Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas!


Crèche at St-Gervais-sur-Mare

The animated crèche at St-Gervais-sur-Mare is a local wonder. The stable scene is altogether traditional, Jesus is not placed in the manger until Christmas Eve. The wonder is the surrounding buildings. A complete miniature village representing all the crafts and industries of the area. There is a farrier, a cloutier or nail maker, miners, shepherds, a blacksmith's forge, a stream with fishermen and many more creations. The whole village is the work of one man, Monsieur Mas, and his wife and has been built over the past 16 years, The buildings are made of local stone and the roof tiles are typical provençal pantiles made from clay (more than 11,000 of them!). Many of the models are animated with the workings driven by scavenged windscreen wiper and washing machine motors. Monsieur Mas can tell you who is represented by many of the model villagers. The crèche is located in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs in the village and is open until mid February. I really recommend a visit if you are in the area! Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Chateau de Mercoirol


Le Chateau de Mercoirol

The ruins of the 10th century Château de Mercoirol are situated 428m high to the south of Lamalou-les-Bains. In the distance are the snow-dusted hills of the Cévennes. The highest hill in the photo is Le Marcou (1070m).
(Canon EOS 450D, Sigma 17-70mm at 62mm, 1/1000s f6.3)

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Icy fingers


Icy Fingers

It's very cold here still. The temperature hasn't risen above freezing today, very unusual for the south of France. These icicles were up in the mountains and may well last for some time.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Frosty Espinouse


Frost and snow in the Espinouse

About 20 minutes drive from our home the road crosses some high passes (above 1000m) in the Espinouse hills. The views are always beautiful but today, with the trees rimed in frost and light snow, it was exceptional!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Weir near Bédarieux


Weir on the River Orb

By this time of year this weir is usually flowing very fast but we have had very little rain this autumn and the flow on the River Orb is low.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Suspension Bridge


Suspension bridge at Le Poujol-sur-Orb

This suspension bridge has been recently overhauled and repainted. All traffic is prohibited if the temperature falls below -20 deg C! In the six years we have lived here the temperature has never got anywhere near that! (Canon EOS 450D, Sigma 17-70mm lens at 17mm)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Handsome Villa


Villa in Lamalou-les-Bains

One of the many attractive villas in Lamalou-les-Bains. Once private homes, many have now been converted to apartments. (Canon EOS 450D with Sigma 17-70mm lens at 25mm)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Roquebrun


Roquebrun and the River Orb

The small town of Roquebrun is an attractive tourist destination in summer with people sunbathing and paddling from a stony river beach or hiring canoes on the River Orb. It is much quieter in winter, but just as attractive. It benefits from a microclimate which keeps the temperature a little higher than its surroundings and is consequently known locally as "Le Petit Nice". (Panasonic Lumix FX-07)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Oratory


The Oratory

This curious little building is situated in the vineyards above L'Horte. The Oratory has seven sides and a central pillar and table which usually has an attractive display of flowers. Each of the seven roundels above the open doorways is filled with different coloured abstract stained glass. A tablet above the main entrance (on the opposite side to the photo) reads (loosely translated) "Here stands the Oratory of St John of the Peace of God erected by Marguerite Massot. House of prayer and contemplation for men and women of all beliefs conscious of the need to eliminate the violence of the world." (Canon EOS 450D with Sigma 17-70mm lens at 17mm. Psudo HDR in Photoshop)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Le Camin Ferrat


Le Camin Ferrat

Mostyn and I took our Tuesday walk from the town of Soubès near Lodève. This walk climbs an ancient road known locally as Le Camin Ferrat. The road dates from medieval times and was used for the transport of salt from the Camargue and for the Transhumance, the transfer of flocks from lowland winter pasture to the high Causses and back. The photo shows Mostyn toiling up the partly paved roadway which ascends 400 metres over a distance of less than 2 Kms. (Panasonic Lumix FX-07)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Old Railway Station


La Gare, Lamalou-les-Bains

This is the old railway station at Lamalou-les-Bains. The station used to be a busy terminus for the direct train from Paris until the middle of the 20th century bring "curistes" to benefit from the healing waters of the Spa. Nowadays the building serves as a Chambres d'Hôtes and as an Art Gallery. (Canon EOS 450D with Sigma 17-70mm lens at 17mm)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

December dawn


 Dawn in Lamalou

This amazing sky greeted me when I got up this morning. We don't see good sunsets from our house being on the East side of a hill, but we do get some stunning dawns! (Canon EOS 450D with Sigma 17-70mm at 23mm)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Lunas


Old Lunas and Le Redondel

This is the town of Lunas. The old part of the town is clustered round a spur of rock called Le Redondel. There is a statue of the Virgin on the edge of Le Redondel and the ruins of the old castle on the very top.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Foret des Écrivains Combattants


Memorial stone at the Foret des Écrivains Combattants

This forest is only a few kilometres from our house. It was planted as a memorial to the writers and poets that died in the "Great" war, World War I. The inscription reads (loosely translated): "In memory of the 560 writers that died in the struggle against the invasion. The Association of War Writers has planted these trees in the struggle against flooding." The forest was planted in the late 20s as part of a massive reforestation effort to reduce the risk of landslip during heavy rains.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Paul Coste-Floret






Bust of Paul Coste-Floret

This bronze bust of Paul Coste-Floret is near Lamalou-les-Bains casino. He was an important French politician rising to the post of Minister of the French Overseas Territories in the Post-war years. He was also mayor of Lamalou from 1953-59 and again from 1971-79. One of Lamalou's many hospitals bears his name today.         (Panasonic Lumix FX07 with fill-in flash)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Full moon over Capimont


Full moon over Capimont

Speaks for itself! (Canon EOS 450D, Canon 55-250 IS lens at 250mm)

Monday, 30 November 2009

St Chinian


St Chinian from N.D de Nazareth

This view from the chapel of Notre-Dame de Nazareth looks over the vineyards towards St Chinian.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Église, Lamalou-les-Bains


Lamalou's Church

Taken a couple of weeks ago. You may notice that there is only one hand on the clock. The hour hand fell off in 2004 and has never been replaced. There's always tomorrow to do things here!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pont Eiffel, Olargues


Pont Eiffel, Olargues

This bridge near Olargues was built in 1889 by Eiffel. The bridge, about 200m long spans the River Jaur and the main Lamalou-St Pons road. Unfortunately it isn't as elegant as his Viaduc de Garabit near St Flour (see below). The bridge used to carry the railway line from Lamalou-les-Bains, via St Pons and Mazamet, to Toulouse. The line was closed to normal traffic in 1956 but a tourist train ran during the summer until the 1980s. Now the trackbed has been restored as a footpath, the Piste Vert,  for much of its length. Button, our dog, has just finished reading the sign!



Viaduc de Garabit

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Walking near Brusque


The descent to Brusque

Mostyn and I tackled the Merdelou walk near Brusque in Aveyron today. The ascent and descent were exceptionally steep and very tiring on the old legs! 14.5Kms with about 650m climbing - enough for me!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Casino Statue Lamps


Ladies of the lamps?

The bar terrace at the front of Lamalou's Casino is bordered by several metallic statues of women holding lamps. It gives a rather Art Deco feel to the surroundings.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Evening, Bouzigues


Evening sun over the Étang de Thau, Bouzigues

We had a great meal in the village of Bouzigues, sitting out in the warm sunshine in late November! Oysters (Huîtres de Bouzigues), Fish Soup (Soupe de Poisson), Gilt-head Bream (Dorade), Monkfish (Lotte) Bourride, all excellent! Bouzigues is the main centre of the shellfish farming industry in this area. The structures in the water are the "tables" from which ropes are hung to cultivate the oysters and mussels. The oysters are considered by many to be the best in France and are sold in Paris using simply the name "Bouzigues". The Étang de Thau is one of the largest coastal lagoons in Languedoc being about 21 kms long and 8 kms wide. See the Wikipedia entry on the Étang de Thau.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Autumn, Gorges d'Héric


Autumn colours in Les Gorges d'Héric

The Gorges d'Héric is a nearby beauty sport and is very busy in the summer with people walking, picnicking and swimming in the pools. In autumn it becomes a blaze of colour and is much quieter!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Sheep's Head


Sheep's Head

This curious sculpture is the outlet to a field drain from a house in Lamalou. Despite walking past here many times, I never noticed this until a couple of days ago!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Fountain in Lamalou-les-Bains


Fountain Statue

This statue stands atop a fountain in Place de Gaulle, Lamalou-les-Bains. I have converted the photo to monochrome and added a platinum toning effect. It's a curious mixture of styles: a nude holding bunches of grapes, cherubs playing musical instruments and marine animals. There's no indication of who made it or what it commemorates. There are a few more images below.


Monday, 16 November 2009

Orange earth


Orange earth near Castelnau-de-Guers

I took our dog, Button, for a short walk through the vineyards and garrigue near Castelnau-de-Guers. The earth really is that colour!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Autumn near Douch


The hamlet of Perpignan-la-Grave

Taken a few years ago on the same day as yesterday's post. The tiny hamlet of Perpignan-la-Grave is on the road to the village of Douch at the foot of Le Caroux.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Autumn colours


 Autumn, Col de l'Ourtigas
Trees clothed in autumn colours spill down the slopes of the mountain at Col de l'Ourtigas, about 15 minutes drive from our home. This photo was taken on November 11th but a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tournemire walk


View of Tournemire from the Cirque, Roquefort in the distance

Mostyn and I took a trip to Tournemire in Aveyron for our regular Tuesday walk. Aveyron isn't strictly in Languedoc but it's not too far away! We reached the top of the impressive Cirque de Tournemire after a short but steep climb. Despite very cold and rather cloudy conditions the views were superb. Roquefort (where the cheese comes from) is just across the valley on the side of the rocky hill which contains the caves where the cheeses are matured.

There is a beautifully restored Caussenard farmhouse on the top of the cirque. The typical chimney stacks and the wonderful stone-flagged roofs are shown in the photo below.


Restored Caussenard farmhouse, Les Fournils

Monday, 9 November 2009

Avenue de la République, Lamalou-les-Bains


Avenue de la République

Another tree lined road, this time in Lamalou-les-Bains. The hill in the distance is Pic de la Coquillade.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Tree lined road, Roujan


Plane trees line the road near Roujan

A feature of many roads in France are the rows of Plane trees lining them. There is some debate now about whether these trees should be felled as they may constitute a danger to drivers. Personally I think the poor French driving should be addressed first. French drivers drive too fast, too close and often after too much to drink!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Le Devois, Graissessac


Graissessac village

Mostyn and I undertook this strenuous walk today, not a great distance but a lot of stiff climbing reaching the high point of Mont Agut (1020 meters). Le Devois is the head of the valley for the stream that runs through Graissessac, le Ruisseau de Provères. Graissessac was once a very busy mining town, you can see some terracing from the mining at the top left of the photo. This part of Hérault was very rich in coal and other minerals, including zinc, copper, manganese etc. Coal mining at Graissessac lasted from the 18th century until the 1960s.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Capitelle at Faugères

Capitelle and view to Mediterranean

Hérault has many dry stone shelters called "capitelles". These were built mainly in the 18th and 19th century as shelters, stores for tools or for temporary crop storage. The name is a French version of the Occitan name "capitélo"; Occitan was the language spoken in this region up until the 20th century. The area around Faugères has many capitelles several of which have been faithfully restored by a local historical society.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Autumn, Vines 2


Patchwork of Vines near Roquessels

I promised some better autumn colours a few days ago. Here are some vines near to the village of Roquessels. The varying shades of russet and gold are very attractive at this time of year. I didn't, however, find such glorious colours as a couple of years ago. The following photo was taken in early November 2007 near to Caussiniojouls.


Autumn, vines near Caussiniojouls

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Rainbow over the Valée d'Orb

Rainbow over the Valée d'Orb

Today, Mostyn and I went for our regular Tuesday walk despite poor, showery weather. We walked above the villages of Dio and Valquières. Despite the drizzle, the sun did occasionally break through and we were treated to several good views of rainbows. The town on the left of the photo is Le Bousquet d'Orb. The plateau here has been the home of seven wind turbines for a couple of years. They are quite impressive close up, standing 93 meters tall plus the length of the blade, about another 60 meters. As part of the development a shelter for walkers has been built which was welcome for us to take a snack out of the strong wind and showers!


Mostyn at the walkers' shelter

Hotel de Ville, Lamalou-les-Bains




All communes in France have a town hall. Sometimes its called the Mairie, other times the Hotel de Ville. This is ours. It is an attractive building but, once the conversion work is completed, will be superceded by a much larger building at the old military hospital at the other end of the town. This photo taken a few days ago - today was fairly wet and dull.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Flamingoes at Les Aresquiers


Flamingoes at Les Aresquiers

We went for a walk to Les Aresquiers, a coastal wetland area near to Frontignan-Plage, to do a spot of birdwatching. We usually see Flamingoes there, though there were less than I would have expected for the time of year, but were also lucky to see a Crane flying over, probably migrating to its wintering area in North Africa. Les Aresquiers is an interesting area with a huge brackish lagoon, salt flats with Salicornis plants backed by a small woodland of Aleppo Pines. We also saw gulls (Yellow-legged, Black-headed and possible Mediterranean), Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Sandwich Tern and heard Sardinian Warblers, Robins and Jays.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Lichen covered log


Lichen covered log in the Forêt des Écrivains-Combattants

There is a forest about ten minutes drive from us dedicated to writers and poets that lost their lives during World War I. While walking the dog there I found this lichen covered log and thought it would make a good photo.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Val de Vernazobre


Early autumn colours in the Val de Vernazobre

I'm just back from a 15Km walk with Mostyn and Button around the Val de Vernazobre near Le Bousquet d'Orb. The autumn coulours are just starting to come into the trees. Chesnuts and Beech are turning but the Oaks are still green as, of course, are the Holm Oaks and Conifers. The weather is still glorious, 21°C today.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Autumn, Vines


Vines near Berlou

The grape harvest has been over for some weeks now and the vines are just beginning to take on their autumn colours. The colours will become more vibrant over coming weeks before they lose their leaves completely and the process of pruning for next year's harvest begins. These vines produce grapes for the Saint Chinian AOC wines from Berlou.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Autumn, Sweet Chestnuts


Sweet Chestnuts

In October and early November in this part of France many people gather Sweet Chestnuts. The hills around Lamalou-les-Bains are cloaked in forests. The main trees present are Evergreen (Holm) Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Beech and, on the higher hills, conifers. The Sweet Chestnut was an important crop up until the start of the XXc and was the main staple food of many of the people of the area. Wheat doesn't grow well here and chestnut flour was used to make bread. Chestnuts were harvested and dried in purpose built drying houses known as Secadous. The dried chestnuts were then ground to make flour. Most of the large chestnut plantations are now somewhat derelict but the remains of the secadous are encountered from time to time while out walking the forests.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Les Thermes, Lamalou-les-Bains


The entrance to Les Thermes

Lamalou owes its existence to the thermal springs found here. The healing properties of the waters were known back in the XVIIc but the town became established as a fashionable spa in the late 1800s when several famous people started to visit for "La Cure", including the renowned novellist, Alphonse Daudet. Specific treatments are now given for a range of illnesses and conditions including rheumatic pain, neurological problems (e.g. Parkinson's) and trauma. The main source for the water emerges from a fault line at a temperature of 52ºC. It is rich in magnesium and potassium as well as traces of many other minerals.
The entrance is decorated with Egyptian style scenes created by the artist Dominique-Henri Mongeois in 1998.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Lamalou's Casino


The Casino at Lamalou-les-Bains

In 1907 the French Government enacted a law that allowed any spa town to have a casino, and here is ours. The casino stands in a small park along with a bandstand, restaurant, bar, theatre and Lamalou's own small cinema. In the summer season free "animations" (entertainments) are held in front of the casino including opera, rock-bands, variety shows and even Paris Folies!
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