Gruissan (Aude), France September 2020 (Tour 3)

I think I could live here. It seems to have everything – not that we stayed long enough to check everything out but, certainly, this is a place I would visit again and next time I would be taking a closer look at property prices..

I was getting tired after the journey from L’Escala not least because on top of the drive we had spent a few hours wandering around the stores in La Jonquera and so, instead of continuing to our target destination near Montpelier, we decided to overnight in Gruissan. Not sure as to why we picked this particular place but pleased we did.

Gruissan is an old fishing village, now a small town, situated on the Languedoc coast less than 10 miles from Narbonne and 70 miles from the Spanish border. It is full of contrasts comprising as it does the old circular village of Gruissan (Languedoc has a few of these circulades mostly dating from the 12th or 13th century) with its narrow little streets overlooked by the Barberousse Tower and; a newer area of apartments, restaurants and cafes built around a 1960’s marina which I am told can accommodate 1300 boats and; a number of fine sandy beaches of which the Plage de Chalets is perhaps the most original.

That’s not my photo above but it conveys how Gruissan is structured. You can see the old circular village in the foreground almost encircled by the lagoon. The grey smudge in the centre of the circulade is the Barberousse Tower. Top left of the photo is part of the 1960’s marina. There are actually two basins in the marina. The straight line along the top of the photo is the Plage de Chalets. As mentioned above, the Plage des Chalets is a most original and I should have added “picturesque” beach made up as it is of more than 1,300 old fashioned colourful holiday chalets, almost all of them built on stilts.

The place where we camped doesn’t feature in the photo. We were parked a few kilometres further up the beach at Les Ayguades Gruisson. That wasn’t to stop me heading for Gruissan “propre” that first afternoon/evening and I set off on Shanks’ Pony immediately after the Van was settled.

It was a fair walk in and very hot but there was a good cycle path that I used for most of the way and I reached the town in about 1.5 hours. I breezed through the marinas (promising to myself that I would bring Vanya in the next morning – she likes boats) and then around a large part of the lagoon (looking for potential photo opportunities) and finally on to my primary target – the old town and it’s tower.

Wandering around the old town was quite an experience. There were a surprising amount of people around and I was so totally immersed in watching them go about their daily business that I lost all track of time. I must have sat for quite a while musing over how little life has changed over the centuries in this place.

Eventually, I started towards the centre of the old town, easy when it is a circulade, and quickly found both the church (the 13th century Church of the Notre Dame of the Assumption) and right next to it the entrance to the ruin that is the Barberousse Tower.

There’s little left of the Barberousse Tower to look at but the views from the hill on which it sits are fine. The tower is all that remains of a 10th century castle built to help protect Narbonne (then a coastal town) from Moorish pirates. It was dismantled in the 16th Century on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu.

Finding a place in the centre of a circulade is easy; you simply keep going in. Finding your way out at the correct point of the circle is nowhere near as easy. I came out at the opposite side of the circle to the one I wanted and it took me more than half an hour to correct that mistake but I figured there was just enough time to get to the other side of the lagoon for a couple more photos…

Running very late, I had to jog most of the way back and it was after 8pm when I finally arrived back at the Van. Gosh I needed a drink!

Next morning we drove to the marina for something to eat. We enjoyed brunch in the sunshine and then walked a while; exercising the dogs before we retraced our steps west to visit the town of Limoux. Vanya wanted to find out more about Cremant wine. I admit I was looking forward to that too.

Limoux, here we come.

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