Monday, 5 September 2016

Béziers: Vieux Views and Aural Abuse

Béziers, France (Béziers, France)
December 2015
Somehow during the course of our drive, the amount of time that the sun makes an appearance for during the day was drastically shortened and the sun set at 5pm. This made the long drive even less fun, but eventually we arrived and checked into our hotel on the outskirts of Béziers. Heading into town for dinner, we parked at the train station and took a brief walk around before returning to the station, as the place we had selected for dinner was right across the street. At La Dolce Vita Chez Jpetto, we feasted on pizza and red wine, finding that we were not in the mood for Spanish or French food. A bottle of ice cold sparkling San Pellegrino brought back great memories of meals in Croatia, Montenegro and Italy with Fabienne.
In the morning we set out to explore the city properly and were smitten with the charming streets and squares. In the main plaza was the Hôtel de Ville and a gigantic Christmas tree. Red and green lights were strung up everywhere, and in a dystopian turn of events, so were loudspeakers that piped out festive songs wherever you went throughout the entirety of the old town. I don't know how people can stand to live here over the Christmas period if you can't get away from holiday-themed ditties and carols for even one moment. 
We followed signs for the Pont Vieux (built in the Middle Ages) which was down a steeply descending street overrun with roadworks. It took a little while to cross the bridge, as it's so long! It was well worth it though, as the view of the bridge with the cathedral on the hill in the background was stunning. There's something very special about still reflections.

Trekking back across the bridge and up the hill, we entered the cathedral and visited the cloister and gardens that overlooked the city.

It was rather hazy, but the jumble of terracotta roofs and winding streets was breathtaking.
Béziers is one of the oldest cities in France - only slightly younger than Marseille which was founded in 600 BC by the Greeks. It was a thriving Roman town, producing white wine to be sent back to Rome, and housed veterans from the army. In 1209 a crusader party incited by Pope Innocent III entered the city and declared that all heretics should be handed over. (The crusade was intended to eradicate the religion Catharism, a bizarre form of Christianity that believed in two gods: a "good" New Testament God that created the spiritual realm and an "evil" Old Testament God that created the sinful physical world (Satan).) When their request for heretics was rejected, the crusaders began preparing for a siege of the city, but after an opportune scuffle leaving a gate unmanned some crusaders ran through the walls. Seeing that the defenses were broken, everyone else joined in and the city was overrun. Many townsfolk fled to barricade themselves in churches, and the crusaders asked their abbot how to distinguish a Catholic from a heretic. That was, of course, impossible and the abbot famously replied "Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His". This event is known as the Massacre at Béziers, for not a single man, woman or child was left alive. 
On a happier note, we stocked up on the marvelous Côte D'Or chocolate at a supermarket off the main square and then went searching for a Dame Blanche because Yannick felt like one. Unfortunately none were to be found, even in the next two towns along, and we were forced to give up our quest, finally conceding that ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce is probably more of a summer treat. But we had Orangina, and passed right under the impressive bridge at Millau as we were avoiding toll roads, so all was well. 

Today's post was almost called: Massacre of the Ears