End of the second week in Sete

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Jun 28, 2009

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Monday, June 22, 2009

Well, what were the features of our second week in Sète? There were some changes in the weather, for one thing. It has stayed pretty hot, but the crystal clear weather became hazy for a couple of days before the winds arrived.

There are two strong winds that batter the south of France from a northerly direction. The mistral is the better known, and it blasts down the Rhone valley for about 3 days at a time. It's a bit east of us so doesn’t bother us. The other is the tramontane, which bears down along the French side of the Pyrenées mountains, and that’s the one that can affect this area – and did this week. The winds are around 90-100 km/h, and until recently it was admissible to use them in court as a defence against such crimes of passion as murder and wife-beating!! Anyway, none of that happened (to us, at least), but they cleared the skies and we’re back to the magnificent clear days that greeted us. And it’s a bit cooler too – only about 27C today.

We did a bit of touring – spent a day further west in the ruggedly mountainous (and fabulous wine-producing) Corbières, to visit the abbey at Fontfroide, founded in the 11th century. Then on to the Château de Queribus, where the Cathars made their last stand against the marauding Crusaders of the Pope and of "good" King Richard. I defied my vertigo and scaled all the way to the highest point of this precipitous place!! (Last time we were there it was enshrouded in fog and there was no challenge at all, other than the obvious physical hard slog.) Cathy decided that once was enough for her and stayed with the car in the car park, guarding it from being blown away by the tramontane wind.

We also caught up with more great friends for lunches that developed into long afternoons – especially the Palacin family at Mèze, and Jimmy & Sheila at their (now sold) house at Baillargues. It always seems such a shame to us that we all live so far apart.

Sunday (yesterday) was 21 June, the longest day of the year in this hemisphere – sunset here was at about 10pm. It’s also celebrated nationally as La Fête de la Musique. There are free concerts all over France – several in most towns, to ensure that all tastes are catered for. It’s all paid for by the government – good idea, Kevin! Our friends Mel and Sammy have a jazz quintet, and they joined forces with a local choral group to perform in a hall in a village (Margon) about 50km from us, so we went along and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

I guess I have to mention that another highlight was my birthday. I won’t own up to the number attached to it, but it was a great day involving lunch at a canal-side bistrot, a visit to the Georges Brassens museum, a cruise around Sète and out into the Med in a tour boat, and of course the usual stuff like oysters and champagne. In true Teaching Australia tradition I cooked the treat for the day – an apricot tart with almonds. Not to worry, colleagues, there will be something to share with you in the next couple of weeks!

So, it’s goodbye to Sète and the Languedoc tomorrow, until who-knows-when. We’re driving to Marseille for a couple of days, and then on Thursday flying to London for the last two nights before heading home.

So, it’s goodbye from us for now. Maybe some more before we head for home. Thanks for staying with us this long.
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