Tucked away . . .

. . .  in a valley along the Orb River, is the little village of Vieussan.  If you approach it from the direction of Berlou, along the D177, you round a corner and find the village scattered on the hill on the other side of the river, almost as if someone had emptied a box of toy houses over it.  The road from Berlou to Vieussan winds and twists across the hills, and affords the most gorgeous views – well worth the drive!

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I had a reason for driving to Vieussan on that particular day:  I was to have lunch with friends at Le Lezard Bleu in Vieussan.  It’s a restaurant that sits unassumingly by the side of the road, a building just like any other, save for the distinctive pale blue shutters.  A blue iron gate leads to ancient stone steps, which take you up to the first floor and a terrace that overlooks the road.  Inside, the old floor tiles are beautifully patterned.

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At the back of the building is an enormous garden, where old trees shade the tables – that’s where we all sat for our meal!

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The price of the three-course lunch menu was 15.50 Euro and the food was simple but very well cooked.  The starter was a refreshing salad of water melon, feta cheese, red onion and black olives.  Pretty as a picture and oh-so-delicious!

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The main course of the day was loin of pork with a grainy mustard sauce, served on mashed potatoes with rocket.

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For dessert we had little strawberry tarts – pastry shells filled with cream, and topped with fresh strawberries.  They were delicious and disappeared before I had a chance to photograph them!!

After our wonderful lunch we went for a little stroll – across the road and down to the river, to just below the stone bridge that spans the Orb River.

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It’s a great spot for swimming in the summer!  If you go on a canoeing trip from Roquebrun, you could come by here too!

We retraced out steps towards the road, but turned right before we got all the way there.  A path runs parallel to the river, and along the vegetable gardens which are so typical of the area.

If you would like to experience Le Lezard Bleu for yourself, be sure to book – they have a limited amount of seating.  You can contact the restaurant either by phone (+33 467 971 021) or by e-mail (manuerik.kat@free.fr).

 

Making a splash

With friends and family visiting, and the weather being fabulous, we decided to try our hands at canoeing.  My friends from Japan had canoed down the Orb river several times before, but in all the time I’ve been here I’d never managed to go.  Now was the time to do it, and so one sunny morning we set off for a drive to Roquebrun where the adventure starts.  We’d settled for the 10km run, as I felt that for my nephews and myself a 15km ride would be too much for a first experience.  Departures for that particular run are at 11am and 2pm and we had to be at the base half an hour before the start.  The number of people was impressive, but so was the efficiency with which everything was dealt with.  First queue up to pay and fill in the contract.  Then join the queue for the equipment.  A drum for each boat which allows you to take things with you and keep them dry.  Then helmets for the smaller children, life-vests for everyone and finally the paddles.  Now that we have everything we go to where the bus departs to take us to Vieussan, where we’ll get on the river.  After a 15 minute ride, we arrive at Vieussan and get a briefing explaining the basic manoeuvres and rules.  And off everyone rushes to get a boat – there are plenty and so we decide to let the crowds go first, and take it easy.  My friends’ experience came in handy on this trip:  the drums come in three sizes and make great back rests, the larger the better.  And of course the boat needs to have a space at the back and straps so that the drum can be secured there.  All the drums have names written on them, and you have to remember what yours is called, in case it gets washed over board.  You can then pick it up again at the next rapids or in Roquebrun.  My drum was named caillou – French for stone 🙂 .  I’d bought straps for my glasses and sunglasses and tied them securely to the glasses, as well as behind my head to make sure they could not come off.  A good move as it turned out!Our instructor told us that we had to get under the low bridge in Vieussan before noon, as the hydro-electric station further up the valley would be releasing some water, meaning that we would have to carry the boats rather than slide under it if we were too late.  So we set off and I was amazed at how easy it felt.  Under the low bridge, lying down and hoping for the best, under the large bridge in Vieussan, which seemed enormous from down below, and across some small rapids – OK so far.  Then came the Rapide de la Tortue and that’s where things got a little hairy – I managed to flip the boat over!!  Nothing drastic though, a little scrape on the shin, a stubbed toe and bit of water in one ear.  Amazingly I managed to hold on to my paddle and my friends were of course waiting below the rapids and caught the boat.  And my glasses stayed on!!  My nephew also dealt with it really well and came out better than me without any bruises.  After all that excitement we stopped and had a little rest, a drink and a snack, and then carried on.  The scenery from the river is beautiful, and I saw many things which are not visible and accessible from the road.  Along the way we saw an otter jumping over the rocks, and further on a horse was by the waters edge.  I did have my old camera with me, but since it’s not waterproof it only came out when we were taking a break.  We did stop a few more times; there’s no time limit as to when the boat has to be back, so a dip here, a rest there make no difference.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the water fights we had between the boats – what a laugh!!The last stretch of water is wide, slow and beautiful and the children just got out and swam almost all the way back to the base while the adults just drifted.  The water was warm and everyone had a wonderful time.  Back at the base we handed in all our gear and before going home we all had a drink and an ice cream at the snack bar – total bliss!One of the most important things on the trip was sun-screen.  My nephews are very fair and burn very easily, but with regular applications neither had any burns.  So all in all a fantastic day out, and one that I’ll be repeating again before too long!