I was probably five or six years old the first time I noticed the river’s beauty. I can still see the silky and transparent water cascading over the pebbles underneath. Hypnotised, I was unable to take my eyes off it. The free flow carried my thoughts away. The memory remained, indelible. Years later, I learned that what I mistook for a stream was actually a 140-km long river, L’Orb, originating in the Aveyron, crossing the Hérault, joining the Canal du Midi in Béziers before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.
I discovered the river in Roquebrun, a small medieval wine-making village with a population of 500, nestled in the Regional Park of the Haut-Languedoc, in the south of France. Seven arches of an 1870 Roman bridge span L’Orb, leading to narrow and winding streets lined with historic houses built with stones from the river. These dwellings crowd the steep surrounding hills, which are fragrant with garrigue (an aromatic vegetation) lulled by cicadas, and lead to a 10th-century Carolingian watch tower which reigns over the village and its 12th-century church.
Nature is generous in Roquebrun, nicknamed the « Little Nice » of the Hérault. A microclimate and a schistose soil which at night diffuses the heat absorbed during the day, allow for grapes to ripen at night, and for hundred-year old olive trees, mimosas, lemon trees, orange trees, palm trees and other exotic plants to blossom. Overlooking the village is the impressive Mediterranean Garden, preferably visited early morning or late afternoon.
My personal portrait of L’Orb and Roquebrun is far from the usual postcard images. Contrary to the melancholy suggested by the choice of black and white, the photographs actually aim to revive the mystery and the poetry of the place that will hopefully remain unchanged. The scent of the river, the burning stones in summer, the wonders of nature and the rich history of the village have always fascinated me. Never will they stop inspiring me.