Heading farther south into the heatwave we found a charming & air conditioned Airbnb garden cottage in the fortified medieval town of Sommiers on the edge of Languedoc. When we first arrived we were confronted with an impregnable fortress-like wall and gate - we were convinced we were in the wrong place. But we finally connected with our hostess and got settled in. We are tucked in the back corner of a grand estate with a formidable wall and fortified gates just on the edge of town - so we essentially have our own private corner of paradise. The estate has gorgeous landscaping with loads of flowers and fruit trees. Our dinner last night was cheese, nuts, apricots and wine... these last two provided by our charming hostess, Ghislaine.
We learned from Ghislaine's son, who speaks more English, that the estate was the home of British novelist Laurence Durrell.
"Durrell settled in Sommières, a small village in Languedoc, France, where he purchased a large house on the edge of the village. The house was situated in extensive grounds surrounded by a wall. Here he wrote The Revolt of Aphrodite, comprising Tunc (1968) and Nunquam (1970). He also completed The Avignon Quintet, published from 1974 to 1985, which used many of the same motifs and styles found in his metafictional Alexandria Quartet. Although the related works are frequently described as a quintet, Durrell referred to it as a "quincunx."
Justine and The Alexandria Quartet
In 1957, he published Justine, the first novel of what was to become his most famous work, The Alexandria Quartet. Justine, Balthazar (1958), Mountolive(1958), and Clea (1960), deal with events before and during the Second World War in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The first three books tell essentially the same story and series of events, but from the varying perspectives of different characters. Durrell described this technique in his introductory note in Balthazaras "relativistic." Only in the final novel, Clea, does the story advance in time and reach a conclusion.
I hadn't heard of him but maybe I'll try to find his books.
Right now it is 112 degrees outside, so we are very happy to have adequate AC and shade. We have a lovely little garden all to ourselves that even has a grill, so we plan to eat outside tonight after the sun goes down. This morning we got up early and did a couple hours riding on a railt trial that starts at Sommieres and goes all the way to Nimes. It's a wonderful trail well designed and maintained, but not especially interesting and of course very hot even in the early morning. Already starting to see the famed white horses of Camarge. France is not like Holland... the trails are few and far between, and often with bike-hostile roads as soon as you leave the trail, so without a vehicle you can really only ride one of them.
The town itself is quite surreal... like nothing we've seen... the parts along the river are normal with people dining and socializing, but as soon as you duck under the massive tower gate - seeming nearly unchanged since it's heyday in the 11th century. iI's hard to capture in photos because the nearly deserted warrens of streets and tiny passages with solid monochrome brown buildings on both sides sometimes leaning in at the top closing off the light - just go on and on. Of course there is a castle at the top of the cliff, and of course we had to ride up there to check it out but it's under renovation and not open. But not just the castle - the entire town was fortified and crammed into high walls. Tomorrow is market day so maybe we'll get some good photos then.