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Languedoc-Roussillon

Languedoc-Roussillon

The Languedoc –Roussillon region extends from the Rhone Valley in the east to the borders with Andorra and Spain in the west, the latter location providing access to activities such as skiing and walking in the Pyrenees.

It is interesting to note that the two parts of the region differ quite widely in their cultural pasts. Up until the early part of the 20th century, the main spoken language in Languedoc was the French dialect Occitan whereas even up to the present day Catalan is widely spoken in Roussillon where you would also expect to find a fanatical interest in the sport of rugby!

Much of the Languedoc-Roussillon region borders the western Mediterranean with its long stretches of sandy beach and a number of popular resorts such as and Cap d’Ague, popular with naturists and Narbonne Plage. Behind this largely tourist area is a narrow fertile coastal plain which is a mostly agricultural area given over to fruit and vegetable growing and vineyards. Languedoc supposedly grows the best garlic in the world and is one of the major wine producing areas of France. It is also said to have some of the most beautiful towns and villages in the country.

Further inland you will find garrigue – a typically Mediterranean landscape of arid limestone hills and sparse vegetation of scrub and fragrant shrubs. The valleys of the Cevennes beyond are more wooded and the Cevennes hills themselves mark the most southerly part of the Massif Central.

Transport links with the rest of France are good with several motorways to choose from and a TGV service to Paris. There are a number of airports with services to the UK, notably Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers and Perpignan. The region can also be traversed via the Canal du Midi with its lovely features which passes through it en route from Toulouse to the Mediterranean

The regional capital, Montpellier, is a fast growing modern city with a chic, upmarket ambience and historical centre. Most visitors head for the Place de la Comedie with its 19th century opera house and café terraces, also frequented by well-off local professionals. However, away from all this is a more low-key area of interest which some may prefer to explore.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region has numerous attractions to offer visitors in addition to its lively beach resorts. Beginning in the far south-west, the lovely old town of Collioure close to the Spanish border has impressive fortifications and many up-market restaurants to cater for its more wealthy residents.

The amazing medieval walled city of Carcassonne, perched high over the surrounding landscape, has within its walls many outstanding features such as narrow cobbled streets and buildings that have remained unchanged for centuries many of which now house shops and restaurants. It is possible to view these delights by means of a horse-drawn carriage.

Sete is a lively port town with a network of canals to interest the visitor. There are numerous good fish restaurants located on the banks of the Canal Royal. Another typical dish of this town is macaronade, which is meat and pasta based.

Inland from Montpellier are the dramatic Gorges du Tarn formed by the passing of the river through gorges of limestone. This rugged terrain is a favourite of cyclists and canoeists.

For steam train enthusiasts, further east of the Cevennes can be found the lovely old Train a vapeur des Cevennes. Beginning in the small town of Anduze, the route takes you on a nerve-racking ride over some very deep gorges but the views are well worth the experience.

On the eastern fringes of the region is the ancient city of Nimes with its numerous Roman remains which are easily explored on foot. Nearby is the amazing Pont du Gard with its three tiers of arches. The stunning Roman aqueduct is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In terms of cuisine, obviously the coastal waters are rich in sea-food providing restaurants with oysters, monkfish and anchovies, for example. Non-fish dishes include the classic daube beef stew from the Carmargue. Cassoulet made with a variety of local vegetables and usually pork is also a basic recipe favourite. In common with its Catalan neighbour, paella is popular in Roussillon.

The hot dry climate of Languedoc-Roussillon along with its chalky dry soil make it an ideal wine growing area with wine having been produced for over 2000 years. It now has one of the biggest areas of vineyard in the world.

Centred on the small town of Maury, the production is mainly of red wine with a little white. Typically strong in nature, it is generally of good quality and reasonable in price. The best known in the UK are Corbieres and Fitou. There are several opportunities to sample and buy these wines by joining one of the many wine tasting tours.

Local markets are an important feature of life in the region and just about every town has its own speciality. You will be spoilt for choice with several taking place on every day of the week.

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