We experienced what may have been a first today – we were actually on the road 20 minutes earlier than our planned departure time! Usually we leave at least 20 minutes late, no matter what we do 🙂 Today we travelled the shortest route (according to Michelin) from Moissac to Lodève which was very scenic but quite wiggly. Much of it goes through the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses which consists of a largish chunk of the southernmost portion of the massif central.
Lunch was eaten on a bench in St-Sernin-sur-Rance where the view was impressive. Not too long before getting to Lodève, we crossed a pass and felt that we had entered another world. The landscape became much rockier and drier and the vegetation changed completely. It felt very much like places we’ve been in Arizona.
Our suite at the Hôtel du Nord in Lodève is huge and suits us very well. Tonight’s dinner was across the street at Sauveurs du Grand Sud which serves Moroccan-inspired cuisine. We both had one of their grandes salades, Steve’s with brochette d’agneau and Susan’s with merguez. All of this was washed down with a 50 cl bottle of nice Côteaux du Languedoc. The weather today was a very pleasant 2.5.
Today, it took us most of the morning to acquire the ingredients for our lunch. It consisted of the usual, with some important differences:
- bread, purchased in Lodève prior to our departure – OK, not too different 🙂
- olives, of the variety lucques – both black and green. These were purchased in St-Etienne-de-Gourgas, the village where they are grown.
- wonderful fromage de chèvre made from lait cru and purchased at the end of a narrow, twisting, rough road high on a mesa from the man who made it, Didier Le Drogo.
- delicious wine – Les Faïsses de Jean 2003 from Domaine Puech-Auger in Montpeyroux (one of the sub-regions of Côteaux du Languedoc). This was purchased from the domain right in the village of Montpeyroux.
Finally, we purchased a bunch of organic carrots from a fellow in Lagamas and ate our booty in the yard of the church there. This just happened to be a rather pretty building surrounded by vineyards and it was a great lunch.
Afterwards, we went to Domaine des Crès Ricards where they were in the middle of the vendange. There we tasted and purchased two wines: Les Hauts de Milési 2003 (the 2002 was a coup de coeur in the 2005 Hachette) and Cousin-Cousine 2004 which is a 2-star selection in the 2006 Hachette, which we just picked up while here.
We ate dinner again tonight at Sauveurs du Grand Sud where we both had a Moroccan style taboulé followed by tajine confit de canard avec olives, carottes et citron confit. It was delicious! The weather was a perfect 3.0 on our scale.
We hope to attend a football (soccer) game tomorrow night in Montpellier, so today’s main task was to check out the route to Montpellier and see if we could get tickets ahead of time. But, we detoured along the way and visited Mas de Bayle, a small winery just east of Villeveyrac (and, only seven or eight km from the Mediterranean Sea). The vigneron eleveur (winemaker – grower) at Mas de Bayle is Céline Michelon, the fourth generation of her family to make wine there (since 1907). We had an extended conversation with Céline, who is most passionate about her wine (and her wine was lovely – we bought a couple of bottles of her Cuvée Odon 2003, to which Hachette has given one star). We have visited a number of wineries in France this year and it has been most heartening to see quite a few young people involved and in charge. It bodes well for the future.
By the time we finished talking to Mme Michelon, it was time for lunch. As has become our habit, we looked for a nearby church and found a suitable candidate in nearby Loupian, where we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed our repast in sight of the Mediterranean Sea and a vineyard nestled by the church.
On to Montpellier, where we checked out the Stade de la Mosson, where the local Ligue 2 club plays. Access was straightforward, but there were no ticket offices open today. We then scouted the return route to Lodève, which takes about 40 minutes on the main roads (which we seldom travel on, preferring secondary and tertiary routes).
Dinner tonight at Le Petit Sommelier, where we had a nice menú: cuisse lapin for Steve; agneau grillé for Susan. The wine was La Clape 2003 from Château de Marmorières, a pleasant Coteaux du Languedoc.
And, the nice weather continued (2.5 on the Knowmark Weather Scale).
We had two major items on tap today (which was lovely – a perfect 3.0).
The first was a longish hike above Lodève. We drove part of the way to the top of the Plateau du Grezac, which lies to the northwest of Lodève. After parking the car, we packed our lunch the rest of the way on PR 1, one of the local hiking trails in the area (France has an extensive system of trails – the GR system – and many local areas have their own smaller versions). It was quite an unusual environment, very broken country with stone walls everywhere. These walls were used in sheep raising in years past.
The second item was the football (soccer) game in Montpellier, who hosted Guingamp in a Ligue 2 matchup. It was hard to believe that both of these teams were in Ligue 1 just 18 months ago, before being relegated. They are now both desperately trying not to get relegated yet again, to the National (third) level of French football. A small crowd (including at least two Canadians!) watched a mostly listless match (there were some rousing moments, but they were few and far betwween) that ended in a scoreless draw. Nonetheless, the quality of play was superior to anything that we had witnessed live before, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Because of the game and travel, for dinner we just picked up some salad and a small pizza at “our” local boulangerie, which we had on the patio at our wonderful hotel before travelling to Montpellier for the game. But of course, we had a perfectly delicious wine to wash it down – some of the Les Hauts de Milési 2003 from Domaine des Crès Ricards which we bought the other day.
Market day in Lodève! We love market day, as does most of the local populace. It is always a lively scene and a plethora of goods awaits. We mostly use it to get unusual food items, such as the wonderful Agen prunes and some different cheeses. There are also lots of fresh vegetables and fruits available, which we usually take advantage of. Today’s purchases consisted of: the aforementioned prunes, some fairly new fromage de brébis, pain rustique and some bananas and carrots.
After a leisurely morning touring the market and having a second café, we packed our lunch and headed just southeast of Lodève. We wanted to make a couple of winery visits after lunch, which we did. One of the places we went to (Château Vaillé) didn’t know that they had made it into the 2006 Guide Hachette. They told us that they’d received mail asking them if they wanted to buy the little collars for the bottles that announce that a wine has been chosen, but they were very confused because they didn’t think they had been! So, they were most interested when we showed them our copy of the Guide and read their entry very carefully.
We said goodbye to Blandine and Robert (the hotel proprietors) earlier today as they won’t be here tomorrow when we leave. They are extremely nice people and we have enjoyed our stay very much, in large part due to their hospitality. Blandine left us some special apéritif wine and some olives and gave us explicit directs to drink to their health that evening. So we did! When we poured the wine we noticed that it was from one of the châteaux that we had just visited in the afternoon! Considering the number of châteaux in this area, it was a pretty amazing coincidence.
Dinner tonight was once again at Sauveurs du Grand Sud – their food is just too good to pass up. Steve started with a salad and Susan with soup and for the main, we both had tajine jarret d’agneau avec pruneaux, abricots et pomme de terres and we enjoyed the same wine that we’ve had there before, Le Plo Dalia.
Another lovely day – 2.5 on our scale. We are enjoying the great weather while we can, because it looks like some very cold, wet weather is heading our way. But, we’ll worry about that tomorrow!