In the year 2003, back in Auckland, my old man had family come to stay from England. 12 years later and I couldn’t remember a whole lot, dinner up the sky tower, that’s about it. One thing I do remember was the offer to come and see them on the other side of the world anytime I liked. Or maybe I made that up?? Anyway, being in Europe, it would be rude not too. My Aunty Pam and uncle Brian have a holiday house in a small village in the south of France called Cazouls-lès-Béziers, 45mins south of Montpelier. Most travellers would never have heard of it, but for us, we would call it home for the next three days.
Months of planning and we finally set off from Paris by train to this little village. Both Leah and I had no idea what to expect and we were soon to find out Pam and Brian weren’t sure either. It’s hard to know what someone’s like when you met them for a short time 12 years earlier. After checking out the blog and few photos of us, they found us easy enough. Not so hard when you’re the only two kiwis walking out of the train station, and good-looking ones at that…just sayin. Bags in the car and we were off to the middle of nowhere.
Cazouls, A small authentic French village, with 4000 people, surrounded by a shit ton of vineyards. We were in for a few days of solid wine drinking, croissants, baking in the sun and cheese platters. No complaints here. Some how it worked out that another Aunty and uncle and cousins of mine happened to be staying just round the corner. It was like meeting your girlfriends family for the first time, except, well, they were my family. I had Leah there with me so it wasn’t all that bad and turns out they’re all so great we didn’t want to leave. By the end of our 3 days here it felt like we had known them forever.
Only having two full days here meant we were on a tight schedule. Day 1: Meet the family, test the waters at Gorge d’heric for the day, dinner at Chai Bon (a French restaurant) Day 2: Kayak down the river and then chill at Roquebrun and a bbq with the British locals in Cazouls.
Waking up to croissants every day thinking… I could get used to this. Getting treated like a King and Queen, we dabbled in a pain au chocolat, coffee and of course French stick. Every meal came with French stick. Fresh as the prince of Bel Air, we scoffed it down like we’d been deprived of food for a year. Soon enough the rest of the family arrived and we said our hellos. I thought about coming in hot with the old Maori kiss (hongi, nose touches nose) but the potential of weird looks outweighed the funny side so I went for the traditional hug. And besides, we were in the land of the two cheek kiss.
We ventured about 40mins north to a place called Gorge d’heric or Georgeous Deric as uncle Brian would say. As we parked the car and started the walk up the gorge I couldn’t help but think how much this reminded me of good old Aotearoa (NZ). Hills all around, the greenery, cicadas clicking in the trees and not to forget the river flowing through a gorge filled with all different size rocks. If you’ve ever been to a river in on Coromandel NZ, it was almost a splitting image. The only difference, the French speaking insects and million year old buildings. We walked 15mins up the path and found us a good spot for the day. Sun shining bright and not much other human life, we knew we were in for a top notch day.
Hanging out with the newly met fam, Greg and Deborah, my cousins, was sweet as. We did pretty much exactly what we would in NZ. Swam in all the rock pools we could find, jumping from anywhere high enough, making rock slides and climbing up through the gorge. This was starting to feel like a home away from home.
That night was every travellers dream. We were shouted out for dinner with the family. When your living off €4 baugettes and plain pasta it’s nice to get the opportunity for some fine dining. Where better to do this than the south of France. The lot of us enjoyed a feed at Chai Bon, one of the local restaurants in Cazouls. Ordering was a challenge, instead of food we got ice and a big, overcooked steak, but no point in worrying about that. Company was on point, catch up yarns and some fancy rosé, we dined our asses off! This would be a rare occasion for us so why not.
The following day we were due a sleep in to recharge the batteries. Leah and I, Gregg and Deborah had booked a kayak trip (or canoes if your British) down the river from Ceps to Roquebrun. As we made our way to the transport bus, the French instructor was wearing some familiar shorts. Waikato Chiefs logo on the side, we asked him if he knew what they were. From what we gathered he had no clue, some kiwi traveller must have left them behind and this bloke got lucky. We launched our kyack and took off down the river.
A mix between peace and excitement, Leah in the front, me in the back, doing all the work I might add. A 5 km trip, full of small Rapids, wide open river space and the Go-pro. At one point, a fork in the river, we went right, Gregg and Deborah left, the race was on. We picked our line going down and somehow ended up close to the bank, lying flat down underneath a bunch of branches trying to poke us in all sorts of places. As we approached some Rapids, the fast-moving water started turning our boat and we got wedged between two rocks…we were stuck. “Geeez girl, how’d u manage that, we’re gonna lose now”. Competitive streak coming out, I fly out of the boat to give us a good push, keeping in mind it’s less than knee-deep. We hit the rapids with some serious speed, half way down and BANG!! Rocking the boat, Leah goes flying left to right and somehow holds on. Cracking up, it was all too funny as the pair of us were in hysterics. We lost but well worth the laughter.
Next, we all met up at Roquebrun For a feed and swim. Once again we were in luck with the fam bringing us a picnic to munch on. The backdrop here was something out of a movie. Waterfall/dam, French buildings in the background and clear blue sky. Could have sworn James bonds been here before. Sun beaming a solid 34 degrees and we were in paradise. My uncle Adrian (a keen fisherman) thought he’d show me up and try catch some fish down the river. After an hour of using spam as bait, something I had never seen before and a few casts with a lure, we had nothing to show for it. I put it down to the tide of river being wrong…but, all in all, a good day out.
Our last night in Cazouls, we went to a local bbq with Pam and Brian. More food, more wine, we were outside until 1130, warm, full, drunk and not ready to leave in the morning. Up at 8am for our train to Montpellier to see a mate from NZ, we slept well for our last night.
Meeting my family for the first time was one thing, Meeting them in a place like this was another. Let’s be honest here, most of you reading this will probably never visit Cazouls or the area. But if you somehow get the chance to make it here or anywhere similar I wouldn’t hesitate to get amongst it. Such a cool little town. In and out and that’s a wrap. Till next time Cazouls, Au Revoir.
Bryn | free & addicted