We arrived in Sommieres at 5.30 in the morning after leaving Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer in the driving rain and howling winds. It’s always difficult to arrive in the dark but could you believe it, we got stuck behind the dustbin men in very narrow streets who took forever to crawl up the street emptying bins! This was all we needed at this time of the morning after a sleepless night!
Eventually, we found our next parking spot, a municipal carpark very close to the centre of town and the very swollen river! Finally to bed in a sheltered location.
When we awoke the next morning, it was to more pouring rain which was forecast to continue all day, so I decided that today would be a PJ day! The first since leaving the UK last September.
27 January and finally the sun was shining and the rain had stopped! Time to explore. There was an antique market with many stalls and equally, lots of fascinating objects.
We found a wonderful food market too and in addition to our purchases of daily bread, olives and tomatoes, we bought a special cake called ‘La Galette des Rois’, which is the French King Cake. This cake appears at the beginning of January and its roots can be traced back to the Roman Empire. A tiny king is hidden inside the cake and whoever finds the king, is king for the day. This was our gift for our friends Jo & Gaeton who we were visiting the next day.
Sommieres is a wonderful medieval town on the river Vidourle, which was extremely high due to an abundance of rainfall and is an area prone to flooding. The bridge was built during the Roman era and is impressive even though only 7 arches are still visable. Originally, there were 21 arches and the bridge would have supported houses and businesses on the top.
In the afternoon Lisa, Becki and Juergen and I drove to Cologne which is about a 30 minute drive from Wiehl. Juergen and I split up from the girls and went into the Cathedral, it was free to get in and of course it was packed, there are on average 20,000 visitors a day! The Dom (this is what they call it here) was pretty incredible both inside and out. The outside is still a filthy brown black from the industrial revolution. Juergen says they are not going to clean it, which is a shame as I think it would look incredible if were cleaned, much like the old buildings of London.
They have been repairing the building over the years by completely replacing whole sections of the building, in this photo you can see one of the stonemasons working on a replacement. These new sections are in the original light stone colour, so the building now looks a little patchwork. The flying buttresses were amazing as they had two levels and the two spires are higher by 30ft than the spire at Salisbury, but Salisbury only took 40 years to complete this building took more like 200! The inside is as spectacular, the Cathedral was originally built in order to house the relics of the Three Kings. There are huge expanses of glass and the “swallow’s nest” organ built into the gallery appears to hang magically half way up one of the walls – in all a true Gothic masterpiece.
My photos of the Dom do not do it justice, hence I’ve not included any. We then looked at some of the Roman ruins, in an underground car park, it seems that everywhere they put up a new building they find Roman ruins. Cologne was established as a Roman Colonia (colony) by Agrippina the Younger, Nero’s mother was born here. We walked down to the Rhine which is a big wide river here at Cologne and has in the past been prone to flooding. It originates in Lake Constance in Switzerland and comes out in the North Sea at Rotterdam and is one of Europe’s great rivers. After a while we headed back away from the river through a Christmas market, still doing business, and into a beer hall (http://www.gilden-im-zims.de/en/). This was a great place – the beer glasses were small and thin, once you emptied your glass, they would come round and just replace it with a freshly poured beer, so you just kept drinking and drinking! Juergen ordered a local speciality – Kölsche Kaviar – Cologne Caviar, a traditional food speciality consisting of blood sausage, served with onions, German mustard and a bread roll. In this case the sausage is combined with flour and is not black, but a reddish brown, with a few large white specks. In combination with the bread, onions and mustard and the beer, it was quite palatable, good even, but eating it on its own was difficult as it was way too rich.
On leaving we headed into the centre of Cologne to meet up with the girls. Natalie, Becki’s daughter, had joined them and after some discussion, we decided to head to a local Italian restaurant which Natalie had suggested. Natalie and Juergen work in Cologne and Natalie now has a flat and lives there. At the Italian we sat at a high table, Becki needed an extra stool to stop her falling off the bench seat – she isn’t the world’s tallest person! Natalie and Lisa had Risotto, I had Penne Arrabiata, Juergen had a Pepperoni pizza and Becki who was not feeling hungry had a small starter. My dish was very good with plenty of Jalapeños and red chillis. Juergen and I drank more beer – something the Italian waiter was not impressed with, whereas the girls were cultured and had wine. At the end of the meal we asked for the bill, it was €90 and they only took cash (I hate these places – all too common in Germany) fortunately Lisa had cash on her.
Natalie went home and we drove back to Wiehl. It was a lovely day.