20 June 2006

Béziers (aka Act II, Scene I)

Shortly after moving to Heilbronn, we wandered into the Marktplatz or Sülmerstraße or somewhere in the general vicinity of the Rathaus and Killianskirche. As happens quite often in this part of town, it was crammed full of stages and kiosks and kids playing violins or something along those lines. Well, it turns out that the event that weekend was designed to raise awareness of one of Heilbronn's sister cities, Béziers in southern France. The propaganda that they gave us made it look pretty nice. And it just so happened that, when we were back in the US for Brigitte's wedding, we picked up a guidebook at the Bettendorf Library's book sale that just happened to cover the region where Béziers is located, Languedoc-Roussillon. So, in case I lost you there, we picked up a cheap book for a random region of France and shortly after we found out that one of Heilbronn's sister cities is a major player in that particular region. So it was like our density [sic] to go and visit.

Of course it helped that the guidebook made Languedoc-Roussillon sound pretty interesting. (Though the author did have an annoying habit of saying things like "there is nothing to do in this town, don't bother" for several places - so the book was about 30% larger than it needed to be).

So, after we dropped my dad & steply ugmother off at the big airport in Frankfurt, we had to hustle on over to the other airport that claims to be in Frankfurt to catch our flight on one of them there bargain airlines. As it turns out, the Frankfurt Hahn airport is really more than a 90-minute bus ride from the real Frankfurt. What a pain. But we made it.

Our cheap flight to Montpellier was mostly uneventful. We did see a bunch of flamingos right before landing. The drive with the rental car was more or less uneventful (for me at least, Jeannette was driving on the French Autoroute), until we entered traffic circle hell trying to find our hotel. We eventually made it and after we checked in, we decided to take advantage of the remaining couple hours of daylight and check out town. Driving in a foreign country is always a bit nervewracking, and so is parking. Without causing any accidents and only driving the wrong way on a one-way once, I drove with excellent navigational assistance from Jeannette (GPS Betty had to stay in Frankfurt... We'll miss you!), we found a parking garage near (or under) the cultural center of Béziers. After a scrumptious meal at an Indian restaurant (yeah, Americans living in Germany eating Indian food in France - that's us), we saw a couple of the sights, like The Madeleine Church, where the citizens of Béziers were slaughtered during the Albigeois Crusade.

We spent the entire next day in Béziers as well, except for a short trip to the beach in the afternoon. It was an interesting day. One very interesting contrast between France & Germany that I noticed right away is that the buildings in Béziers, and the other French cities we visited, were much more tightly spaced than German cities, with much narrower streets. I am sure this is because so many German cities were bombed to rubble in WWII, and the cities were rebuilt with the needs of cars & trucks in mind. This made it hard to take pictures of the great architecture - it was hard to get far enough away to get the whole shot. I guess I need a wider angle lens.

Béziers' crown jewel is the St. Nazaire Fortress-Cathedral. One great thing about it is that you can climb to the top, and there is very little in the way of guard rails to keep children and dogs (not that you could get a dog into the church...) from falling to certain death. The good thing about this is that there are no obstructions to block my lens.

See what I mean about falling through?

The entire 12th century cathedral is covered with mold and other vegatation. It was quite amazing to see the flowers growing in cracks 100 or so feet in the air.

I had a lot of fun up there. I could get all creative.

It was quite interesting because so many of the gargoyles were headless. This church doesn't get the massive upkeep funds that Notre Dame in Paris gets, I am guessing.

Even without heads, they are still quite nice.

The side view of the cathedral.

Here's the cathedral from the front. Looks quite well fortified to me.

Like so many Mediterranean towns, there were lots of brightly colored doors. Why do they do that? (Not that I am complaining - I like it!)

Those French are amazing. Mothers bring their young children to the Titti Bars.



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