The Most Beautiful Village in France?
Trip Start Jan 14, 2011
9Trip End May 17, 2011
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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.