Sunday, 21 May 2017

French Holiday Part 14 - Agde, Mèze, Bouzigues and Sète and the final few days

Tuesday 19th July 2016
Agde, Mèze, Bouzigues and Sète

Today’s plan was to visit the above places, but it did not quite work out that way.  It was all plain sailing until we neared Cap d’Agde – we were going to go from there all the way along the long sea front to marvel at the ziggurats, the number of tourists on the beaches and remind ourselves why it is just ‘not for us’!  However, the traffic ground to almost a halt, so we turned off to head around the other side of the Bassin de Thau to visit Mèze, then Bouzigues and finally Sète.  In case we do come down this far on a boat we wanted to check out mooring at all three places.  We wriggled our way around the one way system in Mèze, but found that the main car parking area by the port was shut today, so we gave up and went to Bouzigues.  Mèze is an attractive place, so we may try again another year.

We had much better luck in Bouzigues and found this nice easy parking space very close to the port.  Well it was easy for me, Chris’s only way out was to negotiate the steering wheel and gear stick and then clamber over the passenger seat and the reverse to get back in! 

We visited Bouzigues in 2000 with Sue and Ken from nb Cleddau and remembered liking it and even having a paddle in the Bassin du Thau (famous for its oysters and mussels).  This time it was the port we were interested in and what a delightful place it is.  There are plenty of boats to admire - more of that wonderful sound of the wind rippling through the rigging.

And round behind them is the visitor moorings – there are even electric points and water if required. 

Right behind these boats is a platform giving easy access to the sea if you fancy a dip.  There is even a shower to rinse off the salt water.  We would certainly never get a mooring like this in the UK!

The views from the mooring would also be pretty special when you are used to life on canals and rivers

And if swimming is not enough entertainment there is plenty to look at

Children having fun in small sailing boats – closely supervised of course.  Behind them you can see the oyster and mussels beds – they go on for miles.

Surf boarders – again they seemed to be under instruction.  We were only there for a short time, so I am sure there is a lot more to see.  The boat coming in from the right is a trip boat which might make a pleasant trip one day in the future if we don't do the full boat trip ourselves.

As it turned out we should have stayed in Bouzigues, but we had come with the intention of having a seafood lunch in Sète.  Again this is a place we have been to before and have enjoyed some great food in the past.  This time we were not so lucky and came away deciding that we will probably not bother going back again in the future.  We had such fond memories of it as a place to wander, sit by the water, enjoy a good meal and watch the boats moving along the many canals. 

The canals were still there 

So were the boats although many of them seemed a lot larger than on our last visit

The restaurants were also still there

So what was the problem?  The traffic – it was horrific (the above photo was taken in a rare moment of calm!) and as we failed to find anywhere to park above ground we headed down to an underground multi storey car park.  For some reason once we entered we sat still in a snail’s pace queue as cars tried to manoeuvre in and out of very tight parking spaces.  We even saw one lady give up and decide to use a disabled space and even though that was bigger she managed to reverse into a post with a resounding thud!  It took us about 25 minutes to park in a space that was no more than 200 yards from the entrance!  Worse still they charge by the 15 minutes.  We only stopped to have a very quick wander and to have lunch – the cost to park was 5€60!!

I rather think we made a bad choice of restaurant as well – we were on the other side of the canal from the pictures with no water side seating, so we were almost inside, the traffic was noisy and I made a poor choice of food.  Chris fared better, but we have both said if we want a ‘seaside seafood meal’ in the future we would go to Bouzigues or Gruissan, both of which are closer than Sète.

20-22 July 2016
The final few days – this and that

Well, all good things must come to an end and we deliberately left these last few days fairly free to relax and potter about before the long drive home as well as to think about the most depressing of chores – cleaning and packing!  One thing left to do was something that is a ‘must do’ when visiting Bize and that is a visit to the Olive Cooperative just outside the village.  Olives are a very important part of the agriculture of this area as well as the vines.  A little further west and sunflowers predominate. East there is a more rice and vines, of course, are everywhere!

You can go and walk around the olive trees

And see the olives growing – in June they are still quite small as they are not harvested until Sep-Dec depending on the type they are growing and whether they are to be green or black. 

There are rather lovely benches to rest and relax for a while in these tranquil surroundings

Along with quite a lot of boards with a lot of useful information.  Neither of us realised what is involved in producing the olives we buy in the supermarkets.  Now we know.

And then you go inside. There are olives to try - we favour the Lucques which are the ones grown in this area.

Just feast your eyes on a selection of what they have to offer – it is almost visual overload!

Just the odd bottle of olive oil!

You can try before you decide what to buy.

Hiding on one shelf are tins of gésiers (gizzards!!) which Chris was brave enough to try one year, but strangely enough he has never ordered a gézier salad again!!

There are also all sorts of fancy bowls, tablecloths and other local products

Then you go upstairs 

Where there are more things to tempt you to part with your money

I really liked this, but it is the wrong colour for our house, so the credit card stayed safely in Chris’s pocket.  There was no price on it and they do say ‘if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it’ and judging by the prices in general, they are probably right!

So did we buy anything – well yes of course we got some olives! We then returned to Bize to find some lunch.

The little café just across the road from our front door offers a tray of food at lunch times.  You get two entrées, a plat and two desserts.  As we did last time in 2011we ate there on the Thursday and Friday lunchtime.  This was Thursday’s offering

Jambon et oeuf, couscous with salady bits, chicken curry (in the black pot) and rice with goat’s cheese on toast and crème brulée to finish off.  It was all very tasty.

We woke on our last day here to thunder and heavy rain which continued on and off all morning, however as it is the first persistent rain we have suffered since the journey down five weeks ago we are not complaining.  I guess if you are going in the water rain is not a problem!

What we should have done was release the sides of the sail cloth awning on the terrace!  Still no damage was done and we moved the table and chairs before we let the water out.

We have always noted the big drains they have round here and now we know why they are that big – when it rains it really rains!

We had nothing planned for the morning apart from the rest of the packing, a trip to the hypermarket and to load the car with most of the stuff.  Once that was all done we made the very long and arduous journey from our house (the blue door beyond the flower tub on the right) to the Café du Midi for another of their ‘tray lunches’.  

Today’s feast was goats’ cheese in a choux bun, an egg mayonnaise salad, pork and chips (they were truly excellent fries), a chocolate fondant and fruit salad with an expresso to end the meal – all for 12.50€.  A pretty good deal in our opinion and no cooking for us tonight.  Mind you in the five weeks we have been here we have only had the oven on three times – each time to cook 2 chicken breasts which we used in salads (half a breast each, so 12 servings) and I had cooked one tortilla and one omelette.  We have lived very well on a large variety of salads.  The emergency packet of pasta and jar of sauce is going home with us!

The sun came out whilst we were having lunch and we enjoyed a quiet afternoon.  There was some cleaning and food preparation left to do, but that as the say was it!  All over bar the journey - something we are not looking forward to!

So would we come again?  Well yes we have to.  The timings of the entire trip were based both Bastille Day and the Fête d’Olivier (Olive Festival) that takes place in Bize Minervois every year.  We thought it was always on the Sunday after Bastille Day, but sadly for us this year it was on Sunday 24th July – the day after we left!!   All we saw of the 2016 event was preparation – cars had been moved from the promenade as that is where most of the action takes place.

A stage had been erected

A generator appeared on the dry river bed.

And the Café du Midi were preparing for a big group of Fête organisers in for dinner that (Friday) evening.  We think there was another leg going to be added after we left at lunchtime.

The final installment will cover what we missed - The Fête d’Olivier and the journey home. 

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