Saturday, June 26, 2010

On the road (Europe 2010): Pouzolles, Pezenas

Spent a leisurely day yesterday seeing the village of Pouzolles after picking up our rental car, in Beziers, which is about half an hour away and the biggest town in the area. So far Pouzolles continues to conform to my first impression. The village is picturesque, but sleepy. Sometimes the picturesque is better passed through than lived in, but there is a wealth of things to do within a short drive of the village, so this makes an excellent base.

Yesterday, for example, we visited the Barrage des Olivettes, which is a small dam with a local swimming hole behind it. The dam creates a small reservoir with picnicking areas. Families were swimming. Some people were fishing. Others were just lolling on the grass. I enjoyed seeing the wildflowers. I noticed scabiosa, echiums, and chamomile growing wild. I saw a pretty yellow bird singing noisily up in one of the trees, a bird I've never seen before. A look in the bird book allowed me to identify it as a Serin, a common songbird in this area. Pied Wagtails were skimming over the water. A Hoopoe landed on the antenna of the neighboring house here after we got home. It was my first view of this very impressive bird, but he was gone before I could get my camera. I hope to get a better look at a Hoopoe soon.

Today we spent the day in Pezenas, a town about 10 miles to the east of Pouzolles. Today, Saturday, was market day. Each of the towns has its own market--sometimes more than once a week. Food sellers were offering the usual fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, bread products, and specialties such as olives, soaps (pictured), and candies and confections, but I can see already that it's more economical to shop for most food at the big supermarkets. Cheese and wine are much cheaper here than at home. I saw a wheel of Époisses today at the big Intermarché for €6 (the one I bought in Paris was €9). At home, at Whole Foods, the same piece of cheese would cost around four times as much. Today I bought four bottles of Cinsault rosé from local producers, which I plan to compare tomorrow evening, to start to get a feel for the wines being made here. The four bottles together cost the equivalent of about $12, and these were by no means the cheapest wines available. Other products are somewhat cheaper as well. All in all, I suspect it will cost less to live here than at home.

Pezenas is known for its antique shops, its market, and because Molière made Pezenas his home for a period and his company performed in the town from time to time. Pezenas is unusual also for a well preserved Jewish ghetto that appears to have been established in the 13th century. By the middle of the 16th, the Jewish population had been ejected, but the section of the town they built is still there. All over Pezenas are old stone buildings with interesting carvings, imposing doorways, and whimsical knockers on the doors. Many buildings have ornate wrought iron balconies. It was interesting just to wander around the streets. I particularly liked the heart-shaped carving on the door pictured here.

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