Happy summer solstice! We’ve progressed from a long, wet spring to a somewhat less wet, warmer season. The summer solstice is days away, and I’ve been out exploring a few corners of the region.
A trip to the beach
First stop: Gruissan, on the Mediterranean coast south of Narbonne. This area is all about life next to the sea. There’s an ancient fishing village, with small picturesque cabanes de pêcheurs (fishermen’s huts), some now used for holiday rentals, plus tantalizing fresh fish stands. Just around the bend are the salt flats where salt is still produced in the old way, by hand. There are long, beautiful beaches with cabins on stilts (1,300 of them!). All along the water’s edge you can find places to pick up fresh oysters and other seafood. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s a round medieval tower named for the pirate Barbarossa.
We strolled around the site of the old fishermen’s huts at Étang de l’Ayrolle:
A drive in the mountains
I also live close to the mountains, with several regional parks to the north. On several driving tours with friends, I’ve visited the source of the river that runs through my town (the Cesse), explored villages clinging to hillsides, crossed a few medieval bridges, shopped for local crafts, and hiked a deep, rocky canyon.
A visit to church
There’s a rare and exquisite seven-sided church in a town just west of here. The Sainte-Marie church of Rieux-Minervois, dating from the 12th century, is unusual for its heptagonal layout, and the number seven is represented throughout the small church. The exquisite carvings are by the Master of Cabestany, whose name is lost to history, but whose work is recognizable by the artist’s depth of skill, unique features, and consistent productivity throughout the Occitanie region. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work soon!
The sign is in a Spanish-French tapas café, and it reads: “Stop putting your problems on Facebook and come to the bar like everyone else.” Makes sense to me! And speaking of technology and social media, you won’t see another post from me until mid-July, when I return from vacation. See you then!