While on the bus to Aniane we received a text from Jon – he could pick us up in Gignac because he was going to do some grocery shopping. So we got off the bus there and waited for Jon on a bench. He arrived soon thereafter and we piled our bags into his car and went along with him to the supermarket. Zach and I decided to buy some groceries too, as an alternative to buying each meal. Shopping concluded, we set off for Aniane. Aniane is a small village consisting mostly of French and British tourists. Nearby are the Herault Gorge with swimming and kayaking, St. Guilhem le Desert (voted one of France’s most beautiful villages), a few caves, and a little bit farther, Cirque de Navacelles.
Upon arrival we chose our room – the best in the house – and took a nice afternoon nap. After our nap we accompanied Jon to a cafe around the corner to meet another couchsurfer based in Aniane. We stayed there the rest of the night. In the end there were 6 of us: 2 French, 2 Americans, a Spaniard, and a Norwegian. Miguel, the Spaniard, was also couchsurfing, but just for a night. He was the highlight of the evening. A hilarious man with a genuine soul and affinity for travel – we were lucky to meet him.
We woke up quite late on Wednesday morning and lounged around the house before embarking on our sightseeing tour of the day. Jon drove us up to a nearby mountain, Mont St. Baudille, where we had an amazing view of the entire region. We could see Aniane, Montpellier, Bouzigues, the coast, even the faint outline of the Pyrenees. It was gorgeous.
Afterwards he took us to Grotte de Desmoiselles, a cave in the region. It was a fantastic site, although I did get a little claustrophobic at times. Most of the “rooms” are large and open, but there were a few spots where we had to walk through tight spaces. The most majestic room in the cave is one termed, the Cathedral. It was really magnificent and did resemble a large Gothic cathedral. One of the stalagmites is called The Virgin with Her Son and slightly resembles a woman with a baby – it’s the most famous of the formations. We left after our tour and returned to Aniane. Zach and I made pasta for dinner and sat around, relaxing. Eventually Jon went out to the cafe, but we stayed behind, quite content to relax and read.
We woke up a little earlier on Thursday and got an early start out to St. Guilhem le Desert – after making a trip to the local post office. St. Guilhem is nestled in the mountains, near the river, and is not only one of France’s most beautiful villages, but also a UNESCO world heritage site. The village itself is only inhabited in the spring and summer, mostly with French tourists. It is a gorgeous little town. Everywhere we turned was another opportunity for a photograph. There is only one main street and it makes a loop around the entire village, so that you begin and end in the same place. Shops and restaurants line the street – which is more like a walkway – and tourists carrying floats and beach bags head toward the water.
We took our time in St. Guilhem and slowly strolled past the shops and tourists. We decided to have lunch on the square – Zach and I had buckwheat crepes filled with meat and cheese – and afterwards ducked inside the abbaye cathedral. We went down the earthen steps into the crypt where St. Guilhem is kept and wandered around the abbaye’s simple, but beautiful courtyard.
We hiked back to the car and headed back toward Aniane, but made a brief stop at the Pont du Diable which was built in the 11th century. According to local legend, as the monks were building the bridge their work would be undone each night by the devil so St. Guilhem made a deal with the devil – the first soul to cross the bridge would become the devil’s. The devil ceased to destroy their work and when the bridge was finished the monks placed an old dog with a saucepan tied to his tail at the front of the line. The devil was so angry at being given only a dog, he flung himself into the river. However true that is, the bridge is a great place to view the Herault River and Gorge. The river is a sublime turquoise and there were several kayakers and swimmers treading its tranquil waters. Although Zach and I would have enjoyed swimming or kayaking, Jon didn’t want to, so we decided to head back to the house where we alternated napping and reading until the late afternoon.
Jon received a few more couch requests, so we received a little more company last night – a Frenchman from Montpellier, Boris, and 3 Swedish girls. They are all very friendly and we enjoyed chatting with them. Zach even stayed up while Boris played bluegrass on his mandolin and taught the Swedes about old American gospel. So, now it is Friday. We have only 4 more days until we fly home. Boris is taking us back to Montpellier a little later today to catch our final train of the trip to Barcelona, where we will conclude 2.5 months of adventure.