Yesterday we spent the day in Béziers, a pretty and friendly city, albeit built on rugby, bull-fighting and throat-slitting massacres (during the Crusades, and in the Madeleine church pictured above).
If you find yourself there, here’s what I would recommend:
1. Get this map!
Follow the signs to the Office du Tourisme and pick up ‘Les Sites’ – this is one of the best tourist maps I’ve seen, with easy colour-coded routes offering tours around Romanesque/Gothic buildings, gardens and fountains, the old city and the Golden Age of the 19th Century. You can easily mix and match routes. (Download the map here.)
2. Door knockers
Look out for the door knockers – a local speciality seems to be, ahem, hands on knockers, like this one.
3. Bishop’s eye view
Go through the cloisters at the cathedral to the Bishop’s Garden – there’s a good view looking down from the bluff over the orange rooftops to the river Orb.
4. Penitents Chapel
The Saint Nazaire Cathedral and the Madeleine Church (where the 1209 massacre took place) may be the main events but I found the Penitents Chapel on the Rue du 4 Septembre more charming – with a number of representations of female saints (here is St Germaine and check out this altar) and, strangely, a huge model ship mounted on the back wall.
5. Nine locks
Head for the Canal Du Midi aqueduct behind the train station – you can walk across it for a good view of the cathedral and the River Orb below. Continue on away from town for scenic canal walking and after 1.3km you reach the staircase lock at Fonserannes – a series of nine locks which brings the canal down to the level of the River Orb. It’s well worth a view. There’s also a little cafe serving cold beer at the bottom – welcome after the thirsty walk – plus there’s a good view back to the city.