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House diaries
A Working Holiday
Chapter 1: We Leave for France
Chapter 10: Looking for Mr. Goodstone
Chapter 11: A mission to la Clape
Chapter 12: Dinner at Château de Lignan
Chapter 13: Antiques and plunder
Chapter 14: The vintner next door
Chapter 15: The rooftops of Nézignan-l'Évêque
Chapter 2: Comes the crusade
Chapter 3: The 13 colonies
Chapter 4: Our curtains are dreadful
Chapter 5: Naked beaches
Chapter 6: A visit to Château des Estanilles
Chapter 7: A pilgrimage to Toulouse
Chapter 8: Remembering Collioure
Chapter 9: The priest and the mayor
Languedoc Roussillon
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A Day Trip Itinerary...print this out   print the content item
Olives and entertainment at the weekly Saturday outdoor market. Treasures for trolling at the annual October "brocante" (second-hand goods) and antique street fair. The antiques fair happens twice a year.
Pézenas: Pretty, artsy, antiquey, real
Time to destination: about five minutes on a slow day. Pézenas is the town next door. And it is a jewel, a lively town with a well-preserved Renaissance core (think movie set; it was for centuries a regional royal court, earning a reputation as the "Versailles of the Languedoc"), boasting:
  • a series of all-summer-long arts festivals;
  • a large twice-weekly outdoor market;
  • a few dozen cafés and restaurants;
  • a couple of very fine wine stores that specialize in hard-to-find quality regionals;
  • lots of artists and craftspeople selling their wares (check out the mosaic-encrusted motorbike);
  • intriguing, rare shops (designer leather handbags from Hexagone are sold here, one of only two places in France);
  • and a spectacularly rich concentration of antique and "brocante" (anything used less than 100 years old) dealers -- dozens at last count.
Antique dealers from all over come here to buy -- then sell their loot for jacked-up prices back in Provence, Paris, London and New York.Wow. Enough? Pézenas is where we go each day for an armload of English newspapers (the Brits discovered the town a couple of centuries ago and have never left). It's our local market, where we go each Saturday morning to buy a week's worth of artisanal cheeses, freshly butchered meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, inexpensive Provencal tablecloths, herbs, olives, nuts, oysters...almost anything.

Pézenas loves its visitors: there is a large, English-speaking tourism office in the middle of the old town. And on market day, you'll hear Olde English spoken often. But Americans hardly know the place. Too bad. Some guests of ours recently spent a few days in St. Rémy-de-Provence, poster child for cute French towns. It was nice, they agreed. But nowhere near as nice as Pézenas.

Pézenas has about 7,600 residents. They all live side by side, so to American eyes it looks like a small city. But Pézenas is really only a few blocks wide before you're back into vineyards.
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