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PEZENAS

Pézenas, not only famous for being the home, for a while, of the famous Playwright Molière, is also a very beautiful medieval market town and is an artists haven. There is an outstanding array of historic buildings, with areas of XVI & XVII century architecture.

 

The town also has numerous bars and restaurants; a variety of clothing shops; art galleries, antique shops and craft shops.  In the medieval quarter (many buildings have been restored to their former glory). The Saturday market is a must. You’ll see flower stalls with a kaleidoscope of colours; seasonal vegetables in abundance and many other stalls selling a variety of local produce to tempt your taste buds.

 

 

The entire old town, is protected by the state historic monument department, one of the first in France to be so protected.

Pezenas 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. The interior 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.

 

 

Wealth, and 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.

 

 

 

 

Today, the 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.

 

 

 

 

Molière and Pézenas, a tale of love and remembrance

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)
Information and reservations :
TEL : 04 67 98 36 40 - FAX : 04 67 98 96 80
E-mail : accueil.pezenas@otpvh.fr

 

 

 

Door and Ironwork Museum (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.

 

 

 

 

 

LOCAL FOOD

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 - mild onions

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.

 

Nézignan l'Evêque - fig An 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.  Between 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.

 Pinet 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 the detour.

 


 

Florensac.
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.

 

Pomerols
A typical Languedoc wine-producing village with one of the best wine Cooperatives in the area.