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The Area

areaWhat is there to do in and around Vissec? It is un village perdu, a get-away-from-it-all place, a largely undiscovered area well off the beaten track. It is a place to slow down and to relax, to enjoy spectacular nature and the rural ambience, and to fit in a sieste or two. One can do worse than stretch out in the shade of the trees in the garden and sip wine or pastis or take it easy in other ways. Particularly in the spring (but starting as early as February!), the wildflowers can be stunning.

Actually, however, there is a lot that one can do, both in the area and on day excursions. Following are but a few ideas. This is by no means complete. We have found the villagers to be very friendly and open. The children in particular are open to making new acquaintances, and they are more likely to be speak some English than the adults.

Markets and Shopping

Markets, at least to us, are wonderful. Le Vigan has its weekly market (which was first created in 1130) on Saturday mornings, with a Tuesday morning market featuring local produce during the summer months. The Ganges market is a bit bigger and is on Friday mornings. Lodève has a market on Saturday as well, with a heavy north-African emphasis. There are also other markets. Millau, for example, has markets on Wednesdays and Fridays and there is a small produce market in Le Caylar on Sunday mornings.

Le Vigan is the closest town for shopping (about 30 min. via Montdardier/Aveze). Ganges is perhaps 10 minutes further. Alzon, 10 km. away, has a very well stocked epicerie/general store, with fresh bread and almost everything else, and so does Montdardier.

Remember: almost everything in the south of France shuts at about 12:00 or 12:30 for lunch and sieste, (2 or 3 hours), except generally for supermarkets and gas stations. In the area, many stores are also closed Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons.

A bread van comes into Vissec Tuesday and Saturday afternoons: you must listen out for it; a grocery van comes Monday around midday.

The local cheese speciality is Pelardon — goat's cheese (chèvre) in little rounds. It comes in various varieties, sec, demi-sec, demi-frais, frais, cremeaux, etc. They're all wonderful. One of the best in the region comes from a newly opened ferme in Vissec! It's actually at Camp d'Alton, about 1 km. or so out of town on the road to Le Caylar, just over 20 minutes on foot (or 5 minutes by car).

Some other goodies to watch out for (not in any particular order): barbecued chicken at the markets and sometimes elsewhere, all fruits, all vegetables, lamb in any form (make sure it is agneau and not mouton; local lamb is out of this world), fromage de brebis (sheep's milk cheese) – Pelardon style as well as in many other forms, just about any other cheese, olives, strings of garlic and sweet onion (oignon doux), saucisse (fresh sausage) and saucisson (dried sausage), jambon cru (French version of prosciutto), pêches blanches (white peaches), freshwater trout (plentiful in the local rivers, you can buy to cook yourself or order at most restaurants), Opinel pocket folding knives, olivewood utensils, herbes de Provence, Cevenol fabrics, duck (especially magret du canard – the breast, which grills nicely), olive oil from the market or oliviers, poulet fermier, free-range eggs from the market, CĐte d'Or chocolate, etc.

Pizza – French pizzas can be wonderful. It is quite acceptable, at least in this part of France, to get a pizza from a van, or a snack from a boulangerie, and take it to a cafe to order a drink to go along with it.

France is justifiably renowned for the quality of its food.  You are usually better to spend a little bit more and get your meats in particular at the markets or speciality shops, or at the meat counters of supermarkets.


restaurantThe pin board by the front door should have cards from some restaurants. Following are examples only of some nearby restaurants. Note that lunch and dinner menus frequently are identical. An alternative to a big dinner is to go out for a big lunch. As elsewhere, restaurants, cooks, and management come and go, and not all are open every day. Always best to check in advance and to let them know that you are coming. Note that the price of meals in France is inclusive of tax and service. If you wish, you can leave some small change, but this is entirely optional.

The hotel in Alzon (Hôtel-Restaurant Le Cevenol: This was recently taken over by a chef from a former 3-star restaurant, impeccable service, regional products featured, as of writing full-course menu for just 17 €.

Restaurant/Auberge La Jurade, towards the road to Rogues after Blandas ( In an ancient farmhouse all by itself, one of the favourites of recent guests.

Blandas –Restaurant du Causse ( right in the centre of the village. Close to Vissec, inexpensive, tasty food.

L'Anglade ( (also in Blandas). Very attractively set out, inside and outside tables. Delicious menu including exceptional home-made pizza. Can be reached by bike if you're feeling fit!

La Baume Auriel ( on the St. Maurice Road just above Cirque de Navacelles. Spectacular setting, right on the cliff edge. The food is good also, with regional specialities.

Lodève: Le Petit Sommelier (for a nice meal:, adjacent to the Office du Tourisme, or L'Hôtel du Nord ( just across next to the carpark (luncheon specials), either can be very nice before/after visiting the museum.

Wineries, Wines and Other Drinks

You can buy wines directly at vineyards, at supermarkets, and at caves: Le Vigan has two (we prefer the one past the Crédit Agricole bank on the left side). You can buy wine in traditional bottles, in 5 or 10 liter fontaines (or bag-in-box – essentially a box of wine that can be quite good and very economical and keeps well). You can also buy wines en vrac (in bulk): there are some 5 liter plastic jugs under the sink which you can use: Point to the hose of your choice at a cave or winery and have them "fill 'er up". 

There are many excellent wines of Languedoc that are just starting to be recognised elsewhere. The local appellation is called Coteaux de Languedoc. It can be fun to visit wineries, where you can taste various wines and buy bottles, fontaines, or en vrac. They vary from small family-run operations to cooperatives to large affairs. There are many, many wineries east, south and west of Vissec. Stop at any interesting looking winery and ask for a dégustation (taste). There are far too many to mention here.

Unlike in Canada or in other parts of France, whites are not drunk very much in the area. But the rosÛs, chilled, are drunk in their place. They tend to be very good. We drink them a lot.

The French never drink wine as an aperitif. But there are lots of other drinks! The two most common are pastis and muscat (our favourite, a slightly sweet fortified wine). All apéritifs go well with olives and peanuts (especially the redskins (arachides grillés) from the olive stall at the market).


Vissec and environs is a hiking paradise. There are a number of walks that one can do right from the house. A must-do walk from Vissec is to Le Foux, also known as La Resurgence de la Vis. This is where the underground river emerges, with quite a display of force, by an 11th century mill house, recently restored. The only access is by foot. The trail starts from the road that goes left and up from across the bridge: you can walk there from the house (about 15 minutes) or drive to the trailhead. The walk is about 1 hour plus each direction, along an easy-to-follow trail (but you'll want to allow extra time to take in the sights). The trail has recently been signed as a sentier botanique, pointing out many of the plants of the area that you will pass.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can carry on along the trail directly to Navacelles (about another hour or slightly more each way). If you don't walk, you definitely should drive there. The Cirque de Navacelles is quite spectacular, a major sight. There is a nice little creperie in the village. (There is also a shorter trail to Le Foux off the Navacelles road.)

Another nice walk from Vissec is to Regagnas. Follow the signs from Vissec: first along the riverbed west to Camp d'Alton (where you can get Pelardon, goat's cheese), then turn right up the valley where eventually you will see trail markings; the trail is well marked the rest of the way back to Vissec by a different route. A quite long and strenuous climb, but spectacular views. About 3½ hours for the circular walk.

You can also climb up either causse (the name for the plains on the top of the hills. For example, there is a fairly new circular trail up the south Causse. The trail starts off the road (direction of the trailhead to Le Foux) just opposite the upper laneway to La Baute ("suburban" Vissec, across the riverbed). It's a steep climb, so better to start before the sun gets too hot, then a spectacular walk along the ridge with wonderful views, then down a different trail that ends near the bridge. Altogether it should take less than two hours.

For a short walk, go either direction up or down the riverbed as far as you feel like. There are some side trails here and there that you could take.

There are many other walks in the area, and just north of Le Vigan in the Cévennes. Note that the Midi sun in summer can be very dehydrating. Be sure to carry water with you on a hike of any duration. If it is very hot, try to plan your walks first thing in the morning.

Some Swimming Spots

  • By the waterfall just past St. Laurent le Minier and at various spots along the river from there towards Ganges.
  • Canoe rentals are available in Laroque (shortly after Ganges on the road to Montpellier); in addition to canoeing downstream (you are brought back to your starting point by bus, all very civilized) down the canyon of the Hérault River, you can stop and swim at various spots.
  • Lac du Salagou.
  • The Mediterranean. Various beaches along much of the coastline, usually restaurants nearby, all full of people (great for people watching as well as swimming). Three worth mentioning are: Palavas (the nearest beach to Montpellier, perhaps best for people watching; aim for Rive Droite if possible), the strip between Sète and Marseillan Plage (long narrow strip of beach alongside the road, less developed than many other areas), and Le Grau d'Agde (nice beach, good restaurants/seafood).

Le Vigan

  • A must see is Le Vieux Pont, a 14th century stone bridge.
  • Next to the bridge is Le Musée Cevenol. An excellent museum, which includes an exhibit with a replica of one room of our house as it formerly was used!
  • Le Vigan has a summer music festival, with concerts not only in Le Vigan but in a number of other villages. Watch for posters or inquire at Maison de Pays.
  • Tourist office in Maison de Pays can provide information, guides, maps, etc.


There are many spectacular caves in the region. Even if you think that this isn't your thing, you should visit at least one anyway. Some are immense.

Perhaps the most spectacular is Grotte des Demoiselles, just south of Ganges. Very large and dramatic, some rooms inside have served as venues for concerts. One enters by funicular.

Another large and spectacular grotte is Grotte de Clamouse, near St. Guilhem-le-Dessert, a village also worth a visit (has a crêperie and various restaurants and shopping, also nice exploring and walking, although on the tourist route and can be crowded).

Some Other Places to Explore

Following are but a few examples and ideas in no particular order. There are many others. All are easy day trips. Some can be combined. For more information about these, and other, sites, inquire or see guides and brochures.

Cirque de Navacelles. See "Hiking" above.

exploreStone formation something like Stonehenge. Along the road between Blandas and Montdardier (another one on the Rigalderie road): anywhere else in the world there would be crowds of people, restaurants, souvenir stands, etc.; as it is, it is somewhat overgrown and you have to watch carefully for it as you drive along.

Lodève. Has a museum that mounts some very impressive art exhibitions. The drive down Pas de l'Escalette heading there is very impressive, en route to Lac du Salagou, vineyards, etc.

Vallee de la Dourbie. Beautiful drive, the most scenic way to Millau (also Gorges de la Dourbie).

Chaos de Montpellier-le-Vieux. Narrow rock formations loosely in the form of streets and avenues, where one can spend hours exploring. 

Gorges du Tarn. North of Millau, a major site, lots of attractive villages, one can canoe downstream and be picked up and taken back to your car, wonderful scenery, and other things to do and see.

Millau. A leather town with a fascinating museum featuring ancient pottery as well as glove making through the ages.

The newly opened Viaduc, which crosses over the top of Millau, is considered an engineering triumph and a work of art in itself. A tourist information centre is located beneath the viaduct (access is via Millau and the route d'Albi).

Roquefort. Explore the caves where Roquefort cheese is made; various tours available: Societé is the largest, but Papillon is the best (both the tour and the cheese); the sheep's milk comes from the surrounding area, including from around Vissec.

La Couvertoirade. Walled, medieval city, not that far from Vissec.

St. Hippolyte-du-Fort. Town after Ganges, fascinating silk museum.

Nîmes. Many Roman sites including a Roman amphitheatre (Arène) in the best condition of any in the world, also the Maison de Carré – a perfectly proportioned Roman building, nice pedestrian centre-historique to explore with some nice cafes, Monday flower and antique markets.

Pont du Gard. Ancient Roman bridge/aqueduct, 30 min. past Nîmes, a "must-see" site, even more impressive than it sounds.

Montpellier. A nice pedestrian ancient centre-historique with squares, (notably the Place de la Comedie), cafes, shops, good art museum (Musée Fabré), Roman aqueduct and other structures, markets, etc. Large marché au Puce (flea market) Sunday mornings at the Stade Mosson on the western edge of the city, daily market under the aqueduct and in the centre.

Arles. About 2 hours from Vissec, touristy but well known (where Van Gogh cut off his ear), Has a charming centre to walk around as well as a splendid arène.

Albi. Toulouse-Lautrec's home town, impressive architecture, good white (and other colour) wines from the region, beautiful drive (about 2 hours away), etc.

Mourèze. A prehistoric village (reconstructed) at a lovely site, about 10 km. west of Clermont l'Herault, south of Lac du Salagou, near some good wineries (e. g. Cabrières a bit to the south); shortly before Mourèze you will see a turnoff to Villeneuvette, worth a stroll about.

Pezenas. Moliere's former hangout, picturesque town great for walking about, a market (possibly Thursdays), lots of antique shops. 

The Sea and surroundings. See "Swimming" above. We find the Mediterranean crowded (depending upon the season) and spoiled, but others like it. In addition to beaches, other places that could be visited include: Sete, Cap d'Agde, Aigues-Mortes, Camargues, etc.

Les Cévennes. Almost anywhere, e.g.:

  • Any of the two roads to Mandagout or Col du Minier from Le Vigan.
  • Mt. Aigoual – skiing there in the winter!, good views on a clear day, spectacular drive from any direction.
  • Valleraugue – pleasant Cevenol town, river, hiking, shops, cafes, etc.
  • St. Martial – a picturesque village with an unusual stone church and spectacular surroundings.
  • St. Jean du Gard – beautiful drive, steam train to Anduze, aquarium, major provincial museum featuring life in the Cévennes, other tourist attractions.

Almost any village anywhere (every weekend there is a fête somewhere, watch for signs).

Driving aimlessly along almost any back road, etc., etc