Zaza Guarch’s three-storey, five-bedroom country house just outside the town of Uzès is a dream for the nosy explorer. 30 years worth of curiosities fill every corner of her home. A Pinocchio marionette shares ceiling space with a disco ball hanging in front of a pigment mural of medieval Uzès on one wall. A multitude of staircases lead to unexpected doors that proffer to be quietly pushed open. Off the massive loft hangs a sunroom spanning the whole length, complete with cane furniture basking in sunbeams illuminated by the dust.
Lulu, the gregarious three-legged German shepherd, sleeps at the foot of Zaza’s bed at night, while one of two cats keeps you company in your creaking second-floor room. You’ll fall asleep with her nestled behind your head as the sounds of a few horses neighing and the gentle groan of the evening wind enter through two small windows in the deep stone wall. A buddha statue in the corner watches in silence as you meditate on your plans for the next day.
From Chez Guarch, Uzès is a 25-minute stroll down a long tree-lined dirt driveway followed by a road couched by fields made greener by April’s crystal clear blue skies. Be there for the Saturday markets when the history of Uzès as a centre for trade comes alive in the Place aux Herbes.
Accept the offers to sample the fig-filled nougat dripping in caramel, the squishy nuggets of local goats cheese, and the semi-dried tomatoes bathed in garlic and basil, until it’s time for lunch.
For fans of Haribo gummy bears, the Haribo museum and shop fulfils your desire to embrace all things gummy-bear. The busy four-storey museum takes you through the history of the original Haribo ‘goldbear’ and the formidable multinational’s successes to date.
Your seven Euro entry fee includes enough freebies to stop your visit to the shop from getting out of control, too. The ticket seller will hand you a small sample bag of sweets to start, plus a coin to operate Haribo packaging machinery on the ground floor, from which drops a further four bags of sweets for you to take home.
For the historians, the UNESCO World Heritage site Pont du Gard, the remains of a Roman aquaduct, are located a 25-minute drive from Uzès. You’ll spend hours circling the massive First century structure’s surrounding paths on foot, or hire kayaks on the river below.
You can then ‘get your history on’ in the expansive interactive museum that offers you a glimpse into the famous extravagances of the Romans and their enormous bathhouses.
Upon your return to Chez Guarch in the evening, you might be lucky enough to share a meal and a stiff rum-and-juice with the wonderful character that is Zaza, remarkable for her no-nonsense approach to life, her rich personal history, and ultimately her generous hospitality.
Getting to Uzès
Easyjet flies from Gatwick to Montpellier, from which you take a 25-minute train to Nîmes and a one-hour bus to Uzès.
Staying with Zaza
Chez Guarch will resume as a gîtes, a relaxed version of a bed-and-breakfast, this summer. At the moment, Zaza welcomes guests predominantly through www.workaway.info and www.helpx.net, where she offers accommodation of up to three weeks in exchange for a fixed amount of help around the house and garden. (Zaza is less active on couchsurfing, where I found her.)