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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.