I opted to stay on the outskirts of Montpellier in an F1 hotel. These hotels are very basic. Air conditioning in the room, bed and basin. Toilet facilities and showers are in communal areas.
I arrived and joined a queue for check in. I didn’t ask if I could take my bike to the room. I simply unpacked it and carried everything in separately.
The room was fine as was the shared shower. The shared toilet was also clean but missing was a hand basin to wash your hands after using. You had to go back to the room to wash your hands. I thought this very odd. Especially for hygiene after a pandemic.
Whilst I was there I visited a few shops. Didn’t think much of the guitars in a shop I looked at. Would t even let me play them. Perhaps they’d heard I wasn’t very good.
Just over 9 years ago I found myself in Olargues. I hadn’t planned to go there, it happened through a series of events. I was about to embark on my long bike ride that would see me cycle to Cape Town from the U.K.
I had read another touring cyclists blog who had recounted there experiences of using an organisation called workaway. Link here
What Workaway does is put travellers in touch with people who need some work done. In return for a maximum of 6 hours work a day, you get board, lodging and fed plus as an added bonus make friends and satay with local people.
The night before I was due to leave, I received an email from Elke in Olargues inviting me to work on a house for a week. I accepted and overnight my route changed and I turned left at Bordeaux l, following the canals and cycle paths to a Olargues.
Elke and I had kept in touch periodically on Facebook and when she saw I was planning on touring again, she messaged me and kindly said if I came to that part of France that I’d be welcome to pop by and stay a while. So I have popped by.
Riding toward Olargues I had planned my route to follow the road. Elke messaged and suggested I take the Voie Vert, a cycle path using a former railway line. France has converted a lot of these railway lines into cycle routes. They are great for this purpose as trains cannot climb steep hills, so routes are quiet with no motor traffic and no steep hills. It brought me in on the line I had ridden out of before. I’d been past the bare breasted ladies of lamalou.
I switched to the cycle path that brought me back in to Olargues over a red bridge. Somewhere I had crossed before.
Elke came to greet me at the intersection and we then went back to her place in the centre of town by the Mairie (town hall).
Olargues is in the Hérault department and ranked in the most beautiful villages in France. It dates back to pre medieval times and the village was fortified in the 1300’s. It’s extremely picturesque with lots of old buildings and narrow cobbled streets.
One of the things I enjoyed doing last time I was here was walking in the mountains. Elke suggested a different route. Olargues is close to the Gorge d’Heric and surrounded by mountains.
It was warm, but not as hot as it had been. We set off following the markings. Walking trails are marked with colours or a combination of colours. You simply follow the marks on rocks, trees buildings and signs. our route was Blue, then red and descending on yellow.
It started off warm but soon entered the trees. The direct sunlit heat was replaced with heat being generated through the effort of climbing.
The views along the whole way were spectacular.
After reaching Olargues again a visit to the ice cream parlour was just what was needed.
The following day I had an ache in the legs, but Elke was fine as she spends a lot of time walking in the mountains.
One evening I tried a pizza from the local pizza van. It is quite well organised, there is a local pizza restaurant, but the night the Pizza van comes, they close and take a day off. When the Boulangerie has a day off in the week, the shop across the road sells fresh bread and Pain au Chocolat, but does not on the days the Boulangerie is open. Other restaurants close on other days ensuring something is available.
Elke took me for a tour around town. Meeting several friends. Els Knockaert has a fantastic studio where she paints either for herself or on commission. she has a website if your interested in seeing more. Website here.
One of the friends was Peter from England and his wife Nora. Peter had a bad back and I asked if he was ok for drugs. He explained he was out of Naproxen. I happened to have some in my extensive medical bag. They were even in date! I was able to give him a load which he was very great full for. We shared a couple of beers and a pudding together later.
At the end of the week there is an annual festival, they are preparing the main area by the town hall, big barrels of beer are arriving and lots of cool drinks. The first night on Friday is Techno until 3 in the morning. Luckily I will not be here!
The preparation was well under way for the festival. Albeit at a slow rate. The beer had arrived in large containers.
I offered to cook one night, the meal needed to be vegetarian, so we went to one of Elke’s friends, Dagmar and I had prepared mostly during the day, but finished the meal in Dagmars kitchen. Dagmar had prepared the starters and Elke the Dessert. There was a Tripel beer and wine. The Tripel beer was 9.5% and I drank a little too much wine. We chatted until the early hours in the warm evening.
I had a couple of days of not doing a lot, reading my books, playing guitar and generally relaxing with the odd walk around Olargues to see more of the fantastic ancient alleyways, and visiting the local museum.
They had a special exhibition about the resistance during World War Two and the local area.
I planned to meet Norbert and arranged to meet him the night before I left. It was great catching up. Chatting. Sharing a beer and some bread and cured sausage.
I went for a ride to lamalou to get some shopping and stopped at a cafe that I’d previously had wine at.
On one of the evenings where I’d had a drink. (I don’t think that rules any of them out) I walked back to Elke’s the long way. Walking through the medieval streets.
It really is a lovely place and looking on air bnb you can get a local place in town for €54 a night. Definitely worth a look if you like walking in the mountains and sun! Airbnb link here.