'Bize-Minervois' he had said enthusiastically, 'there's a disused railway there!'
'OK' I had said, 'that sounds . . . great.'
Actually I do share his obsession with rusting corrugated buildings/decaying factories etc, so we set off without GPS into the wilds of The Minervois.
Bize itself was a slight disappointment; all rust and train parts had obviously long ago been cleared away. Spotting two people standing in a weed-covered area of the ex-sidings, holding a plan of some sort, we hurried over thinking they might be discussing a new station and impossibly, the re-construction of a train line! They greeted us with smiles and asked if we too were about to select where our new Villa might be, pointing to a rectangle on the rolled out paper which marked their own Off-Plan purchase from the proposed new housing estate.
Deflated, and wondering how certain idiots in the 70s and 80s had been allowed to close useful train stations and lines, we consulted the map and drove on to Roquebrun.
I visited the town, or large village? about six years ago and was charmed then by its winding streets. As we saw the wide gravel-beach banked river I suddenly realised I had forgotten to pack swimming things: how lovely it would have been, (now about 35 degrees ) to swim and laze for a while . . .
The restaurant I had lunched in before was closed, so we wandered a short while before noticing a small pizza place on a back street: a happy find; cheerful lady Patron, fresh, inexpensive food and rambling plants to identify.
A 1920s villa with its orange tree and frieze depicting the fruits.
Set into the hillside is a Mediterranean garden, run by a bunch of enthusiasts, and well worth a visit (small entrance fee for running the association).
The gravity-defying tower above the garden
After climbing into the oven-car we casted an eye over the map and decided Olargues would be a good next stop. Ezra had been there when he was about two. All I could remember from that previous trip was feeling dizzy from a very long drive and singing 'squeaky boy' (home-made song sung at extremely high pitch) which was seemingly the only thing that would prevent ardent crying ( him) from setting in.
A lovely suspension bridge on the road to Olargues
Wonderful 1950s hotel next to the bridge, sadly closed.
We had a pot of tea and sat for ages under the shady plane trees contemplating another shut-down station and how the town might have had a bit more going on if people could commute to say, Beziers or Mazamet.
After the tea, I snooped about with my camera on the pretence of going to the loo, until the hotel owner asked very stiffly if I needed some help.
Wine shop window display featuring giant boar (not the type holding a brandy glass and guffawing about Totty)
A good wander around the cobbled backstreets followed, sadly not including a look in the church as it was locked up; more tea was resisted, and the route back discussed. We decided on the main road to Mazamet, then down to Carcassonne, and home.
As with all good days out, the six hours or so seemed to have extended into at least a few days.
'So, what's been happening here,' I asked Mark, expectantly, on our return.
'Er . . . nothing really. I got the washing back in, think it might rain later.'