Marseillan – well, what can I say? It is a most delightful, unspoilt tiny town in the South of France, surrounded by myriads of vineyards where the swallows fly in the blue sky, the church bells ring out, the clocks at the top of the towers ‘dong’ with gay abandon (you never really know what the exact time is, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter) and the sun shines for more than 300 days each year! Heaven!
With its colourful higgledy piggledy homes, set behind the beautiful Port on the Etang de Thau, (a salt water lagoon with the Canal Du Midi connecting it to the Atlantic sea, and two rivers the Rhone and Herault), Marseillan sits between Montpellier to the East and the extinct volcano Cap d ‘Agde to the West. It is possibly the oldest village in France – some 2,500 years old!
Waking up on a summer morning in the sure knoweldge that the temperature will rise to a glorious 30 degrees celcius by noon, encourages you to bounce out of bed. Pulling on something light and simple, throwing open the french windows and stepping out onto the balcony, to be greeted by swallows and swifts twittering and just enjoy standing and watching Marseillan awake, is magical. After setting a table for breakfast, taking a short walk from our holiday home, around the corner in the cool morning air between the tall Marseillan houses to the Square, and purchasing fresh oranges for juicing and croissants for said ‘le petite dejeuner’ is a daily chore which I think I could seriously say I would cheerfully undertake forever if I lived here! It is impossible to choose, from a selection of well stocked boulangeries and patisseries which pastry to choose. (I must confess I tried most varieties), my favourite being croissant aux armandes.
Marseillan surrounded by vineyards, was established by the Greeks. The port, developed by the Romans, and once a Roman Base was kept separate from the village in those days and was THE important trading centre in the South of France, with hundreds and thousands of tons of goods regularly passing through its waters of the Canal Du Midi. Today the Port is a must for all things fishy! The Etang has class A mussels and oysters, and oh my, they are deeeeeelicious!
Dining here, with a glass of the local white wine, Picpoul de Pinet is a pleasing way to while away the afternoon. To sit and watch the sun play with the water along the harbour, to watch cabin cruisers berth and listen to the masts from the yachts sing and clatter in the evening breeze is simply stunning.
The village of Marseillan – today Marseillan is a town with a population of just 6,000 (but it is growing fast) – was once very heavily fortified, with stone walls, a moat, six watch towers and four gates – the most highly fortified village in the Languedoc. Interestingly, nowadays the main road heading North from the roundabout is where the moat once stood.
Marseillan’s economy once trade, travel, fish and wine, continues to attract travellers, just like me. The visitor becomes entranced by this sleepy town’s culinary delights, enjoying the sunshine, festivals of the fish from the Etang De Thau (of which there are many during the summer months), jousting competitions, local wine tasting, music festivals, special concerts often held in the the local church St. Jean Baptiste, together with a weekly Tuesday market in the town centre, and the nocturnal market held near the Port.
The visitor to Marseillan cannot help but notice the Noilly Prat Distillery along the quayside. The vermouth is an acquired taste – the secret herbs used in this unique drink can be sampled on their special Taste Tour.
For those who enjoy large sandy beaches, campsites, cheap cafes and bars and lots of activities, then a short dirve to Marseillan Plage holds all these attractions some three miles away. However, here in Marseillan, taking a later afternoon paddle – (there isn’t really much of a beach to speak of) but the waters in The Etang, just as the Mediterranean, has no tide; and so you can drop your flip flops and towel on the sand, and enjoy oyster catching, or swimmming, or just watch the sardines jump and dance in and out of the warm waters. Marseiallan is delightful; it is quiet, it is clean, it has a rustic charm, it is very French and for those who who visit, well they, like me, simply fall in love with it!
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