The Bize-Knees: Bize-Minervois, South of France

The tiny village of Bize-Minervois in the Languedoc area of the South of France hides an absolute gem of an afternoon for anyone wanting a cool splash, sunbathe, or a shady picnic. A watering-hole and outdoor pool for all ages, it is fed by the river Cesse that runs though Bize-Minervois, and is created by a dam, offering a raised bed for sunbathers. A deep-end has been made, allowing kids (and big kids like me!) to jump and dive.

We found an off-road parking space and wandered about 200m to find this picturesque spot. We brought the buggy to be able to keep food in shade underneath it, but the stony bank made it difficult to push through, so we ended up carrying buggy and child to the patch we claimed for the day.

The water was very clear, you could see a couple of metres down and watch the tiny little fish swimming around too. The stony bed of the water made it a bit tricky to walk on and momentarily, I wished I had a pair of Jelly shoes, you know, those ones you get as a kids and look back in pictures wishing your parents never bought you? Yeah, those. My wife had a glittery pair and if her feet were unusually large, I would not have hesitated in swiping them for a few minutes! Stepping in, the water was initially very refreshing. After a few seconds fully submerged, it felt Arctic and it took a good couple of minutes of constant moving before you begin to feel human again. The mid day sun continued to beat down; an impressive 33 degrees celsius made the cold water attractive and so we continued to return over the course of the afternoon. Our children were in their wetsuits which kept the sun off their backs (the factor 50+ did the rest) and also kept their bodies warm in the ice-cold water, which meant both they, and we, were happy for them to spend the vast majority of the day in the water and in the sun.

We met a family from Bordeaux who were also holidaying in the area. Our children got on so well with their daughter, Louka, and they seemed unphased by the language barrier, communicating in some sort of toddler speak. It was pretty nice to see. They played for nearly 2 hours with our beach ball and Louka’s little blow-up dinghy.

A pathway sort of bridge separated the swimming area from the river, which was clear enough to be able to see the gunk on the bottom of the river. We have pet turtles and fish at home, so the bottom of the river just looked like fish poop. We were playing with a little beach ball at the end where the pathway was and the ball bounced over the path into the river. Quite quickly, the ball got taken by the current and within seconds it was making steady progress down-stream! Being equipped with Jelly shoes, my wife, Millie, went in after the ball and got quite far until she claimed a much larger fish touched her leg so she came scrambling back. Louka’s dad was very quick to offer the use of their little inflatable dinghy and Millie dragged herself through the water at quite an impressive pace and retrieved the ball, returning to the sound of applause from tiny hands and cheers from tiny people. It truly looked like something out of Takeshi’s Castle – a thoroughly entertaining episode, in a wonderful day at Bize-Minervois.

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