The ancient hearts of French towns hold surprises on their narrow, rarely straight streets. Among all these pretty, old towns, Pézenas, in the Hérault department in southern France, is exceptionally lovely.
While Pézenas has Roman roots, much of the architecture of the town center dates to the late Middle Ages, with many outstanding hôtels particuliers–private mansions–from the 15th to the 18th centuries.
Despite the almost complete absence of vehicles (even bikes!) in the center, walking is slow going, because you have to look up and down and around.
Speaking of doors, let us appreciate les portes de Pézenas.
Pézenas has a bunch of cute shops, many of them with handmade and/or locally made goods, in addition to its wealth of antique stores.
Can you imagine when shopkeepers sold their wares from these windows, setting the goods on the extra-wide ledges to hand to customers?
I suspect this very cool turret was to let residents look out onto the street, and not for any kind of battle use. This is the back side of the Hôtel de Peyrat, which was built in the 16th century and houses the Office de Tourisme. There’s a little loggia that overlooks the inner courtyard, too. And one on the opposite side of the courtyard:
All this is from only an hour or two of strolling. Without even going inside anyplace. Which I really must come back and do. When there isn’t a gigantic antiques fair in progress.
I’m guessing the bars above predate filling in the door? window? above. But wouldn’t it have been easier to brick up (or did they use stones?) the hole without bars in the way? Who decided to run a spigot there? For what? So often, something catches the eye–like the climbing ivy–and then you realize, this is very odd.
The arch that you can kind of see above is the entrance to the old ghetto. Pézenas had a large population of Jews, who came from Spain, Portugal and Italie, until France expelled Jews in 1394.
I hope you enjoyed this little promenade. Something different next time!