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France 2016 - To the Med then Inland




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To the Med then Inland


With no route planned we meandered east to Saint Lizier, an old hilltop town with Roman walls, a Romanesque cathedral and an Eighteenth century Apothecary. There were only a few tourists around and an outdoor painting event. We wandered around the narrow streets but as it was a Sunday the town centre was very quiet. We decided to drive on and took the winding road through a wooded river valley to Massat, a small village surrounded by hills. One road out had a Fermé sign and the alternative road had a 10T weight limit so we pulled in to the small municipal campsite for the night. The village had a hippyish feel to it, a church with an interesting interior and a couple of bistros popular with cyclists. We had a peaceful night - there was only one other camper, a solo Brit touring in a sports car and small tent.

Saint Lizier abbey
Saint Lizier cathedral
Massat - a caravan on a precarious pitch
Massat - pitch with a view!
Montsegur Cathar stronghold on a high rock
Montségur Cathar stronghold

We retraced our route to St Girons and took the main road to Foix, a busy town. The aire was in an industrial area which didn't appeal so we continued to the pleasant aire at Montferrier in wooded hills once a centre for talc mining with thirteen factories but now an almost deserted village. The next morning took us past nearby Montségur, the last Cathar stronghold on a high rock (we wondered at the effort required to build a castle so high up), and a river at Fontestorbe which apparently disappears every hour or so in the summer. We then came across the small village of Camon, one of the Plus Beaux villages, with roses and hollyhocks everywhere before reaching Mirepoix with its colonnaded town square for lunch.

Mirepoix colonnaded centre
Fontestorbe disappearing river

After a frustrating afternoon's driving calling in to a couple of towns to find the aires closed we decided to head for Camping de la Cité at Carcassone. The aire adjacent to the campsite was being extended but we chose to stay on the campsite for the night. The carpark nearest the cité charges €20 flat rate for motorhomes even for just 15 minutes. We walked about a mile to the cité and wandered around  the ramparts and narrow streets but in the early evening the museums had closed and nightlife, mainly restaurants, hadn't started yet so it was rather quiet - which suited us.

Carcassone walled city
Carcassone

The next day we headed east to the marina at Homps on the Canal du Midi where there was free motorhome parking and pleasant walks and cycling. We then drove north to the small Plus Beau village of Minerve set on a rock with a ruined castle tower surrounded on three sides by a deep gorge. Shortly after leaving we heard motorbikes and stopped to watch a group of riders performing amazing tricks and loops over high ramps in the valley below us.

We decided to head for the coast and drove on ever busier main roads to Narbonne where the traffic was horrendous. We eventually found a route out on quieter roads to the pleasant coastal town of Gruissan and headed for the aire at Gruissan Plage by the large sandy beach and ugly chalet complex.

Having spent a night by the Med we drove along to the sprawl of low-rise resorts of Narbonne Plage and St Pierre sur Mer then turned inland to Béziers another large busy town and on the free A75 autoroute to Pézenas where we discovered the interesting old town centre.

Pezenas doorway

Pezenas attractive shopPézenas

After a pleasant wander around for a couple of hours we returned to the autoroute for a short distance to Clermont Hérault and the aire at the campsite at Lac du Salagou where we had stayed a few years previously. Having paid the overnight fee, we walked along the lakeside and discovered that motorhomes could park free overnight at some of the carparks! A drive around the lake the next morning took us to Celles, a deserted village evacuated when the reservoir was built but someone must have miscalculated as it was in fact several metres above the water level.

















Camon a Plus Beau Village

Camon roses and hollyhocks
Camon
     
Mirepoix auberge
Mirepoix

Homps marina on Canal du Midi
A Péniche at Homps marina

Minerve
     Minerve

Pezenas old town gateway
Pézenas - entrance to the old town

 
Cirque de Navacelles
Cirque de Navacelles













One of the "must see" places in the Herault department is the Cirque de Navacelles which we approached from Lodeve. After a long winding drive up to the flat barren causse we reached La Baume Auriol, the main visitor centre, with fantastic views across the deep canyon. We decided not to drive our motorhome down the narrow road to the village at the base.  From there we took a good minor road across the Causse du Larzac to Le Caylar and on to La Couvertoirade, the walled Templar village where we were able to park overnight.

La Couvertoirade Templar walled town
La Couvertoirade La Couvertoirade

La Couvertoirade Templar town