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Travel Guide

Languedoc, SW France. Fully equipped ancient stone house, terrace and garden in Vissec, a "village perdu". Magnificent hiking, interesting day trips, markets etc. Sleeps 7. Available April-October. $600/week. Tel 416-925-7582 or e-mail

Vissec is an exceptionally peaceful, old and appealing undiscovered village at the foot of the Cevennes. The house, equally old and charming, is situated at the edge of a spectacular empty stone riverbed. The garden offers shade and seclusion, a lovely place to eat, drink and relax. Meanwhile, there are so many things to enjoy; hiking, walks, bird-watching, wild flowers, bikes, markets, restaurants, swimming and canoeing in the rivers, grottes, wineries, historic sites, museums, galleries, music.... everything France has to offer!  Several artists have taken up residence in the village, appreciating its serenity and the quality of light.

"Chez Squire" in Vissec is a 300+ year old stone country house, with lots of character and a lovely atmosphere. When we bought the house 17 years ago, it had only stone washbasins! We have modernized it somewhat, while retaining the rustic nature and ancient character of the house. Originally three separate houses, in an L shape; the interior is connected by lots of stone steps, while outside, there is a forecourt, and a gracious garden at the back, where trees offer privacy and shade. We have added a terrace with steps down to a large patio area below to take advantage of the outstanding view across the stone riverbed to the hills beyond.


There are many choices of how to spend time in Vissec, from simply taking a deep breath and relaxing, to walking and wandering, to visiting every Roman site in the area.....The walks are outstanding, just from the house, with many wild flowers and insects, up or down the riverbed or to the Foux where there is a Medieval water-mill. There are gorgeous river swimming spots with waterfalls and it's fun to spend a day canoeing down the Herault, over the rapids, to be safely returned upstream by bus. There is also lake swimming at Salagou or the Mediterranean itself is only an hour and a half's drive away. The markets in the nearby towns of Le Vigan, also a centre for music, Lodeve and Ganges are colourful and fascinating with a mixture of delicious farm produce and creative local talent. There are all sorts of restaurants usually very good value and friendly. There are all kinds of wineries and sources of local cheeses, including Roquefort, and olive oil. The landscape is dramatic with the well known Cirque de Navacelles just nearby, and many grottes and gorges in the area and the strange "Chaos de Montpellier-le-Vieux". The historic towns and cities such as Nimes, Arles and Montpellier are all daytrips with most impressive Roman sites, a nd there are excellent museums, the Le Vigan museum in particular, and galleries to enjoy. Besides all this, there are always new, undiscovered diversions.....

Finding Vissec

You can locate Vissec in southern France through which can provide driving instructions from just about anywhere. Vissec is a bit southwest of Le Vigan, northeast of Lodève, 10 km. south of Alzon. It is about a 1.5 hours or slightly less northwest of Montpellier; 1.5 hours west of Nîmes. (These are the nearest airports and train stations.) To find Vissec, as well as to explore the area, it is recommended that you get the local detailed Michelin or other map (Languedoc-Roussillon). These are available anywhere in France and elsewhere (e.g. in Toronto at the Open Air Bookstore and other places). 

Recommended routes to Vissec;

  • From Clermont-Ferrand and the north – Autoroute A75, exit Le Caylar, right turn through the village, stay to the left and turn left about 1-2 km. at the marked turnoff for Le Cros and Sorbs, which is followed by Vissec.
  • From Lodeve and the southwest – Autoroute A75 to Les Rives, then follow the signs to Le Caylar, shortly you will see a turn to Le Cros and Sorbs, which is followed by Vissec.
  • From Montpellier (the city) – initially follow signs to Millau, exit highway at Gignac, carry through Montpeyroux (great wines) and La Vacquerie (stay to the right at the fork in the middle of the village by the hotel), turn right at D25 and then the first left to Vissec; alternatively, especially if you don't like twisty mountain roads, stay on the autoroute direction Millau and exit at Les Rives as above.
  • From Montpellier airport (alternatively called Aéroport Fréjorgue or Aéroport Méditérranée, it's one and the same place) – initially follow the sign to Montpellier, after a few kilometers on the highway look for Autoroute A9 - direction Barcelone (not the first autoroute exit which goes the wrong way); exit at the second exit (about 5 km) which will indicate Millau-Bezier-etc., then follow signs to Millau and the rest as per above.
  • From Nîmes — follow signs to Le Vigan, at Ganges go to St. Laurent le Minier (left at the roundabout with the waterfall, the one past the SuperU), Montdardier, Blandas, Vissec (this route is narrow and twisty; if you want something a bit easier, go just past Le Vigan instead, then Aveze, Montdardier, Blandas, Vissec).
  • From Lyon, Provence, Avignon, etc. – exit the autoroute at Nîmes ouest, then per above.

All roads leading into Vissec are drop-dead beautiful. They also tend to be narrow and curvy, with big dropoffs along the way. After a day or so, most people learn to love driving through the unspoiled and untrafficked country – indeed it's a major attraction of the region. But we strongly advise against arriving initially after dark.

Finding the house

Park at the church, walk with the church on your right, then at the wall in front of you turn left and immediately right, you will soon come to some stairs; the house is just down the stairs, in the corner on the extreme right, past the green garage doors. All about a 30 second walk.

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


The house is fully equipped with stove, fridge, freezer, washing machine, barbeque [and telephone/dial-up internet by arrangement].  You may borrow the bicycles in the garage.

For the most part, as long as you acknowledge that there are differences between 20th century Toronto houses and an ancient stone house in rural Europe, things should be straightforward and easy enough to find. Follow are a few tips to help out.

The stove. The stove uses bottled gas, which works like a regular gas range but has no automatic pilot light; use the sparker hanging to the right of the stove next to the knife rack.  It is possible that you may need to open the valve on the gas tank (stored in the bottom right of the stove). To light the oven, lift the flap at the bottom inside and ignite.  

If you run out of gas, close the valve and disconnect the tank (reverse thread just as in Canada) and screw on the carrier (sitting just in front of the tank). As a convenience to the village, the Pons (main house in the village on the road) will sell a replacement. Attach the new tank hand tight. 

Telephone. There is a phone box next to the church that accepts coins. Telephone service in the house could be available through arrangement in advance at the time of rental.

Internet. You've come to the south of France to get away from it all and you still want to access the Internet?? You must need a holiday – badly. In fact, most towns of any size have Internet cafes or computer shops with Internet access. The closest is Le Vigan, there is an infomatique (Infolys) opposite the Maison de Pays (tourist office at the market square), also Cyberland behind the main church to the left, where you can surf to your heart's content.

Barbeque. There is a barbecue in the garden, which will burn wood or charcoal.  You can find charbon de bois at any supermarché as well as many other places, where you can also find some firestarter. You can also gather kindling or other firewood in the riverbed.

Shutters. The sun can be very hot outside during the summer. But the house, with its two-foot stone walls, always remains comfortable. The wooden shutters (and the windows) can be used to keep the house cool in the daytime and there is a ceiling fan.  Remember to close the skylight if there is a chance of rain!

Thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are infrequent, but can be very dramatic. The lights are likely to flicker and possibly even go out for a while. Please close windows and shutters (especially the skylight, as noted above), and also unplug the washing machine and any other appliances (but leave the freezer and fridge on). In case of the power failing to come back on, check the electric box at the end of the back cave (basement); turn the dial from 0 to 1 if necessary.

Garbage. There is a plastic garbage container and various recycling bins down the laneway that starts at the church. Please take your garbage there, in some form of plastic bag.

Shower trap. The shower trap is very sensitive to hair that may accumulate after some hair washings. If the shower starts to drain slowly, gently ply up the lid to the drain with a screwdriver or equivalent, lift out the trap, clean out any accumulated hair or debris, and drop the trap and cover back in place.

Laundry. There is a manual for the washing machine in the nearby cupboard (even in English, although with a strong Spanish accent!). Generally, cycle C is best for most purposes. European washing machines are smaller and take longer than North American varieties. Drying rack, garden washing line and pegs, iron and ironing-board available.

Library. We have a fair collection of books on various topics that you are welcome to read. If you are in the middle of something when you leave, feel free to take it along and return it to us in Toronto. But please leave maps, guides etc. for others to be able to use.

Locking up. Theft, even in rural France, is not at all unknown. Please keep the house locked when you are not around. In case of disaster, Alison and Burt have a key.

Breakage. If you happen to break anything, we would appreciate it if you would do your best to replace it as best you can.


Alison and Burt Perrin, (Lindsay's sister and brother-in law) live permanently at the other end of the village (relatively new house with metal gates), a 5-minute walk at most. They would be happy to help with information or emergencies. Telephone:

Bookings and availability


The house is available on a weekly basis, starting on Saturdays at $600.00 Canadian per week.  A non-refundable deposit for half the rent secures the booking and the other half is due when the keys are handed over.  Deposit can be made by VISA or by cheque.  An extra $100.00 deposit is required if you want use of the phone/internet.

Please arrive after 3.00pm and leave by 10.00am on the Saturday.

Ms. Lindsay Squire

232 Macpherson Ave.

Toronto, ON M4V 1A2, Canada

Tel: 416-925-7582