Lots of visits were planned for today so breakfast was brief, a picnic was packed and we bought a couple of baguettes in the village before heading down the road to the town of Béziers, the biggest in the area and highly recommended according to the local tourist literature. We parked in a big underground car park – it sometimes feels like Da Vinci own most of the planet – and walked up the hill to the cathedral, stopping on the way to admire a quaint church we chanced upon.

View from the cathedral square

View from the cathedral square

Our first impressions were that the town was slightly run-down, if not actually a bit dirty, and the people all appeared wrapped up in their own problems, sullen-faced and unsmiling. That image grew in force as the day progressed. There was a cracking good view from the cathedral square but the cathedral itself was closed as were all the museums between 12 and 2.30. Back down through the narrow streets we strolled, eventually popping into a brasserie for a cup of coffee.

At last there was a glimmer of something interesting when the town hall’s entrance revealed an inscription to Jean Moulin, the WW2 Resistance leader. We asked if there was anything more substantial to see and were directed (with Gallic indifference) to the Tourist Information Office. The lady there gave us a map on which she marked the route to take to find the memorial statue. As seems to happen all the time in the towns we visit, we found ourselves going through the immigrant quarters on our way to the statue but at least when we got there the area opened out into a nice university campus.

Jean Moulin (you can't resist!)

Jean Moulin (you can’t resist!)

Curiosity satisfied we checked the map and decided on how to get back to the car. All was going well until we managed to pick up a very dodgy stray dog slobbering from the mouth and looking distinctly ill at ease yet determined to make us its new best mates. That is why we found ourselves taking refuge behind the gate of some private apartments and waiting a good ten minutes before daring to stick our heads outside and check the mutt had hooked up with some other mugs. The rest of the walk back to the car was done at an unusually quick pace with many a backward glance lest Rin Tin Tin be once again on our case. Personally I blame Mary’s perfume, but she blamed my ham sandwich!

Thankfully our next port of call proved worth its reputation and we were able to spend half an hour admiring the engineering behind the impressive 9 locks of the Canal du Midi, a system built to allow the boats using the canal to go up or come down the twenty metres difference in the height of the land at Béziers.

Mary under lock and quay!

Mary under lock and quay!

From the canal locks we drove back to Colombiers then back up the hill to visit the roman encampment near the Tunnel de Malpas. Guess what, as it was Monday, the site was closed! After the disappointment of Béziers, this was more than we could bear, so we gave up and just sat down in the sunshine and took some rays. It was probably the warmest day we have had since Capri which was a while back.

Even better picture of L'Etang

Even better picture of L’Etang

After some shopping we treated ourselves to a McDonald’s tea and that was pretty much the end of our visiting of the region of Hérault. The village we were in, Colombiers, is really nice and there is plenty of local stuff to see, especially the remarkable spider’s web of the Etang de Montady (Hope you’ve checked it out on close-up Google Maps) but the town of Béziers is way overhyped and does not come over as welcoming or keen for you to visit. Even the old town did not have the quaint attractiveness of so many of the other place we have visited. I’d probably give it a miss.

Tomorrow we drive to our last site in France, a place near Perpignan. Tonight we’ve got out the Spanish text books and started to brush up on our language and vocabulary.

Hasta mañana!

How stressed do I look?

How stressed do I look?

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