Splish splash

Where there’s fresh water there is life!  The Benedictine monks knew all about the importance of water when they founded their monastery, and with it the village of Saint-Chinian, near the banks of the Vernazobres river in the 9th century!

They harnessed the power of the water to drive mills, and built a canal to irrigate the fields and gardens.  The Vernazobres river still flows through Saint-Chinian, and although the water mills are long gone, the canal which irrigates the gardens still exists!

When the summer weather has arrived and the cicadas sing their seemingly endless songs in the languid heat, there’s nothing more inviting than a refreshing dip in the water. The river is perfect for that!

Upstream, just a little outside the village, is an area called Les Platanettes where the water tumbles over the rocks and flows through a series of pools.

The area is shaded by mature plane trees  (platane is French for plane tree) and there’s usually a light breeze – heaven on a hot day!!

A few years ago, picnic tables were installed at Les Platanettes, and there’s plenty of space if those are already occupied when you get there.

There are more river pools farther upstream from Les Platanettes, just walk along between the river and the vineyards, and you’ll get there!

Saint-Chinian also has a semi-olympic swimming pool, for those who prefer to do some serious swimming!

At Cessenon, the Vernazobres river flows into the Orb, a river which ends its journey at Valras plage.  Up-river from Cessenon is the picturesque town of Roquebrun:

The Orb makes a sort of right turn at Roquebrun – you get a great view of that from the Mediterranean garden just below the ruined tower at the top of the village:

The pebble beach on the opposite side of the river is very popular and the plane trees provide welcome shade.  To the right of the bridge (in the picture above) is a canoe and kayak base – there’s great canoeing and kayaking all along the river Orb!  You can rent a canoe or kayak, and once all the formalities are dealt with and you’ve been kitted out, you’ll be driven farther up the river so you can just paddle your way down to where you started from.

There are several other locations along the river for renting canoes and kayaks.  My favourite is in Reals, where the rapids are used for competitions!

Those rapids are downriver from the boatyard in Reals.  They are not for the use of an amateur like myself – I prefer calmer water, even though that might mean more paddling!! 🙂

On the way to the base in Reals there is an exhilarating water slide!

Cessenon, which is located halfway between Saint-Chinian and Roquebrun, is also on the river Orb.  The pebble beach there is near the old suspension bridge – very picturesque!

The Golfe du Lion is famous for its sandy beaches – the nearest beaches for me are at Valras Plage and Vendres Plage. In the summer it can be quite busy, but there’s plenty of space for everyone!

My favourite time of day at the beach is late in the afternoon, when there are fewer people and the heat is less intense!

With all this glorious weather it’s time I took a little blogging vacation – but I promise I’ll be back!! And don’t forget: I’ll be here if you need any help with booking accommodation – you can always drop me a line!  Enjoy your summer!!

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Sounds of summer

I was recently invited to join friends for a picnic out in the countryside.  We were sitting in an idyllic corner of the countryside just outside Saint-Chinian, in the shade of some umbrella pines, and overlooking vineyards and the rocky ridge, which dominates the Saint-Chinian valley.  It was a gorgeous spot, and a wonderful evening, and we were surrounded by the sound of cicadas.  If you have visited the South of France during the summer you will know what I mean – it’s a typical summer sound here!  I recently managed to shoot a video of a cicada in my garden – have a look and make sure that your speakers are turned on!  E-mail subscribers, please visit the WordPress blog site to watch the video.

Cicadas are not the most beautiful of insects, but they are somewhat of an emblem for Southern France.  You can find ceramic versions of the animal, in all kinds of bright colours, in almost all the markets.  Some versions include a small electronic device which plays a cicada sound each time someone walks by! 🙂

Wikipedia has a fascinating article about cicadas here.  The life cycle of the insect is very long, up to 17 years for some species.  Most of that life cycle is spent underground, where the nymphs feed on the sap of tree roots.  The nymphs emerge in early summer, climb up a plant or a tree where they moult for the final time, and turn into the winged insect you see below.

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As for the “song of the cicadas” – that sound is only produced by the males, in an effort to attract females for mating.  The Wikipedia article explains the mechanics of the sound production very well.  After mating, the females lay their eggs into tree branches, and at the end of the summer the cicadas die, leaving the eggs to hatch in the autumn. The newly hatched larvae drop to the ground, where they start burrowing and start the life cycle all over again.

Fascinating, don’t you think?  If you haven’t heard the cicada’s song for yourself, think about a holiday in Languedoc.  The cicadas usually sing from early July onwards, always depending on temperatures.