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The Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France


Regional Departments
Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère, Pyrénées-Orientales.

Main Towns
Carcassonne, Perpignan, Narbonne, Béziers, Montpellier, Nîmes, Mende, Florac.

Bordered by Provence, the Pyrenees, Andorra and Spain, Languedoc Roussillon is noted for its 'art de vivre' and relaxed Mediterranean way of life. The region extends north as far as the Massive Central in the Auvergne and has a long coastline of sandy beaches stretching from Perpignan and the Spanish border to the Camargue. The vast Minervois and Corbières vineyards make Languedoc the largest wine producing area in Europe.



Montpellier, the regional capital, is a fine university city with many 17th and 18th century houses, wide boulevards, parks and gardens. The Jardin des Plantes was the first botanical garden in France, built in 1593.
Sète is one of the largest Mediterranean fishing port on the coast of France and arguably has some of the best fish restaurants to be found anywhere. The writer Paul Valéry is buried there and there is a room devoted to him in the Municipal Museum. In July and August there are water jousting festivals.
Narbonne, founded by the Romans, is a busy centre for the wine trade with good shopping. The Cathedral of St-Just rivals those of northern France and has some beautiful tapestries. Some 15 kilometres from the town, situated in a wild valley, is the Benedictine abbey of Fontfroide with its 13th century church and peaceful rose garden.
Béziers prospered in the 17th century when the Canal du Midi, which connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, was built. The Museum of Fine Art has works by many Flemish and German masters, including Holbein. The Roman Arena is still often used for concerts, festivals and sporting events.
Perpignan, once the capital of the kingdom of Majorca, has managed to preserve its Spanish heritage, which is reflected in the architecture and ambience of the town.
A little further along the coast are Collioure and Céret. At the turn of the century they were simple villages and the unique light there attracted many painters; Matisse, Derain, Dufy, Picasso, Chagall. Picasso was particularly fond of Céret and it claims to be the birthplace of Cubism. Collioure was a source of inspiration and is represented in many Impressionist paintings.
This corner of the region, although called Roussillon, is, after centuries of struggle for possession between France and Spain, essentially and proudly Catalan, the language widely spoken and the red and yellow Catalan flag flying everywhere.
The heart of French Catalonia lies in the villages, forests and valleys of the Pyrenees. Warm early springs and long dry summers, rich pasturelands and the bountiful orchards of the Têt and Tech river valleys, provide France with the early out of season fruit and vegetables so essential to the stomach of the nation.
The restored medieval City of Carcassonne in the Aude, is an astonishing legacy of the rebellious history of Languedoc and the countryside is marked with hilltop fortresses and ancient towns and villages that bear witness to the Crusade to crush the Cathar heresy. The landscape here is distinctly Mediterranean; wild, rocky hills and hot, stony plains, covered by the vines of the Minervois and Corbières, which produce a range of red, fresh dry white and rosé wines.
The Black Mountains of Haut-Languedoc and the vast National Park of the Cévennes and the mountains and lakes of Lozère, are a striking contrast to the coastal plains. Much of this area is a protected, unspoilt wilderness of great beauty, where rural life and traditions have remained unchanged.

Food

The earthy, independent character of the people of Languedoc-Roussillon, is reflected in the robust and unpretentious dishes of the region. Strong Mediterranean flavours with a generous use of herbs, garlic and olive oil. Lamb, grazed on wild thyme in the uplands, barbecued over a vinewood fire and rich game or beef roasted or slowly cooked for many hours. On the coast, there is good seafood and from the mountains, charcuterie, hams, pàtés, cheese. Wild mushrooms, oranges and chestnuts are used in many dishes, as are fresh vegetables, grown here in abundance. Roquefort, considered by many to be the king of cheeses, is made from ewe's milk at Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, then laid in the Cambalou caves to mature naturally. Delicious fruit tarts and freshly made ice-cream, almonds, cherries and from Roussillon little honey and almond cakes and panalets, marzipan sweets with nuts. The wines of Languedoc-Roussillon are highly rated.

Activities

Beaches along the coast offer a variety of water sports. The golf courses throughout the region range from 9,18 and 27-holes, some at International standard, easily accessible and inexpensive. Health centres offer a variety of soothing treatments and the opportunity to relax and get into shape. There are vast nature reserves that are the habitat for a huge variety of flora and fauna and ideal hiking, rambling, cycling and riding country with good fishing in the rivers and lakes. Routes are well sign-posted and there are easily available topographical maps. During the summer in the Pyrenees, there is mountain climbing, and horse trekking, accompanied by experienced guides, mountain biking, fishing in pure streams or walking. In the winter there are excellent ski centres. Serious walkers can follow part of the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela that take you across the region.
Markets and country bric-a-brac antiques fairs in towns and villages on different days and from early spring until late autumn, there are numerous festivals, fetes, classical, jazz and folk concerts. Children are always welcomed and included in all activities everywhere.

Climate

A typical Mediterranean climate with long hot summers, temperatures often reaching the mid 30's and short, mild winters. Rain falls in usually in spring and autumn but rarely all day and there can sometimes be strong Mistral winds and summer storms. The high inland hills are colder in winter and the Pyrenees have thick snow cover.

Travel

By Air
Languedoc Roussillon has good air connections. The adjacent Midi Pyrenees region has Toulouse international airport which has flights from many parts of the UK and Europe and there are also airports at Carcassone, Montpellier, Nimes and Perpignan.

By Road
The journey from Paris to Montpellier takes about 8 hours.

By Train
The TGV service from Paris serves Perpignan, Nimes and Montpellier. There is also a summer service from London to to Avignon with connections to Languedoc.


 
 
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