon a local wine tasting event called “In vino Pézenas” which I guess was a play on words referring to the above latin phrase. I was delighted to discover that the local winemakers were coming out in force to display their wines at hitherto “secret” locations around the town. As you may know, in many towns and cities, large doors can open to reveal hidden courtyards to hôtels particuliers or private mansions. These are usually now converted into flats for town dwellers who are the only ones with access to these courtyards but, for 3 nights in June, Pézenas opened its doors to the curious, and the local winemakers displayed their wines for tastings by candlelight. It was a great way to get a historical tour combined with a wine tasting experience (a bit like a posh pub crawl)!

After getting a taste for wine tasting, as it were, we saw an event advertised at a local château that included wine, food and music. So we headed off to Château de Cassan on the longest day for an evening sitting at long tables chatting, eating and drinking until nightfall. I later learnt that 21st June is marked nationwide as La Fête de la Musique so it shouldn’t have surprised me that every town and village seemed to be hosting some sort of musical event that evening.

Another lovely day out that we had was to the nearby Pont du Diable or Devil’s Bridge. This old bridge was built in the 11th century by monks to help them travel between abbeys on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The longer span bridge I thought was just as photogenic but that only dates from the 1930s. We visited as part of a day trip to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and the Grottes de Clamouse.

Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is one of the famous Plus Beaux Villages de France and it really is deserving of its Most Beautiful Village status. We wandered around and had a very nice long lunch before heading off for the caves down the road.

The Grottes de Clamouse are spectacular limestone caves with allegedly the largest variety of crystals found in any known caves. The stalactites (hold tight to the ceiling) and stalagmites (might reach the ceiling) were impressive to say the least and, as the guide told us, all you need to make a similar cave is water, calcium and A LOT of time!

So water and wine have featured heavily in our latest adventures and (for those of you still awaiting news about the “chicks” mentioned in the last post) I am happy to report that the chicks have hatched and we’ll be moving to Vence near Nice at the start of July! If you’ve no idea what I’m on about, just head back to the last post and all will be explained!

À bientôt, bisous.

Don’t count your chickens…

…before they’ve hatched.

So there was me, last time, waxing lyrical about this amazing apartment we were going to move into in Vence but, little did I know then, I was counting my chickens before they had hatched.

We got a call from the agent who said that we couldn’t have the apartment after all. We were gutted. I mean, I’d already done a spreadsheet of all the furniture we needed and costed it up and everything!

So it was back to the drawing board and back to Nice to pound the streets again. Well, in actual fact, I swallowed my nerves and decided to call them all first. By now my vocabulary for all things estate agent is tip top so I dutifully telephoned around a dozen agents asking if they had anything. We got two leads. Firstly, a modern apartment in a university neighbourhood of Nice and, secondly, an apartment in an old Niçoise house in the port area. We organised a last minute Airbnb in Vence and off we went.

 

The modern apartment had an underground garage and a balcony for outside dining but the old port apartment had charm and was in a gated community (plus it was furnished so my aforementioned spreadsheet would no longer be required). We were weighing up the options when the Head of the school at ISN (who is leaving this year) contacted me to say that we’d be welcome to come over to see her place and meet her landlady to talk terms. This sounded promising. Although the landlady has actually put the house on the market, it will take at least 3 months to do all the paperwork so she said she’d be willing to rent to us in the interim. This house has parking and terraces for outdoor dining and charm (plus 2 en suite bedrooms) and it’s in a little group of similar houses and it’s walking distance to our favourite town, Vence. Wow.

Now I’m trying not to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but my, what cute little chicks they are going to be…!

While we were over in Alpes-Maritimes, we visited the nearby towns of Biot and La Colle sur Loup (The Glue on the Wolf!) and marvelled at their beauty:

 

Of course I had to get a shot of the mairies:

 

And while I’m on  the subject of mairies, here is the mairie  of a tiny abandoned village by the side of Lake Salagou (back in Hérault), which we visited a couple of weeks ago, I also tried to capture the wonderful red poppies but the photo doesn’t do them justice:

 

I was also lucky enough to be invited to an event in Limoux (near Carcassonne) to listen to a local author, Pat Young, talk about her books. Richard very kindly drove me there and then went off for a hike in the hills while I did my “book thing”. I was greeted at the cute tea shop by the author herself who offered each guest a glass of the famous local bubbles, Blanquette de Limoux – yum. After that, we sipped tea as she told us tales of getting published, the writing process and some personal experiences along the way. We asked questions, raised points, laughed and, amazingly, the two hours whizzed by. I asked her to sign my books and she graciously agreed, writing a personal message in each. The first book “till the dust settles” starts on the day the Twin Towers in New York were attacked and weaves a clever mistaken identity plot which is a psychological thriller page turner. I couldn’t put it down. The second book “i know where you live” can be read independently (but does follow the first) however now the action moves to Carcassonne. Again the plot takes you on an emotional roller coaster which I can vividly picture as a movie so who knows… I would recommend both books wholeheartedly.

I really enjoyed the whole book event and can’t wait for her next book to come out…

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My latest adventure was a cruise along the Canal du Midi including a delicious lunch. The sun came out and I met several new people while gently cruising down the canal in a very sedate fashion passing other barges, ducks and even going through the famous Malpas Tunnel hewn from the rock by hand in the 1600s to become Europe’s first navigable canal tunnel. What a lovely way to spend a Wednesday afternoon!

 

Meanwhile Rich was on another of his hikes and took a couple of lovely shots of the landscape:

 

I’ll leave you with a photo I took in The Glue on the Wolf:

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I’ll let you know if the chicks hatch…

À bientôt, bisous.