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We came out of the Canal du Midi, at the famous Round Lock at Agde, and headed for the River Herault. The right hand exit from the lock takes one to the lower Herault which leads to the sea, whilst the exit straight ahead leads to the upper Herault. The continuation of the Canal du Midi and the Etang de Thau is a turn off the upper river to the right; whilst the river itself leads to Bessan. We had no chart of the river, so for the first time Can Pyran navigated by careful study of a road map. In fact there was loads of water especially if one followed the usual river rule of keeping to the outside of bends.


Can Pyran  looking for shade on River Herault

Peter and Lizzie

Sylv getting a little shade while she photographs Can Pyran

Unconventional mooring technique



We came to Bessan as a small town in which to spend Bastille Day. We thought this might be rather more interesting than the large scale demonstrations of Frenchness in the main tourist areas like Agde.


Bessan had a nice pontoon to take three or four visiting boats and even electricity and water. At one time the river had been probably the most important way of getting goods to and from the town, and what was now the harbour for pleasure craft had once been a working quay.


We were not disappointed with our choice of venue for the 14th July, though most of the events took place on the 13th. There was a delightful dance that wandered its way, literally, through the streets, and we were much impressed how the caravan of bands and dancers wove their exact way through the crowds until we looked a little harder and saw the white line that had been painted sinuously down the road. The band played fit to burst, and the dancers blew away the chaff from the wheat with their bellows which they hit from time to time to keep the rhythm. At least that’s what we thought the origin of their movements must have been.


Then there were the fireworks on the sports field after which we all wiggled our way back to the town centre where the Disco had been set up. If we’d stayed on the sports field or even on the river we’d have heard the music without a problem, but would have missed the dancers which would have been a shame.


Next day there was a large feast in the town square. Bessan looked like a place that knew how to enjoy itself and we were sorry to leave it the following day.


Vineyard at Bessan


14th July Town Square Bessan


Our friend Lizzie lost in thought over what to drink



Then the another side of Bessan started to appear. The local paper was full of a story about a man who had run amok in the town square, and shot half a dozen passers by, seemingly at random, but miraculously without killing anyone. A couple of days later the story was back in the headlines. The gunman had hanged himself in police custody.


The story which emerged was a troubled one. The gunman was a retired local man in his 60’s who had lived in Bessan all his life, and had had a long running feud with young North African lads who had, in his view, taunted and persecuted him. So a couple of days after we’d been sitting in the main square having a beer or a coffee, he had turned up and started shooting his pistol at any one looking as though they were of Arab origin. Six people were injured. One can only speculate how he was left with the means to hang himself in the police cells.


The paper then added, almost as footnote, that at the last elections, Le Pen and his extreme right wing party had gained 40% of the vote. It would be interesting to know what it will be at the next election.