The Most Beautiful Village in France?

Trip Start Jan 14, 2011
Trip End May 17, 2011

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Saturday, March 26, 2011

As I knew that last weekend was going to be sunny and warm, I decided to go to possibly the most beautiful village in France. Luckily, my Greek friends Athina and Ariadne just happened to have plans to go to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert that very same weekend, so I hitched myself on to their group. We met at 11:30 AM at the tram station by the gare (which is early by Greek standards), and then headed over to the gare routière (a parking lot full of buses that go all over the region) to catch the bus to Saint-Guilhem. We're lucky we got there early because even though the bus didn't leave until 1:00 PM, a crowd started to accumulate as the time approached, and we started to get worried that we wouldn't be able to make it on to the bus! I'll save you the worry: we made it. Elbows bared, we pushed our way on to the bus and were on our way to Saint-Guilhem. We all got a little motion sickness from the curvy, turvy roads up into the Cévennes region; we had to change buses at Gignan (a bit inconvenient...oh, I'm such a spoiled American with my own private car).

Finally, after an hour and a half of journeying, we reached Saint-Guilhem just in time for the French two-hour lunch break when everything is closed. Yeah...however, we hadn't eaten lunch yet, so after much agonizing over which café to eat in, we sat down for some galettes (savory crêpes) in the sunshine. We felt better with some food in our tummies, and we were already in the square where the cathedral is located, so we poked around in the cathedral and the adjoining cloister (part of which is in the Cloisters Museum of New York City--yeah, bet you didn't know that existed). The cathedral is architecturally interesting since it doesn't look like all the other Romanesque and Gothic churches one sees around here, and the cathedral contains the bones of Saint-Guilhem in a beautiful golden reliquary. In 804, Guilhem (or Guillaume, in the northern dialect, or William for us anglophones), the duke of Aquitaine, founded the monastery and church of Gellone. He left the tumult of war and the splendors of courts to finish his days in prayer in the abbey that he himself founded. He was once a valiant captain of Charlemagne, who gave Saint-Guilhem a piece of the true cross that he had received in Jerusalem. This relic made Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert a must-see pilgrimage point for pilgrims heading to the site of Saint Jacques de Compostelle in Spain.

That's about all the "site seeing" that Saint-Guilhem offers, so the rest of our time there we just meandered through the medieval streets and enjoyed the sunlight. We even "hiked" (a.k.a, walked uphill) to get a better view of the Cévennes. There were some adorable boutiques that we checked out, but unfortunately, many of them were closed because they open only during the spring, which starts this weekend, according to the good folk of Saint-Guilhem. However, I was able to pick up a couple of souvenirs for certain good folk back home. I enjoyed the relaxing stroll through this really cute little town because all the other times I have traveled here, I've tried to see everything, and it's exhausting. It was nice to just breathe in "small-town" air by the Hérault River. So is Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert the most beautiful village in France? Maybe, just maybe.
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Aunt Sue on

Sounds like a wonderful day in a wonderful place. Lots of love, Aunt Sue

Diane Pritchard on

What a cool little village! Sounds like bon temps. :) Great pictures too.

aliceparish on

what a cute little village. it seems so peaceful

sara on

maybe someday i'll get to see it for myself

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