We are constantly being surprised by what our region has to offer. The longer we visit, the more we go farther a field. Here is a great example: The Cirque de Moureze. It can be a small walk (maybe an hour), or a picnic and hike (three hours)...it's your choice. Moureze is a wonderful little village in whose backyard are impressive rock formations jutting from the hills. It is only 20-30 minutes north of Pézenas by car. The village itself reminds one of a less-touristy version of St. Guilhem.
When it is warmer, it is wise to visit when it is cooler. We went after lunch, and arrived after 2 on a cooler summer's day. We did the shorter 1.5 hour walk on the trails. It was wonderful. We made a promise to return with a picnic and do the longer 3-4 hike. We can hardly wait to return.
For many, Saturday is the day to visit Pezenas. It has one of the best markets in the region. Fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese, wine, flowers, charcuterie, clothing, linens, baskets - you name it, it can be found at the market. It runs from roughly 08:00 - 13:00. If you are in town for only a week, make sure you can be in town to witness this market. L'Appartement des Artistes is just a few steps from the middle of the action.
We recommend after getting your food and or clothing, stop at one of the local cafés and have a coffee. We are particularly fond of Chocola'the on the Jean Jaures. Our dear friends Dominique and Lionel will take excellent care of you. Dominique also has a sinful collection of choclates in her establishment. Let them know you are staying at Holly and David's apartment.
Take it in, and take your time. You're in France and you are at a café people watching on a market day. What could be more wonderful?
Estival is not unique to Pezenas. Essentially, every Saturday evening in the summer from 18h00 - 0h00 the Jean Jaures becomes a wine, food and music celebration. This also coincides with the Historic Old Town Nuits Nocturnes - so practically the entire village is open and festive until midnight.
Estival features local vigneronne and food producers who set up on the street. This is all organised by the village to promote wines of our region. In order to drink, you must buy a glass for 5 euros, which gives you two digustations (or tastings). Some people may bring their own estival glasses from home (we have quite a collection, help yourself)
We suggest the best way to experience the Estival is like this: 1.) Go early if you want to get a table for a large group. Some families bring a picnic. 2.) Buy your glass, or a box of glasses 3.) Make sure you have money for purchasing food - cash is definitely best. Walk the length of the Estival, and figure out what you are in the mood for. Cheese plate? Lamb Burger? Frits? Charcuterie? Fruit? Chocolate? 4.) Grab a table - You will have to share the picnic table with a few groups, so introduce yourself. Practice your French. Most people who attend these, are pretty nice people. Dave has on a number of occasions met and spoken with people at Estival. 5.) Go grab a glass of wine, find a label you've never heard of - maybe tell them what you are eating, and they will help you find a delicious complement to your dish. Trade one ticket for one glass of wine. If you really like the wine, they will sell you a case or a bottle - usually for a good price. 6.) Enjoy the atmosphere, have fun! 7.) Dance to the music! The groups are usually pretty high calibre, and a lot of fun.
To Park your car in Pezenas is an art. My mantra is, "I refuse to pay money to park." There are plenty of lots where you can pay a few Euros, but the truth is, you don't need to. Some are quite close to the apartment, like the Parking 14 Julliet, or Parking Bobi LaPointe
If you are spending time here in l'Appartement des Artistes, there are important things you need to know. When we are coming from somewhere with supplies like groceries, luggage or beach gear, we do the following: drop off the bags and passengers at the front door, then go and find a parking space in one of the free lots.
1.) You can not park in front of the building.
Our street is a one-way. The street is not wide enough for parking. If you want to drop off luggage, groceries and or passengers; you have to stop in the middle of the road and take everything to the door. Usually, this does not take forever to unload a car if everyone works together! Then move on so you don't stop too much traffic. Thankfully, there is little car traffic most of the time.
2.) The best lots in town are free and some have security.
There are three such lots in Pezenas (we use one of them of them most of the time) which are all within the same basic proximity to the apartment. This is our preferred method of parking. They are free! Some have video surveillance. They are safe. Each one is a short walk from the apartment, but remember it is a walk through town which is always nice. The names of these three lots are Pres de St Jean, La Fronton, and the Les Cordaliers. These are a 5-10 minute walk from the apartment. There are lots are on either end of the village's cemetery on Avenue Francoise Curree. They used to be free until recently - which has caused an uproar in the village!
3.) You can also use the free public lot close by called Pres-de St Jean.
This lot is great if you want to park close to the apartment: it's free, and there are usually spots. Drawbacks: It does not have video surveillance, and the "pavement" is uneven. If you wanted to park there for a couple of hours during the day, it's perfect. There has been occasion for vandalism in this lot. But just below Pres de St. Jean is La Fronton which is our preferred place to park.
4.) Finally, if you cant find a spot anywhere, there is Les Cordaliers. It was built a few years ago to hand Market and Nocturne traffic in the summer. None of the locals seem to use it. It is nearly 100 spots shaded by Solar Energy capturing structures. It is the farthest from the apartment of all the free lots mentioned, but it's free, and has surveillance. If that was not enough, on your way back to the apartment you pass our favourite vegetable and fruit stand. Great prices on fresh local food. Friendly service, that takes credit cards. You also walk in front of all the town's brasseries or the Old Town - so Les Cordaliers isn't so bad.
Don't blink, or you will miss it!
Every few years, the Tour de France comes through Pezenas. The first year, we found a spot along the route and waited a few hours. It was pretty crazy! First they have a Caravan pass through. It is basically sponsor vehicles that have been modified with logos, sculptural details, and occasionally scant ally clad dancers. Kids love the caravan because all of the cars throw samples, shirts, hats...whatever to everyone on the side of the road.
There are hundreds of motorcycles with cameramen, officials, whomever.
Finally the riders come through. Everyone goes crazy yelling and screaming. Again, there are hundreds of riders. They all pass by in seconds, and then it's over. It really is like the circus blew through town.
The kitchen on the first visit.
When we first met our apartment in France, we had seen so many places. We had nearly given up hope trying to find a place within our budget that met our criteria. We had just finished visiting an apartment not too far away for the second time, but we were still unsatisfied. I finally said to the realitor, "You've got to have something that has has genuine French character with updated electrical and plumbing somewhere?"
He paused - actually hesitated - and then decided to bring us to what was to become our building. As we approached, we knew were in for a treat, the exterior of the building was classic European - balconies, cornices, grand doorways, circular stairways, Ancienne tiles...tick, tick, tick went the checkboxes! We quietly did not say too much to each other, we were playing it so cool. But we both knew this was going to be "the one" It had 4meter high ceilings in two of the three main rooms. Beautiful plaster trim. Gigantic french doors that let in tons of natual light. A handcarved marble fireplace, original "tomette" tiling. One bedroom, and the shower room had huge oak beams traversing the ceiling. Three juliette balconies. We could not believe what we were seeing, we were dumbfounded.
The kitchen today.
The reason our realitor was so hesitant to show us the place was two-fold. The first reason was it was a construction zone. There was dust and junk everywhere. Had a person not done DIY home renovations in the past, they would have turned around and ran. The second reason was more complicated, but suffice to say it made our final purchase very challenging...to the point where on a few occasions, we almost walked away. We are still dealing with those ramifications, and may continue to do so for a while to come.
For us, all of the dust and plaster was great. We have infact done our fair share of renovations, so we were very pleased to see what they were doing, and how they were doing it. We actually got to make changes early that would have taken away much of the apartment's character - and we insisted that the perserve all the original tiles and patch the original plaster work.
After the visit, we went to a local café and decided this was worth the effort to make an offer to purchase. Our friend Paul told us to offer 30% under asking - so we did. In the end, that's what we got, but it was not without a few hurdles. The rest, is another story for later.
L'Appartement Des Artistes. Pézenas, France
How many times have you sat a home watching television and there is an episode of International House Hunters? How many times have you watched people purchase property in some far off land and thought to yourself, "it would be great to do something like that."
That was us!
One day it dawned on us that it was possible, and that we could do it.
So we did!
Welcome to our blog called Apartment in France. This will tell our story of how we travelled 8,000 kilometers away from home, searched, researched and bought our own little home away from home in Southern France. We will talk about our triumphs and our struggles.
Our primary goal is to write small articles about some of our favorite things to do here, and provide our guests with an Explorer's Guide to our region.
Want to know the best place to park your car? What are the best restaurants to try in the Old Town? Where did we get those chocolate covered croissants from that are pictured on the welcome page of our website?