We’ve had a wonderful day in this beautiful medieval town, part of the ‘les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (most beautiful villages in France), and rightly so, on a par with St Cirq-Lapopie. Its name (Lagrasse) means fertile and, being in the locality of the river Orbieu, in the southern part of the Alaric hills, must help with the abundance of trees and vineyards, despite the unforgiving heat.
The main attraction here, apart from wandering in the narrow medieval streets, is the former Benedictine Abbey of Lagrasse, which goes back to before the end of the 8th century, grew quickly over the 9th and 10th centuries and by the end of the 12th century it owned about 100 churches and 10 monasteries from Languedoc to Zaragoza in Spain.
We really enjoyed our visit to the abbey, which was holding a book fair today, especially the Monks’ dormitory and St Barthélemy chapel, with arched wooden ceilings and paved with enamelled terracotta tiles dating from the 14th century: definitely well worth a visit for only €2.50 each.
It’s been an extremely hot day today and even now the thermometer is saying it’s 34°C inside the motorhome in the shade at 5 pm!
We are staying at the aire in parking 2, which is only €3 for the night. There’s some shade, but, although we arrived just after 11am this morning, all the shady parking spaces were already taken. Still, we are using our awning and it’s giving us some protection from this fierce heat. We’ve also been for a cooling swim in the river right by the abbey, very popular with families.
We are moving west now after spending 5 days in Portiragnes in the Herault with Adonis’ mum and dad and Pepo, which was a very welcome and relaxing break. It was very hot there too, so we spent most of the time in the shade by the pool, swimming or cooling down in the house. It was good to see Pepo too before he returned to England to spend some time with his friends before the start of the school term.
While at Portiragnes, we had the opportunity to see the ‘Guardians’ of the Camargue riding their magnificent horses alongside the bulls, a very entertaining spectacle, just like in Arles, as well as joining the locals dancing in the evening, all part of the summer Feria celebrations. We also had a wonderful meal at L’Ecluse Restaurant, right by the Canal Du Midi.
After our stay at the France Passion site in St Montan (Ardèche), we carried on south following the river Rhône on the D86/N86/D6086 west of Avignon and, after a bit of a drive round the D2, we found an aire not mentioned in the official guide book at Vallabregues, which looked like an abandoned municipal campsite, but still had the facilities for emptying tanks and filling up with water, plus a nice little lake to cool down. We ended up here as the aire we were heading for at Comps didn’t have any shade at all and the chemical toilets were out of order, so we took our chances by looking at the map and tried to find a wild camping spot, which was frustrating in this heat, until we were rewarded with the unexpected oasis at Vallabregues.
Tomorrow we are heading for Samatan in the Gers department, west of Toulouse, which should be just over a couple of hours from here, mainly on motorways, but in this heat, it’s the most sensible thing to do.