Day 5 in Southwest France. Weather check: Freezing with a chance of joy.
Morning in the Little Red Riding Hood forest where we were camped out was not as brutal as I imagined. Mostly because we weren’t really camping, we were in a very nice little cabin, throwing pre-cut logs into the fire and feeling all smug and rustic as only city dwellers taking a weekend trip to the woods can feel.
The highlight of the day was the trip to Béziers, which was selected because it was on the way to our next destination, and also because the ever-reliable Wikipedia said it’s “one of the oldest cities in France“, dating to 575 BC. What does that even mean? I see the number on the page, but it doesn’t compute. This was when Pythagoras was born. It was the Spring-Autumn Period of Chinese history. Sanskrit was being invented.
None of the above are actually relevant to the place I would be seeing, but they do make it cool by association.
All I know is, I arrived in Béziers with a fierce determination to eat some big fat frites.
Alas, alas, frites were not forthcoming but I did find myself with a leek and goat cheese tart that I knew, upon first bite, that I will think about in the coming years on long, lonely nights. If I had any less shame I would have asked for the recipe. I was only held back by my hive-mind inclinations and the thought of what my mother would say about such impertinence.
Health and wellness restored, I took remarkably well to Béziers.
The Gothic cathedral of Saint Nazair dates to the 15th century, which was when repairs to the structure were completed. The original was burnt down during the Crusades in the 13th century, when Pope Innocent III called for an all-out raid on the heretic Cathars. The knights, led by Abbott Arnaud Almaric, stopped here enroute to Carcassonne for some righteous butchery
There is a really wonderful article on the cathedral on Via Lucis, engagingly narrated and painstakingly researched by Dennis Aubrey. The photography is – obviously – stellar, too. In the wake of that, here is my meagre offering.
I lugged my carb-loaded ass up a frighteningly twisty and narrow flight of stairs to the top of the cathedral for a view of brown roofing tiles.
I kid, of course. It was spectacular, especially after I stopped panting and my heart stopped trying to bang itself out of my chest.
On the outskirts of Béziers, just across the street from one of those soul-sucking shopping malls whose flagship tenant is a supermarket, stood this derelict, boarded-up (neo-classical?) building. Maddened with lust, I searched for a real estate agent’s banner, but found none.
And we got back on the road, passing through countless tiny villages and towns and moments, which now remain in my mind as a jumbled heap of beautiful things –
Finally, in our spanking new digs, the nightly ritual of overconsumption.