Devil’s Bridge

It is midnight, and my husband is snoring (very) loudly beside me. I have tucked him into bed with an eye mask and ear plugs, and I try to type as loudly as I can. The laptop screen is fully lit up, and the table light is on. We are practicing for next week when we move to the second stop in our explorations (a/k/a studies for the Frenchman.) In Montpellier, we have had a spacious apartment with a bedroom, separate bathroom and toilet, kitchen, and living room. In Toulouse we likely will be living in a studio apartment the size of our current bedroom, or roughly 24 sq meters, and that is the large option. The other option is 15 sq meters, or a little more than 150 sq feet, a size not even considered legal for living in many U.S. cities. We measured out the space today, the Frenchman lying on the floor. “So, it’ll be about one and a half of me wide,” he exclaimed from where he lay. “You were the one that wanted to live in Europe, Jess!” he reminded me. Worried is the emotion that comes to mind. I, too, am going to need earplugs, ones made for jet engine workers.

Though our apartment life in Montpellier has not been bliss (broken lights, lack of blankets, a nonworking oven, broken shower head, leaking hot water heater, and a cockroach infestation) it all seems quite preferable to the thought of living in a bedroom. Truthfully, I am sad to be leaving Montpellier next week. Our month here has flown by, and there is still so much left to explore.

We have been working our way through the Michelin Green Guide for the region – Le Guide Vert Langeudoc Roussillon. In addition to praising the apartment’s size, it has a sizable library as well full of French novels and books about the area. The Green Guide is the best of the library finds.

It points out the best sites in the area, categorizing them as Worth the Trip, Merits a Detour, Interesting, and Another Site Described in the Guide. In our department, Herault, we have the following points of interest:

  • Worth the Trip: Clamouse, Les Demoiselles, and Cirque de Navacelles (right on the border)
  • Merits a Detour: Montpellier, Pic St-Loup, Cirque de Moureze, Pezenas, Oppidum d’Enserune, and St-Guilhem-le-Desert

St-Guilhem-le-Desert is also listed as one of the Herault department’s most beautiful villages <<Les Plus Belles Villages de France>> together with Minerve and Olargues. So far we have explored Clamouse, Cirque de Navacelles, Montpellier, and St-Gilhem-le-Desert (Well, we tried to explore St-Guilhem-le-Desert); and I will be attempting to navigate to Les Demoiselles and Olargues before we leave.

Beautiful and village are terms that form some of the central themes of my explorations, so armed with my Green Guide, I drug the Frenchman and his classmates on a supposed trip to St-Guilhem-le-Desert our first weekend in town, only we did not quite  make it to the village.

St-Guilhem-le-Desert really should be separated into three distinct sites in any traveler’s agenda: Clamouse, Pont du Diable and St-Guilhem-le-Desert. Siren-like (or perhaps devil-like) and stunning should be used to describe the neon green waters of the Herault river running underneath the Pont du Diable or Bridge of the Devil.

Neon green lake as seen from the Pont du Diable
Looking back on the Herault River from the Pont du Diable at the vehicular bridge and aquaduct

The Pont is the first point of interest in the area that one comes to. Between it and the village of St-Guilhem-le-Desert, located 4Km north, is Clamouse. The waters of the Herault River captured us and drew us in, and, as we lingered by the shore, swam until we lost feeling in our fingers, and drank our river-chilled wine we forgot about the village . . . and the very few return buses to Montpellier. (The buses seem to be both a facilitator and hinderance to full exploration as only one or two buses run the full line lengths to or from Montpellier to the sites of exploration each day, typically limiting a day trip to 5 – 6 hours of exploration.)

Assessing the chilly water before a swim with the Pont du Diable in the background
Assessing the chilly water before a swim with the Pont du Diable in the background

The Pont is one of three bridges along its particular section of the Herault Gorge and is the southern most. Built in the 11th century, it provided a means of traversing the river for the monks living at Aniane and St-Guilhem-le-Desert. It now is limited to foot traffic, and a newer bridge has been built above it for automobiles. Above it still is an aqueduct.

Later this week I plan to return and, resisting the draw of the water, take the bus all the way to the village. I may even make like a monk and hike part of the monastery trail. Only seven days of exploring Montpellier and having the option of either a bed or a couch for sitting remain!

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