We had breakfast in Céret in the beautiful green depths of the vine-covered terrace of the Hotel Vidal – it was lovely for breakfast, but given the current heatwave we agreed that last night it would have been airless and hot.
However we had a ‘proper’ French breakfast – none of your buffet rubbish, a charming and chatty Madame delivered a basket of fresh croissants and bread, along with jam, butter and coffee (real coffee….) and we felt strengthened for the crossing of France towards Mollans, our next destination which is to the east of Avignon.
The good thing about today is our visit to the little Cave des Vignerons – now rather grandly calling itself Vinipolis – in Florensac, a small town about 20 minutes north of Agde between Narbonne and Montpellier, right in the middle of Picpoul de Pinet country.
However our timing meant that it was closed for lunch when we arrived so – oh the hardship – we had to find somewhere to spend that time. We headed down to the coast, taking a back road that led us to the surprisingly (relatively) undeveloped little seaside resort of Marseillan Plage, which is between the terrifyingly busy Agde and the frantically busy Sète, on the edge of the Bassin de Thau.
We didn’t know the place, but as usual I needed to paddle and we had the swimming bag in case we decided to swim. Well, it was astonishing – in the height of the tourist season, first week of August, approx. 30 degrees Centigrade, we found a half-empty (free) car park a stone’s throw from the beach, we strolled down across mostly empty white sand, had a FREEZING COLD but lovely paddle (the ‘no swim’ decision was instantaneous and unanimous) and then at the top of the beach, next to a little marina, found what would be called a ‘chiringuito’ in Spain, but oh what a difference a country makes…..
The grandly named Marina Bay was a beach café, French style, with beach one side and marina the other.
Julia had razor clams, bigger, juicier and better cooked than the ones we had at Portigragnes last Easter…….
and I had (of course) soupe de poissons.
We shared a small pichet of house rosé – look at that colour! The rosé in Provence is that glorious salmon colour which when backlit by the bright Provence sun just glows with “drink me drink me” highlights….. The food was absolutely delicious, simply done, and not expensive. The place was heaving with French families, who are far more demanding than other nationalities when it comes to a ‘simple lunch’, and yet again there was not an English voice to be heard. What a joyous lunch, how lucky we are!
At the required time, we made our relaxed way back to Vinipolis. T has become a regular stop for us, every year we swing by and pick up far more wine than you’d think any normal people could possibly consume. We love the Picpoul de Pinet itself, which is an AOC (“appellation d’origine controlee” ) wine, with its crisp and aromatic flavour, but the Cave also produces IGP (“indication géographique préférée”) wines based on Sauvignon, Viognier or Muscat grapes, and all at very reasonable prices.
The Viognier – 100% Viognier grape, grown on a clay-lime soil, picked at night to avoid oxidisation, a beautiful golden yellow colour and with what our wine expert friend Richard calls a “long finish” – costs under 5 euros a bottle . The dry Muscat – 100% Muscat grape, aromatic and fruity, one of my favourite wines – also costs under 5 euros a bottle.
Mmm, hard to choose between them Oh well, we’ll just have to take some of all of them….
So Samson the Skoda heaved a resigned sigh and took it all in his Goodyear-shod stride, finding room for the various boxes in his boot, and off we set again, arriving at lovely Mollans-sur-Ouveze, and our hotel the Saint Marc, late afternoon, in time to settle in before dinner in their beautiful garden. Aaaaah, relax, bask, eat, sleep…… More about the hotel Saint Marc and their fabulous chef Sandrine Deuwille in a different post, but here’s a ‘taster’ of that first dinner – this was the clafoutis of several different kinds of tomato that I had as a starter: