The entire old town, is protected by the state historic monument department,
one of the first in France to be so protected.
is rich with period mansions, known
as "hôtels particuliers". Famous for their stone sculpture, and ornate
doorways. Often you can pass through impressive doors, to admire the
inner courtyards – a magnificent renaissance staircase in Hôtel de
Lacoste, a balcony in Hôtel Carion de Nizas, striking arches, and
columns of Hôtel d’Alfonse. All of them familiar to the 17th century
playwright Molière, who presented the first performance of "Le Médecin Volant" in 1655 to the court of the Prince de Conti.
Stroll through the narrow cobbled streets of the old
quarter of Pézenas, on a warm evening, just as the light is
beginning to fade, and you take a walk right back in time –
with gargoyles peering eerily from the Hôtel Jacques Coeur, the
original mullioned windows of the Hôtel de Wicque, and the beautiful
18th century façade, rich with wrought ironwork of the
Consular House in place Gambetta.
of the Consular House, dates right back to 1552, and it is recorded
that the consuls of Pézenas met on this site from 1242, until the
Revolution in 1789. Regional government was present in Pézenas too –
the States General of Languedoc – until the mid 17th century.
fame were brought to Pézenas, by the reputation of five annual trade
fairs, organised as early as the XIIIth century. During the time of
the fairs, the people of Pézenas would let the ground floor of their
houses to travelling merchants, and craftsmen, who would set up their
workshops, and move their families up a floor from where they could
observe, and enjoy the fun and activity below. Today these workshops
are again used by craftsmen.
Shrove Tuesday carnival brings theatre, and festival to the town, and
is the moment when the "Poulain", an enormous wooden structure,
with two figures, Estienne and Estienou seated on top, a bit like a
large pantomime horse. The "Poulain", is carried by a team of rugby
players, and brings the whole town into the streets, to dance to a
medieval melody played by pipers leading the procession.
The tourist office organises excellent guided
tours of the old quarter, on a regular basis during the summer, and
on demand out of season.
In 1647, at the age
of 25, young Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, or Molière, began travelling
the Languedoc with his Illustre Théâtre troupe. He began writing
his first plays in Lyon, and Béziers: Molière
went on to become troupe manager and gave up acting.
1650 was a turning
point in their lives; the Languedoc General Estates (the Languedoc
Governmet) were held in Pézenas, and the Illustre Théâtre was
summoned to entertain them. In 1653, an important
event for the Languedoc was that Armand de Bourbon, Prince of Conti,
settled at the Grange des Prés in Pézenas. This licentious
prince held sumptuous court. He asked his secretary to find players
to entertain him, and invited Molière to come and perform, Moliere appeared twice, in 1653 and 1655.
Guided tours of
Pézenas: high season
Every day at 5pm (except Saturday & Sunday), guided tour of the
historical centre with a conference guide approved by the Ministry
of Culture (Architecture & Heritage Department).
Price: €5 (tour with at least 5 people)
TEL : 04 67 98 36 40 - FAX : 04 67 98 96 80
Door and Ironwork
(free of charge).
An unusual museum in the heart of
the old town, near the chateau. Since it opened in 1993, the
association for the wood trade, has displayed, as a result of wide
ranging cultural research, a collection of doors (15th to 20th c.)
from Pézenas and the area; ironwork, door knockers, and implements.
Pezenas - Petit pates de Pezenas.
A kind of mince pie, shaped like a cotton-reel.
Many of these
gastronomic treats come with a history, and one particularly
intriguing, and unusual food comes from the town of Pézenas. These
are small, round pies about an inch and a half across and two inches
high, The story is that in 1766, an English nobleman called Lord
Clive, Governor of India, came to Pézenas for his health, bringing
with him an Indian cook, because he didn’t trust the French cuisine.
This cook prepared some curried sweet meat pies for picnics on the
river. When Lord Clive left, he passed on the secret recipe to the
grateful citizens of Pézenas, who have been making the pies, and
selling them to tourists ever since. Served warm at the start of a meal, with a glass of white
wine - dry (like Picpoul de Pinet) or sweet (like St-Jean-de-Minervois
Muscat or Rancio). Sold in all pastry shops in town.
Bessan - Ricard Pastis
A closely guarded
secret since 1932, the formula created by Paul Ricard has never
changed. But in Bessan, the technologies for distillation and
extraction of the aromas, are unique, and open to the public along
with the bottling lines.
Lézignan la Cèbe -
Lézignan onions go
back a long way. They have been grown
since the 17th c. The capital of the mild onion ("cèbe"),
between Paulhan and Pézenas.
experimental orchard has over 80 varieties of this noble fig, which
loves Mediterranean heat, and dryness. Its digestive, laxative,
mineral, and anti-inflammatory properties have been known since
antiquity. Cooked or raw, after a meal, or with a meat dish, the
flavoursome fresh fig, melts in the mouth.
Pinet - Picpoul White Wine
The dry white wine of
Pinet is exported throughout the world, and a fish meal is not
complete without a glass of Picpoul de Pinet.
the garrigue, and the Thau basin, surrounded by vineyards, Pinet is a
typical Languedoc wine-producing village. "Picpoul de Pinet", a
fruity dry white AOC wine, has made the village world-famous.
has other attractions, including the Vallongue wood, where you can
see a cross section of the Via Domitia Roman road, showing how it was built,
and a view over the Etang de Thau. In the church at Pinet there is
an animated crib, that is very unusual, and is well worth
Is a nearby village on the left bank of the Hérault, in Bas-Languedoc wine country. Its
origins go way back, and it's name might come from "Fleur en sac"
(flower in sack). On the Via Domitia Roman road, its attractions
include many vestiges of antiquity. Stroll round its streets, and
discover its 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th. c., ancestral homes. In
the summer this is a lively village, and stages every Friday evening,
the "BRASUCADE" an informal open air dance, with meals, consisting of numerous
snacks, charged for, per item.
A typical Languedoc wine-producing village with one of the best wine
Cooperatives in the area.