Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Uzes, Marsaillan

They say not to judge a book by its cover. Well, I say, don’t judge a city by your hotel. Or the weather. This might seem obvious to you, but in practice, it is rather trying.

We arrived at Beziers an hour ago, at about 9pm, late, yes. We booked in advance and had been gallivanting all over the southern French country side in our newly hired Renault. We were late, and tired. The GPS took us on a rather interesting scenic route and down some “character building” roads, before leading us to our hotel. We parked where we could and hiked down some back street before coming to our destination for the evening. Locked. No reception. Magnifique.

We had received a phone call earlier in the day, but missed it while driving, and had returned the call at dinner, only to have a confused French women on the other end not understand that we were simply returning a call and eventually she hung up on us rather exacerbated. She hung up on us several times actually. Nevertheless, we turned up to our hotel to be greeted by a security guard who saved our lives, in a manner of speaking. He let us in and spoke to the French woman and we are now in our room. Praise the Lord.

Tomorrow we are presented with the challenge of not judging Beziers and exploring it (and it’s surrounds) without the hang over of this poor hotel experience.

Today was an adventure.

We left the football championship winning city of Montpellier in our hire car, that I cannot drive (being 3 months shy of 25 years old is rather costly in the insurance department), with Andrew running up a gutter or two, before finding ourselves in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Interesting place. The town is rather small, but is known to have flamingos and wild horses, which we were keen to see. The weather did not permit much of this (it was 12 degrees and raining), but we did spot some flamingos flying about as we drove in. We did, however, see stacks of gypsies. Why were there butt loads of gypsies in such a small town you ask…? Good question. The town is allegedly where three Mary’s from the bible landed in Europe, some time after Christ. This is almost irrelevant to the gypsies, except that they have their own saints, apart from the catholic church and one of them was the Mary’s servant. They now have annual pilgrimages here and we arrived only 4 days prior (smart? Sure, why not.). You can read more about this here . Andrew found it particularly hard not to ask any gypsies for their tears while impersonating Borat.

Uzes was next. After following a group of French tourists to what we suspect was a vineyard, we bailed and found the local castle. It is epic. The family who originally owned it, pre-revolution etc, are the current owners, having bought it back from the state – the most interesting thing we read about on a tour of this castle is that one of the dukes that lived here, was exiled from court twice, for several long periods. The more interesting of which involved a spat with the queens nephew. The duke offered the nephew an awful lolly, which was spat into the dukes face, resulting in a dual between the two, where the duke killed him! I particularly liked this little tour because the residence is kept in a rather original fashion (restored, of course) and the rooms are furnished as if the family still resided there permanently. Fascinating!

After Uzes we drove on to Marseillan to try and eat some delicious seafood. Turns out lots of things are closed on Monday evenings and we settled for the first restaurant we passed that was open. It got us out of the rain and the food was ok. The drive to get to this town however was our favorite part. It is truly a beautiful part of the world.

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