France, outside of Paris, is quite a different scene. Travelling out of the capital is like sneaking out of the screening room halfway through a romantic movie and creeping in to a drama film next door.
It could be anything – a weepy melodrama, a beautiful historical drama or a high-strung crime drama. Each place is branded clearly according to the number of population (région, département, ville etc.) and thus manifests cultural auras distinct from one another.
I find them more refreshing as well because there is a higher probability that you would come across plenty of remarkable architectures, serene skies and charming villages that are not as widely exhibited like the Eiffel Tower on your neighbour’s t-shirt or that Mona Lisa in your friend’s house that you would struggle to come up with a compliment…
We shall all go to Hérault today, a part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, an old department in the south of France.
It’s that type of place where you can open your window and peer into an oasis of postcard-perfect vineyard in the morning, have some toasts with home-made marmalade, a bowl of strong aromatic coffee and get ready for an afternoon wandering around the alleys of Béziers, scouting for some old-fashioned trinkets then stopping by a bar to join the rest of town for an obligatory glass of pastis.
This is the town where the Feria de Béziers takes place every year. For four days in mid-August, an old town tucked away in a rugged, mountainous region would be invaded by a flood of young, vigorous blood, circling and cheering at the arènes for the Corrida (bullfighting), a traditional festival renowned in most of the French regions that border on Spain.
Rumbustious day-to-dawn parties will start when the bullfighting comes to an end. The streets of Béziers would be ignited with lots of music, dancing and flying mass of alcohol. It’s unruly, insane and one helluva of festival fun.
But this isn’t all that Hérault can offer.
On a relatively quiet mid-morning, we drove by the lake and went on a few rounds of blackberry-picking. And it was where I saw the first sunbreak in my life.
On a vast pasture, enveloped in the fresh scent of grass still bedewed, there it was, sunlight gushed out from a hole of a bed of clouds. It was like a fantastic sequence of haphazardly imagery, so surreal we stopped the car and just stood there completely spellbound.
Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at Valras-Plage and it was an instant change of scene – lively crowd, pop music, summer dresses, iced drinks, al fresco restaurants, bikini-clad ladies and and bronze topless men. The gist of summer!
For lunch, we stopped by a seafood stand, had a platter of fresh oysters, gambas and chilled wine, then moved to the port, where the market was, and continued to graze with a frozen lemonade in hand.
With love x