Allées Paul Riquet are 600 meters long. They are the busiest part of the town for pedestrians. The alleys are planted with old plane trees. The center of the alleys is pedestrians only while cars are allowed on each side. Allées Paul Riquet are lined with magnificent mansion built at the end of the XIXth and t the beginning of the Xxth.
Photo 1. Allées Paul Riquet, northward view with the theater at the end.
Photo 2. Allées Paul Riquet, southward view with the statue of Paul Riquet at the end
Photo 3. Allées Paul Riquet, closer to the statue of Paul Riquet
Photo 4. Allées Paul Riquet, side walk
Photo 5. Allées Paul Riquet, gigantic board to play chess.
Pierre-Paul Riquet was born in 1609 in Béziers from a wealthy family. He was an ingeneer and a businessman. He had the idea to dig a canal between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic ocean though it had to pass the “Seuil de Naurouze” (ground sill of Naurouze or pass of Naurouze), 189 meters above sea level. He managed to find enough water that could be diverted to feed the locks.
In 1662, he convinced Colbert, prime minister of Louis XIV to build the canal. It costed 15 million pounds. Paul Riquet himself paid for 2 milion pounds on his own and in exchange, was awarded the toll on the canal. The canal was finished in 1680 by his two sons, one year after his death. The canal was inscribed in 1996 on the Unesco heritage list.
In 1789, Thomas Jefferson visited the camal and took it as a model to connect the Potomac river with Lake Erie.
The theater stands at the northern end of allées Paul Riquet. It was built in 1844 and is in the style “à l’italienne” (Italian style).
Photo 1. General view of the theater.
Photos 2 and 3. Bas-reliefs representing scenes of the antiquity stand on top of the front of the theater, right and left. All the carvingswere made by the famous French sculptor David d’Angers.
Photo 4. Angels stands on each part of the three entrances into the theater.
Le Pont Vieux is a Romanesque bridge that was built on the Orb river by the Romans . In 1209, when Béziers was invaded and plundered, it was already there and already named the old bridge. Since then, it is still standing though the Orb river has terrible floods. Good job !
“Les Halles” is a covered market in the old center of Béziers (Place Pierre Sémard). “Les Halles” were built between 1895 and 1897 in the Balthard style. They are a copy of Pavillon Balthard in Paris. They are open everyday except Monday from 6 AM to 1 PM. Besides food booth, they host a restaurant.
Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire stands on top of the city and when coming from the west (from Narbonne), can be seen long before reaching Béziers. It was built in the XIVth in what is named “Gothique Méridional”. On this photo, it is seen from the Romanesque bridge. We were short of time to get closer and visit the cathedral
In font of the theater, extend Allées Paul Riquet. Behind the theater stand Place de la Victoire.
Photo 1. On the east side of Place de la Victoire stands a wealthy beginning of the XXth century building, now owned by a bank, the “Société Marseillaise de Crédit”
Photo 2. In the middle of Place de la Victoire flows a fountain.
In the north-east part of Allées Paul Riquet stands a wealthy mansion built in the Empire style.
Photo 1. This huge mansion has 11 windows on the first level and 11 windows at the second level. When, in the XIXth, there was a tax on windows and doors (Impôts sur les portes et fenêtres), the owners must have been very wealthy to pay for it !
Photo 2. Close up on the front that has fluted columns and several carved figures.
Photo 3. Next building is equally carved but has “only” 2 x 3 windows !
I might have photographed every building along Allées Paul Riquet as each is interesting but that I felt that I should better try to outline only the best ones. Here are some more.
Photo 1. Allées Paul Riquet, esat side: every building have been built during the second half of the XIXth.
Photo 2. There are several bars with pleasant terraces under the plane trees that allow to rest and look at the architecture.
Photo 3. This building has nine different faces carved on its front, above each window. Are they fancy or do they represent real people, I don’t know but they are so different that I believe they represent real people.
Photo 4. At the street corner with rue de la République, this is not Marianne (traditionally featuring the Republic) but Virgin Mary with child that is represented .
Photo 5. A single face at number 2 of a side street.
Several memory slabs stand at the bottom of the theater front
Photo 1 reminds May 12th 1907, when 120,000 persons marched against the authorities because of the wine crisis and the soldiers refused to obey their chiefs.
Photo 2. Belgian refugees (1939-1941 thank the citizens of Béziers for welcoming them.
Photo 3 reminds that 10 citizens were slaughtered by the Nazi on August 20th 1944, two days before the town was freed.
Not exactly on Allées Paul Riquet but that can be seen from the Alleys, stand a house with two caryatids that seem to figure Cérès, and another figure of Cérès stands on top of the entrance photo 1). Cérès was the Roman goddess for agriculture and crops, often connected with corn. The Canal du Midi was primarily dug for corn trade. Was that a house that had something to do with corn trade of the canal, May be but I cannot be positive.
Photo 2 shows a general view of the house.
Photo 1 shows a large mansion along the east side of Allées Paul Riquet. At first look, it is only one of the numerous mansions along the Allée as it has not many carvings. However, though it has been spoiled by the large green blind of a bar that cut hides half of it, it obviously hade a monumental entrance in the middle.
Photo 2 is a closeup on the top part of what has been a monumental entrance. It is framed by two lions and in the middle, stands the face of a bearded god.
Near the theater, on the east side of Allées Paul Riquet stand the Nouvelles Galeries building, a department store built in 1930. The outside has remained unchanged since then (photo 1)
Photo 2 is a close up on the highest level, with its carvings.
Hotel Imperator stands on the west side of Allées Paul Riquet, number 28. Unfortunately, it is half hidden by ugly metal structures. It was built around 1870 (photo 1).
The entrance is worth a closer look (photo 2) The entrance is framed by twin caryatides that might feature the goddess Cérès, crowned with corn.
Photo 3 shows that each caryatide holds a fluted column.
An imposing 6 levels mansion overlook the statue of Pierre Paul Riquet, at the south end of Allées Paul Riquet, at the corner with Avenue Camille Saint-Saëns. I have not found the history of this building, which should have been built under Napoléon III.