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For my last solo car excursion, I picked a place not quite as far away so thank could have a relaxing afternoon back at the château and headed to Gruissan to get a better look at some salt flats and to hopefully be able to eat some amazing seafood.

And I think I was finally getting at least a little proficient with this GPS thing as until I got into the actual little village itself, I didn’t have any difficulties. And the challenge of getting through thentown to the salt flats on the other side wasn’t bad since I could see where I needed to go.

My first stop was where you can buy fresh seafood, not that I was buying, but it was pretty cool to see the operation.

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There were also numerous flamingos in the area that were fun to watch.

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As it was getting close to noon, I then headed off to find the recommended restaurant La Cambuse du Saunier.

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Here again I was able to test my French in and figure out that since I didn’t have a reservation I could sit in one of the bar areas and order from a menu limited to the fruits de mer. While a salt encased fish would have been nice, it is hard to complain about being limited to fresh seafood. And I even got to try some new things.

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I must admit , I had not idea what bulots were when I ordered, but I figured there was enough other stuff on the plate if I didn’t like them. And it turned out that I liked them more than some of the other things.

I also had a great view as I was sitting right next to the salt flats.

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It was actually pretty amazing seeing such large piles of salt and the work going on to produce what we actually consume.

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Of course there was also a shop with said products for sale, but as always on a trip like this, you want to buy this amazing stuff that is often hard to find, but are limited by what you can fit in your suitcase.

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As my third morning in France arrived, it was the day for me to pick up a rental car so that I could explore some new places. The plan was for me to drive with the group to Montpellier, stay with them for the walking tour, and then head to Avis to pick up my car.

Since Montpellier is about an hour and a half from Agel, we got a reasonably early start so that we would be able to start our walking tour at 10:30. Thankfully we made a quick pot stop as we got close to the city where I could buy an additional coffee to give me a bit of extra fuel.

I had done the same walking tour 3 years ago, but it was a good tour and my reservation wasn’t until noon, so it made sense to tag along. Montpellier is quite an interesting city and as such it is impossible to see all of it in a two hour tour. However, this tour does a good job of highlighting the main things and showing off some things that you can only see during such a tour.

After having been in remote locations for more than a month, seeing large bindings was a bit of a shock, yet none the less, impressive.

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Other than the grand buildings you are met with as you enter the town, one of the first things that you can notice is how the interior of the shops in the old district all have vaulted ceilings. This is because the current buildings incorporated, rather than replacing, the ancient structures. Unfortunately, it is quite hard to get a good photo of these from the outside due to the variations in light. But I found the one below on the internet to give you an idea.

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This theme is repeated throughout the city as the old and the new are commonly seen side by side and on top of each other.

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And there are just some pretty cool looking structures as well.

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The first of the special places we got to see was one of the Hôtel Particuliers. Don’t let the name or the appearance fool you, these are not hotels.

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In an age gone by, these wrench homes of the wealthiest folks in town. And many of them have been preserved in French cities where they now serve as apartments, office buildings, etc. I’ll hold off on saying more about these until a later post.

The other special place was a Mikwé. This site is extra special given how well preserved that it is(there is still water in the bath). And it will probably get even better, as there is process going on now to excavate a near by synagogue and create a combined historic site. It also is special given the large contributions made during the 12th century by the Jewish population of Montpellier to both the commercial and medical communicate no doubt playing a large role in Montpellier’s Medical School being the oldest one still operating in Europe.

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Of course there were also just some good views of a working city with some awesome old passages through which one can wander.

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After the tour, it was time to head to Avis to start the next part of my adventure. Getting there wasn’t too hard thanks to a good pointing in the right direction fro Ihla. And getting the keys wasn’t too bad either. Then it came to finding the car, the lot was no where near the counter, and the directions weren’t exactly clear. So after wandering for a while I went back to the counter for clarification. This time I found the lot, but was thinking the whole way there how hard it was going to be after I dropped the car off in 3 days to get all of my luggage from the lot to the train. Not only was the lot far away, the pavement wasn’t great, and in some cases didn’t even exist.

But with that behind me, it was time to figure out how to navigate the roads in France. This meant that it was time to tackle the dreaded roundabouts. And, they didn’t turn out to be that bad, for the most part. The only ones that drove met nuts the whole time were the ones with multiple lanes. And, thanks to Ihla, I had a GPS to help me find my destinations.

The first of these was the town of Aigues-Mortes. The town is unique in that it is situated right next to the sea, yet still has a fully preserved wall. Getting there wasn’t too hard and I also got very lucky and found a parking spot it a lot close to the tick of things.

But then came the trouble, I had a very new fangled car, with a remote ignition switch, I couldn’t figure out how to make sure the dang car was locked. Eventually I just figured out that I would take a risk and hope that the car was still there when I was ready to leave.

The next challenge was lunch. And a challenge it was, since most restaurants in France chug down between lunch and dinner and it was already the bewitching hour. Thankfully, I found a place that was still serving and had a nice meal of moules-frites.

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With the hunger pangs gone, I could now be a tourist. Having had luck with the petit train two days back I started with that. This time it was once that could have been missed. I did get a few good looks at the walls from the backside of the city, but not much more.

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After the train, I kept seeing people on top of the wall, but couldn’t figure out how to get up there. Eventually I found the entrance and was able to walk around the entire perimeter. Well, almost run, as it was getting pretty late and I wanted to get back the the chateau in time for the line dancing and pot luck that evening, not to mention before dark.

So I moved quite quickly, stooping to get photos along the way, but not having time to read the information available.

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There were also some good views of the neighboring salt flats.

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At the end of the tour, I was able to climb one of the towers to see it as well as to get some new cool views.

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With the whirlwind tour behind me, it was time to get back in the car, yes – it was still l there, and head back to the chateau. This time, the GPS wasn’t quite as kind to me. Yes, it eventually got me to where I needed to be, but some of the roads it had me take looked more like sidewalks. And at one time I was high up in some hills, heading down some switchbacks on said sidewalks.

And, even though I had left at a reasonable time, I was worried that I wasn’t going to get back before dark. It seemed that every time checked the expected arrival time, it was later than before. And this type of thing would continue to plague me the next day, when it seemed as if I would drive 2 minutes, and have 3 minutes added to my remaining driving time.

Needless to say, I made it back. A bit shaken from the experience, and sadly not in time for the line dancing. But safe, and in time for some wine and the potluck.

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