The latest news from the Languedoc – July ’11

new website - beaches - féria - markets - restaurant & wine reviews - recipe - properties for sale - property market review

Bienvenue !

We are well into the summer with days getting longer and those inviting azure blue pools tempting us away from all those other things we really should be doing.

In this newsletter we have included articles on where to find some of the best beaches and markets in the region where you can pick up a few bargains and souvenirs. The féria season is upon us and we have also included a review of the French housing market. In addition to our regular restaurant review, we will also be featuring a recipe and a wine review. There is also an interesting ‘conspiracy theory’ from Aude - the inspiration of many books and films. We hope you enjoy it.

experience the difference

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www.ab-real-estate.com

mainly sun

The average high temperature during April, May & June in Montpellier was

22°C

with a recorded high of 34°C and over 73% days of sunshine


Roll out of our upgraded AB Real Estate Website

This month we are pleased to announce our new look website, designed to make it easier for you to find what you are looking for. We have added a new navigation menu on the left side that allows you to go directly to the properties for sale listed by ‘type of property’ and as well by areas. Please take a look and tell us what you think with a message or a mention on Twitter (if you are not already a follower of our twitter account you can follow us here www.twitter.com. You can also send a message on Facebook to "Ab Real-Estate" (add us as friend*) or just send an an e-mail to info@ab-real-estate.com. There is also more information and articles on our Blog.

With consultants in Nimes, Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne and Perpignan areas, we cover the whole of the Languedoc Roussillon and offer you an excellent, personalised service. Our multilingual team is professional, efficient and located in all areas of the Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault and Gard. In the meantime we have hundreds of carefully selected properties across the Languedoc Roussillon, from the Rhone Valley down to the Spanish border.


property 867

Property for sale

895 000€ AFI

Excellent value for money! Stunning & elegant Maison de Maître that has been entirely restored to an extremely high standard, using only the best quality materials & fittings. It has 5 bedrooms, home cinema, gym, heated pool with Jacuzzi & lovely, low maintenance garden. Located on the outskirts of a pretty village near Béziers with shops & restaurants in walking distance, near to a town and beaches. In the Languedoc-Roussillon region of the South of France.


Those wonderful Mediterranean beaches …

beach

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to holidays and of eating and drinking too much while rotating slowly on a sandy beach under the beating sun. If you’ve come to the Languedoc-Roussillon looking for a beach, then you’ve come to the right place. Languedoc takes up half of France’s Mediterranean coast with four of the five Departements of the region bordering the Mediterranean Sea. There is 177km (110 miles) of coastline and 42 beaches to choose from including some of the most beautiful in the south of France. They tend to be long, wide and sandy with the low, flat plain behind. Only at Séte and Cap d’Agde do the mountains extend to the coast as cliffs.



The best beaches

Espiguette, in the Camargue, is said to be Europe's longest beach and is backed by sand dunes. It is a little difficult to find and a bit of a walk from the car park, but worth it for its beauty and peacefulness. Portiragnes and Serignan are lovely beaches near to Béziers. Portiragnes has no facilities but Serignan does have a couple of beach bars/restaurants and you can hire sun loungers and parasols. Valras is great if you have children as there are many ice cream parlors and play facilities, not to mention restaurants and toilets.

beach

The charming seaside town of Leucate has two beaches and some great restaurants. La Franqui beach has the sea on one side and the etang (inland lake) on the other. The north end of the beach at Argèles is beautiful with views of the Pyrénées and bordered by pine trees, at the other end it is more commercial with plenty of facilities for the kids.

If you fancy a bit of a skinny-dip, then Cap D'Agde's nudist beach is excellent but costs €5 per person to get in.

Don’t forget the suntan lotion !




New tax on holiday homes now scrapped

sunlounger.jpg

French authorities have dropped proposals to tax non-residents on their second home in France if they did not offer the property up for long-term rental.

This would have affected up to 360,000 owners, half of whom were British. Fears that the new tax would have a detrimental effect on tourism caused the French government to make a U-turn.



blue shutters.jpg

The new tax would have generated €176 million a year. However, concerns were raised that the tax might deter foreigners from buying property in France and this could affect revenues from tourism. France attracts 75 million visitors a year and is the most visited country in the world. It maintains the third largest income in the world from tourism.

The French government also appreciates the fact that foreign property owners, particularly the British help rejuvenate rural areas of the country and restore derelict properties.


A market for every day of the week

pezenas market

The bustling markets of the region are a great place to buy local produce, haggle for those little souvenirs you’ve just got to have, and catch up with friends for a coffee. The vibrant colours, smells and sounds are a real treat and keep the regulars coming back for more. Storeholders will try and entice you to buy their produce by letting you taste a bit of this and a bit of that and charm you with their banter. There are more than 550 regular markets to tantalise you, but here we have listed a few of the best ones – enough so that you can visit one every day for a week !



Saturday

pezenas market

Pezenas – The town closes its main roads to traffic and the streets fill up with stalls offering everything from shoes and leather goods to a wide selection of local fresh produce. One stall just sells cheese, the other olives, the next one bread and then cured meats. Just by ambling down a few metres you can get all you need for a tasty meal. With plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants to fall into after a morning’s shopping the only tricky bit is finding somewhere to park and someone to carry all your bags.
Carcassonne – In the town and not La Cité, this market is excellent. Allow plenty of time for wandering around. Again, a wide choice of restaurants etc to relax in at the end of a good morning’s shopping.

Sunday

fruit market

Narbonne – The market spreads itself along the Canal du Robine that runs through the centre of the town. Selling mainly clothes, shoes and leather goods, there are some real bargains to be had and some very ‘different’ and unusual things to buy and take home to wow your friends. There is also an excellent indoor food market for all the other essentials in life other than shoes.
Collioure – This is such a beautiful harbour town that it’s worth a visit in its own right. Close to the Spanish border this market is very popular on a Sunday and makes a great day out.
Marseillan – If you like car-boot sales then this one is HUGE but be prepared to sift through the tat to find those bargains.

Monday

Valras Plage – Alongside the beach south of Béziers this market sells all the usual food stuffs, cloths and furniture etc. but being by the coast, the fish stalls are excellent offering a wide choice at reasonable prices.

Tuesday

Roquebrun – This enchanting village nestled next to the Orb river is famed for its excellent Saint- Chinian wine and its microclimate which permits it to throw its annual festival in mid-Frebruary for the Mimosa which flowers there earlier than anywhere else. Every Tuesday and Friday there is a charming market along the picturesque streets and all in all, it is a lovely day out.
Olonzac – This town, featured heavily in Campbell-Howes’ book French Leaves, has a sprawling market that takes over the center of the town. Half of it is dedicated to things like clothes, shoes, soap, kitchenware, jewellery, books etc and the other half is food related.

Wednesday

Clermont l'Herault – Mainly food stuffs, such as olive oil, honey and goat's cheese, this market offers a wide choice and several places to eat afterwards.
Lezignan-Corbieres – This large market offers lots of variety and its proximity to Carcassonne makes it possible to go there afterwards for a full day out.

Thursday

Saint-Chinian – This large market is mainly food, but also has clothes, fabric, books, plants, as well as lots of local producers. The famous Saint-Chinian wine with its excellent reputation is worth picking up here too.

Friday

Beziers – Famous for its flower market along the Allèes Paul Riquet you can pick up cut flowers and potted plants galore. For food stuffs, you need to head up to the Cathedral to the indoor market (which is great on those rare occassions when the weather is poor !).


Féria !

bullfighting

The Féria (bullfighting) season is well underway with Nîmes already with it’s first date in May under its belt and plans underway for the second round in September. Béziers is gearing up for its annual event in August (Thursday 11th to Monday 15th).

The towns close down during the entire festival and cars are banned, turning the streets into massive pedestrianised zones. Throngs of people, up to a million visitors, fill the streets partying from dawn until the following dawn.

Love it or loathe it, bullfighting is enduringly popular in the south of France, particularly in the Languedoc, and is very much part of the culture here. It has been a tradition for centuries, due to the close proximity to Spain. If you really can’t bear the spectacle of the bull fights, or corridas as they are called here, you don’t have to go. You can still glean all of the excitement, admire the culture and soak up the atmosphere on the roads of Beziers after the arena empties.

There is so much to do and see you will find that you want to be in two places at once. There is the enchanting horse show, the Spanish flamenco dancers, concerts, processions of floats and bands and much, much more. The Feria offers many different types of entertainment which suit all ages. There is always something going on, and most of it is free. You can buy drinks and food along the entire length of the streets from the bodegas along with loud music and crowds enjoying themselves.


French Housing Market Review

for sale

René Pallincourt, president of the FNAIM, Europe's biggest business federation with 12,000 estate agents in France, says France has ‘seen a surprising rebound in the French housing market’. He feels the slump is now behind us and that prices are stabilising. Currently low interest rates of borrowing are available making house purchases attractive. The problems in Muslim countries, the catastrophe in Japan and the ongoing problems in Europe are significant factors, but fortunately France's political climate is stable and has been for many decades.


sold

The Languedoc-Roussillon still remains a popular location for a second home or a new permanent life. Prices are competitive compared to other areas in the South of France and it is a great location nestling in the middle of the largest wine growing area in the world, between the Mediterranean beaches and the mountain ski resorts. It offers a more relaxed pace of life, with its Mediterranean climate, beautiful surroundings and value for money. There is easy access with many airports, motorways and the high speed TGV train, as well as wonderful wines, food and many varied activities (see our website for more details).

Early 2011 has been very promising with an increase in enquiries and clients viewing properties. Sales are going through, but we are not experiencing the peaks of previous years. We have seen a flurry of sellers reducing the asking price of their properties in order to sell more rapidly, for whatever personal reasons they have. There are some great deals to be had. See our featured property and other properties on our website.


Murder, mystery, intrigue and …. treasure!

Bloodline- The Magdala Tower at Rennes-Le- Chateau

The Church of St Mary Magdalene
Rennes Le Chateau

If you are interested in history, murder, mystery or treasure hunting then the hilltop village of Rennes Le Chateau in the Aude has it all. Made famous by books such as ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ and the film The Da Vinci Code, it is well worth a visit.

"Il y a deux histoires: l'histoire officielle,
menteuse, puis l'histoire secrète..."
Honoré de Balzac

There are two stories: the official one, all lies, and the secret one….


Bérenger Saunière

Bérenger Saunière
1852–1917

The history and intrigue which surrounds this tale go back to the 12th and 13th centuries and possibly even as far back as 200 BC but it only came to the public’s attention in relatively modern times with the arrival in 1885 of a new village priest called Bérenger Saunière.

Saunière was a local man, born close by in the village of Montazels, who would have no doubt have grown up hearing the stories of secrets and treasure which had filtered through the local community.

Although a very intelligent and educated man, he was penniless, living on his meagre priest’s pay. The Church of St Mary Magdalene that he inherited was dilapidated and located in one of the remotest parts of France. In the 1890s he began renovating the church decorating it in a very elaborate and colourful manner, unlike any other church in the area. He also provided services for the village such as roads and a water supply. He bought land around the existing presbytery and spent a fortune building a new house, a library, ornate gardens and a small private zoo. By the time of his death in 1917, it is estimated that he had spent the equivalent today of around 2-3 million Euros. Where did he get this sort of money?

knights templar

Since the 6th century Rennes Le Chateau had been an important and strategically placed town. In Visigoth times it was heavily fortified and the capital of the region. Over 30,000 people lived in its environs - much different to the current sleepy village it is today with 100 or so inhabitants.

It is the suspected resting place of a number of treasures reputed to be hidden in the locality including the famous ‘Visigoth Treasure’ and relics and treasure of The Knights Templar who were very active in the Languedoc in the 12th and 13th centuries. Whether it stayed here or not is not known.

templar sign

During the crusade against the Cathars (Les Bonhommes) in this region in the 13th-14th centuries, a group of Cathars under siege at Monsegur by Simon De Monfort are rumoured to have escaped carrying a great treasure which was then hidden somewhere in the locality. No one knows what the treasure was or where it went, but it was never seen again. 200 of the remaining Cathars were burnt at the stake as heretics and considered to be a threat to the Vatican.

A Queen of France, Blanche of Castile, married to Louis VIII, fled to Rennes le Chateau in the 12th Century at a time of rebellion bringing her treasure with her. She allegedly created an underground chamber and stored her treasure there together with the bodies of the builders!

Saunière made his first discovery, believed to have been a pot of gold, in the crypt. He also discovered a number of coded documents hidden in a compartment of the altar - clues to a secret, or a treasure, or both? To this day no one really knows the truth. In 1891 he notes in his diary that he has found a ‘tomb’ but does not elaborate.

Saunière is believed to have brought two other priests in on the secret; Henri Budet, the priest of nearby Rennes Le Bains, and Antoine Gelis the priest of nearby Coustaussa. Gelis was violently murdered in 1897 and it is now believed that Saunière may have had a hand in the murder in order to keep him from divulging the secret. All three would appear to have had access to large amounts of cash that remain unexplained to this day. Budet had written several well received books including ‘le Cromlech de Rennes le Bains’ in which he left a coded message revealing the secret and possibly its location.

church wall

One of the painted walls in the church
Rennes Le Chateau

Saunière was accused of selling mass’s illegally to raise the money. It was never proved and this would not have accounted for the amount of money spent. Also, he seemed to be protected by the Vatican, as if he had a hold over the Catholic Church. During this time he was visited by many luminaries from Paris and a Prince of the Royal house of Habsburg.

It is now suspected that the secret he discovered was far more important and far reaching than any treasure, and although he did not want to reveal the secret at the time, believing that the moment was not right, he foresaw a time in the future when it should be revealed. As he redecorated the church he designed into its fabric clues as to ‘what’ it may be and its current location.

coded scroll

For a 100 years academics from around the world have been trying to unravel the clues and discover the secret. Some 300 books have been written about the subject with many outlandish ideas, sceptics and accusations. To date no one has broken the code or the clues in the church and other messages that were left for the world to find. No one has come close to solving the mystery.

Until now.....



Bloodline- Inside the Tomb

Inside the tomb


Ben Hammott, an Englishman, began his quest for the treasure in the 1990’s and accidentally stumbled on a tomb close to Rennes le Chateau with his brother. They had been searching the area using the clues they had discovered in and around Saunière’s church. Whilst searching a cave Ben dropped his video camera down a narrow shaft and after some time and difficulty managed to hook it out with the aid of a stick. The video was still running with the light on. On the way back to the UK they decided to look at the tape of the trip and at the end they found that, when the camera had dropped down the hole, it had taken footage of what appeared to be a tomb with a body under a shroud on a large slab of rose marble.

The Body appeared to be surrounded by boxes, one of which is broken open and appears to contain coins and other valuables, a large wooden cross, what appeared to be parchments and a book/codex of some description. There is a blocked entrance off to one side of the tomb that clearly was the original entrance, but extensive searching has not revealed a tunnel entrance. There is no access to the tomb and images so far have been via a fibre optic camera fed down through the narrow fissure.

Bloodline- Cup and Jar in Chest

Ben went on to make more discoveries including a small chest, found after he dug up a series of bottles containing letters apparently signed by Saunière giving more clues. In the chest was an earthenware cup and oil jar, dated 1st century AD, 30 coins dated from 200 BC to 12th century and a glass phial containing a small parchment, carbon dated to the 15th century, with a small plan of what appears to be the Church at Rennes Le Chateau and indicating a Royal Crypt beneath the church.


window

A clue to ‘the secret’ is the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their bloodline through their three children with its implications on biblical events and therefore the basis of Christianity and Catholicism.

In one of the letters found by Ben, Saunière repudiates the church and calls it false. Is the body in the tomb that of Mary Magdalene? He seems to be so thoroughly convinced by his discovery that the evidence must have been in the parchments or documents found with the body. The question is ‘are they still there?

It may or may not be significant, but a hair sample from the mummified corpse under the shroud has been DNA tested to show that it is of Middle Eastern origin and the corpse is believed to be that of a woman. Photos of the tomb itself have been shown to a number of authorities who have commented on how unusual the tomb is, particularly with the chests and other artefacts. All are unable to comment on its authenticity until it is opened. Ben is currently speaking to the appropriate French authorities with a view to excavating the tomb.

Perhaps one day, evidence will be found that confirms the Catholic Church has created the most elaborate cover up of all time?


Wine Review

domaine

Domaine de l'Hortus
34270 Valflaunès, France
04.67.55.31.20
www.vignobles-orliac.com

Jean and Marie-Thérèse Orliac established their domaine in the late seventies, between the Pic Saint Loup and l’Hortus mountains in a beautiful and wild valley. The land, deserted since the end of WW2, needed much attention and the couple worked hard to bring it to its present glory. The reward has been worth it - now producing some of the finest wine in the region (white, rosé and red) they have a world-wide reputation.

Jean Orliac had a vision of turning a fledgling wine region into a great appellation. It took time to convert the abandoned and barren land into an established vineyard, and consequently the first vintage for Domaine de l'Hortus wasn't until 1990.

Traditionally the Languedoc is a red wine region, but white and rosé is becoming more and more popular being generally preferred by women and for ‘les apéros’. The difficulty of producing white wine in this area is the necessity to pick the grapes at the right moment and before they are warmed by the sun, therefore nocturnal ‘vendanges’ are necessary.

In total, they now have 55 hectares of vines, split over two sites, with 43 ha red grapes and 12 ha white. They produce 225 000 bottles of red, 58 000 bottles of white and 30 000 bottles of Rosé per annum.

A delicious wine well worth seeking out !

domaine

Restaurant review

glass

Le Garde Manger
5, rue Pounchou
34490 Murviel Les Béziers
04 67 94 09 58
www.le-gardemanger.com

Sébastien and Julie welcome you with warm smiles like a long lost friend when you enter their chic restaurant and wine bar on the outskirts of Murviel Les Béziers.


Open from Tuesday evening until Sunday evening, with a set menu at lunchtimes and an excellent wine list, you are in for a treat. Sébastien works wonders in the kitchen creating flavours and textures out of this world while Julie explains the menu (in perfect English if you wish) and happily guides you through the wines on offer – and she really knows her stuff !

The interior is modern and comfortable and often full of happy eaters. All is absolutely delicous but without a doubt, you really must try the chips cooked in duck fat – scrumptious !
Bon appétit !


Recipe

Roast figs with cinnamon, thyme and honey

figs

With figs very much in season, and there for the picking in the vineyards (for free !), Tamasin Day Lewis's luscious roasted figs make a simple but impressive dessert for a special occasion.


Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min, plus standing
Serves: 6


Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp orange liqueur
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12 figs
  • 1 tsp thyme (this grows wild in the vineyards too)







Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.
  2. Put the honey, butter, liqueur and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until liquid.
  3. Using a small, sharp knife, make a cut like a cross in the top of each fig, cutting almost down to the base.
  4. Place them upright in a roasting pan, splaying them out shamelessly as you go. Pour the liquid over each one. Roast for 15 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle a bit of thyme over each fig. Return to the oven, switch it off, leaving the door ajar. Leave the figs in the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.

À Bientôt

That’s all for now. As ever, I do hope you have enjoyed our Newsletter and found it useful.

Call us on
+33 (0) 4 67 36 36 80

or by email

Skype
ab.real.estate

With best wishes

Annelise Bosshard
Managing Director
AB Real Estate


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