It would be hard pick out a better little town to visit for the day from Montpellier (or anywhere within practical distance) than Pézenas. If you haven’t done so yet, check out my post on 3 super affordable ways to travel the Languedoc-Roussillon region (link opens in a new tab/window).
Pézenas has all the characteristics that I love about towns in the south of France: cobbled streets, markets, open squares, sunshine-soaking brick walls. Perhaps most importantly, it only takes between 45 minutes and an hour by the 104 bus from Montpellier. For 3€20 for a round trip, how could you not go?
What’s different about Pézenas?
I mentioned on Instagram that Pézenas has a lot of individual character. Kooky artwork and colours line the streets. There is clearly a lot of pride taken by the local business owners. I have quite a large appreciation for branding because it says a lot about the people behind it. Shop fronts are the first place to engage customers and passers-by. If you’ve put effort into your signs and windows, the chances are the products are of top quality as well. I felt like there was competition between the locals for the best hanging shop sign. Material, colour, and fonts all varied.
I have to say that Saturdays are probably the best day to visit. There were markets selling clothes, fresh fruit and vegetables, hot and cold meals, as well as books. Of course, there were the cafés and boulangeries to name just 2 of the other typical services that were open alongside. What surprised me was the diversity of cuisine on offer. There were 3 or 4 Asian food stalls, notably Chinese and Thai, serving up my favourite: Pad Thai. Which….wasn’t great, but hey it’s a small town in France. It’s not known for its gastronomical diversity, particularly in Asian cuisine.
There were things like this cart which took me back in time briefly and I could imagine a street seller in the 1800s serving the locals. Of course, in my head he was a Victorian vendor in London. But the effect was the same.
It’s busy enough to feel lively but not to feel claustrophobic
It’s as if tourists and locals alike are out and about as much as possible on Saturday because of the impending abandonment of the outside on a Sunday. Perhaps a tad exaggerated, but that’s how it feels after you’ve seen a town like this come alive. I like somewhere to have some energy about it, for it to feel alive as if you’re a part of what makes it tick. But also, it can’t be like a big city where everyone is hurrying and it’s far too busy. It enables you to still wander at your own pace.
The trend of impressive doors continues
Doors in France are one of the things that stand out to me wherever I go. They can be large and imposing, or comically small. But they are clearly meant to stand out. Here are a couple of examples from Pézenas. Both are also interesting because of the climbing plant and the former symbol of Languedoc-Roussillon by the door.
Hallowe’en is becoming more popular in France
As this creative design shows.
Overall, it just added to my opinion that Pézenas is a town full of artistic and creative types.
A local treat to try
When I stumble upon a local delicacy, it’s good to get stuck in. In Pézenas it’s Les Petits Pâtés de Pézenas. Not to be confused with the pâté that you spread on bread! A sweet, cylindrical shaped pastry that is inspired by British mince pies. A Christmas favourite. They were not to my taste, but good to try. Be careful, if eating hot (the recommended way) they can be very runny and sticky!
Well there you have it. Pézenas. The French town where you DO pronounce the s at the end of the name (it’s a southern thing). There are many delights that I couldn’t fit into this post nor did I have time for during my day. I hope that the energy of the town that I felt comes through into my writing enough for it to at least make your shortlist of places to visit when in the region.
Have you been to Pézenas? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!