Sunday, 19 June 2016

Postcard 2 from Marseillan: Two Towns

Marseillan and Agde

We are staying in Marseillan, a small seaport between the larger Agde and the even larger Sête. Here, boats, surfboarders,  sailors anf holiday makers promenade on the newly laid shoreline path. 

To my left is a large-masted boat, apparently permanently docked. To my right is a large residential boat evolved from a barge – holiday accommodation of some kind. Yesterday we saw a chef in whites go aboard. There’s posh. And beyond that is a web of tinkling, small masted vessels clicking in the morning sun. Round the corner cafes line the quayside, each different in style and flavour. Such easy walking distance for that early morning cafe et croissant. 

Something near to Heaven perhaps.

With #lickedspoon in charge the wonderful food in the apartment is de rigeur, of course. And the talk has been good, referring to brilliant food writers – Ruth Reichl is a new discovery for me. We’ve also been reading the subtle Helen Simpson, the sharp-eyed   Alice Munro, the spiky Nell Zink – another new discovery for me.
We have ironic Muriel Spark as well as the sublime Norah Ephron who defines the creative process – in journalism, fiction and film – with finesse, political insight and humour. Re-reading her pieces is a refreshing writer’s education. And in crime we have Stephen Leather and James Craig. And – appropriate for the Football fest – John Cross’s biography of Arsene Wenger.

As usual S is winning for the annual ‘reading race’ - for reading the most books. His Kindle could be his secret weapon.

Recently we visited nearby Agde. This town is where we first
experienced the peculiar magic of the Languedoc - for several years renting a slice of a medieval fortress in the centre of the this very ancient market town, with its layers of history going back to the time when the Languedoc was not even part of France. It was always a port, welcoming traders from the the North, the East and the middle East – rich enough to be a target for pirates and invaders, and making a valuable access the mainland Europe.

With its feeling of a medieval market, this flourishing and crowded space is pure theatre.  Many of the customers are local, comingto the same place as their fathers and grandfathers   both to buy and to sell. 

All kinds of goods are for sale - from scarves and shirts to shoes and cheese, from bread and fruit to meat and soap.Essentially local, it provides a vibrant backdrop us people passing through. The sprinkling of visitors sit in the cafes and relish the distinctive drama.

 The town of Agde inspired a popular novel of mine called An Englishwoman in France, where the past and the present are curiously intermingled . It is also the focus of my novel Writing at The Maison Bleue. And in its ancient form it also plays a role in The Pathfinder. See if you can recognise it in that one. 

Did I tell you this place is inspiring for writers?

had coffee in the Plazza Cafe the Market Square then I filtered down the narrow old streets with their vague sense of threat, to the Cafe Capitaine on the quayside for a welcome glass of the rose wine of  the Languedoce

Needless to say I did a bit of scribbling…
Au revoir 


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