Pézenas is a true medieval gem, a swirl of beautiful honey-toned Renaissance buildings, elegant wrought-iron balconies and sunny terraces. It was the capital of the Languedoc until the 17th century, after which it continued to thrive as a market town.
The narrow streets in the old town centre mix with grand town houses from the 16th, 17th and 18th century, such as the hôtel de Lacoste. The playwright Molière often stayed in the town, which stil has a statue of him in the centre.
Clive of India, the British governor of Bengal, is said to have introduced a Mughal-inspired recipe for small pies during his stay in Pézenas in 1768. They are filled with mutton (lamb), lard, lemons, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and egg yolk. For something sweeter, try the boiled sweets called berlingots.
There is much worth seeing in the town, including the medieval Jewish quarter. Its survival is remarkable, since King Charles VI expelled the Jewish community in France in 1394.
Driving from Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois to Pézenas takes just over an hour (40 miles, 65 km). A weekly market with 120 stalls takes place on Saturday from 8am to 6pm. It is the only weekly market in the region that last all day in summer and spring, although it closes after lunch in the autumn and winter.
In July and August, a food and wine festival is held in the town centre every Friday evening. For information, events, restaurants and things to see and do, visit www.pezenas-tourisme.fr.
Pézenas is a delightful place to spend time in, wandering around or watching the world go by from a terrace in the Place Gambetta. It also has excellent restaurants, but booking is recommended.
If you do want to combine the town with something nearby, it is not far from the beautiful Étang de Thau and the excellent seafood restaurants of Mèze and Sète. Or you could take the motorway to Montpellier, a stylish town with lots to see and do.