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Languedoc-Roussillon, the undiscovered French adventure

Inside Courtyard within Abbaye Fonfroide, 11th century
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By: Natalie Trent

 

Originating from the ancient Occitan, this French region carries much of the history associated with the Oc’s culture extending to Spain’s Catalonia across the Pyrenees to the south. The “Langue-d’Oc” Roussillon includes the political departments of Hérault, Gard, Aude, Lozère, and the Pyrénées-Orientales, and sits between Avignon, Toulouse and the Spanish border, running along the Mediterranean sea. The region includes the Roman cities of Nimes & Narbonne, the vibrant & beautiful Montpellier, bullfighting Beziers, medieval Carcassonne & Catalan flavoured Perpignan.

 

History abounds in the region from Neo- and Mega-lithic caves & stones, to Visigoth tombs & Roman ruins. Original Cathar sites sit upon hills and are hidden in valleys. Rivers and canals are all around, running through the vineyards and down the mountains. You will find all this and more in this amazingly beautiful and diverse corner of France.

 

The touristy UNESCO site ‘La Cité’ in Carcassonne is the world's largest medieval castle and is visited almost as often as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Roman ruins are spotted throughout many towns and villages like Narbonne & Nimes. France’s own cowboys may still be seen in the Camargue’s marshlands along with bullfighting and pink flamingos. Then there's the Canal du Midi, softly weaving its way through vineyards like a green ribbon from Sete to Toulouse.

 

As far as adventure goes, the Cevennes & Black mountains offer river rafting, horseback riding, spelunking in underground caves, natures hikes, and the Pyrenees just to the south are high enough for some great winter skiing.

 

Spring and summer offer amazing drives through the vineyards to see wildflowers in full bloom, and sandy beaches on the sunny Mediterranean Sea. Smaller villages in the region worth visiting and overnighting in may include pretty Pézenas, Marseillan sitting on the Etang de Thau, an estuary full of oysters, centralized Azille with its ancient fortification & complicated history, and coastal Collioure known for all the artists who’ve painted it’s port.

 

Here is a good list of must-see in the region:

  • Cathar sites in the Minervois & the Corbieres (see article)
  • Medieval castles scattered throughout the region
  • The Canal du Midi
  • Narbonne & the Mediterranean sea
  • Carcassonne & Lagrasse
  • Azille & Caunes-Minervois
  • Gruissan & Sigean
  • Etang de Thau
  • Perpignan & Collioure
  • Nimes, Aigues Mortes & The Camargue
  • Beziers & Pezenas
  • The Black Mountains & the Cevennes
  • Limoux & Quillan