Languedoc holidays guideCategorized | La Carabasse, Lac des Reves, Languedoc, Les Sables du Midi, News

Languedoc holidays guide

Posted on 24 July 2015 by

24.07.2015
Languedoc holidays guide

Beautiful beaches and family facilities combine with history and culture in sunny Languedoc-Roussillon. Pictures and words by Gillian Thornton.

What to Expect

Tucked in the south-west corner of France, the Languedoc-Roussillon region stretches from the wild upland landscape of the Lozère department in the north, to the craggy peaks of the Pyrenees and the Spanish border in the south. Civilisations have come and gone here, so the landscape and lifestyle have been influenced by the Romans, Arabs and Celts, which adds a rich culture to the attractions of coast and countryside.

The region boasts almost 300 days of sunshine a year, so if you can’t wait to get your toes into all that warm sand, head for Mediterranean beaches such as Carnon or the futuristic resort of La Grande Motte near Montpellier. Palavas-les-Flots is another family-friendly destination with fishing harbour, quayside restaurants and viewing tower.

Further west beyond Cap d’Agde, the shore is dotted with small resorts such as Vias-Plage and Valras-Plage that offer all the amenities for a perfect day by the sea. And as evening falls, you’ll find restaurants, bars and summer entertainment for all ages.

Valras Plage marina in Languedoc

Regional capital is the vibrant city of Montpellier which lies in the department of Hérault, nestled a few kilometres inland from a long sweep of Mediterranean coastline fringed with tranquil lagoons. Stop off at atmospheric small towns like Bouzigues and Mèze around the lagoons to visit the colourful fishing harbours, or Sète, the ‘Little Venice of Languedoc’.

Marina in Meze, in Languedoc

To the east, the vast Rhône Delta and the flatlands of the Camargue are home to large flocks of flamingos and wading birds as well as herds of white horses and black bulls. Bag a seat for an afternoon of bull games where the razetteurs try to snatch a rosette from the horns of these nippy little animals. No bulls are harmed and all return happily to the pastures when the fun is over.

Carmargue horses

And to really get close to the wetland’s unique wildlife and eco-system, book up a gentle excursion on a native Camargue horse – no equestrian experience necessary.

Must-see Sites

Montpellier – rich in art and history, the old town is dotted with fine buildings, tempting shops and museums. Take Line 1 tramway to the Odysseum district for the aquarium, planetarium, and ice rink, plus 110 boutiques and 16 restaurants.

The Camargue – western gateway to France’s biggest wetland is the 13th century walled city of Aigues-Mortes. Stop too at the coastal resort of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer to take in the view from the church roof and stroll the seafront past traditional cabins.

Church roof of the Stes Marie de la Mer in Languedoc

Béziers – surrounded by the Hérault vineyards, this attractive town boasts fine houses, a bustling market, and the imposing cathedral of St Nazaire. Expect tree-lined avenues, elegant fountains, and the full-on atmosphere of the south.

St Nazaire Cathedral viewed from the river Orb, in Languedoc

Carcassonne – the largest medieval citadel in Europe with double ramparts fortified by 52 towers. Embellished a bit in the 19th century, it’s still packed with atmosphere, especially in summer when you’ll meet costumed characters and enjoy themed events.

Hidden Gems

Canal du Midi – cycle the tow path of this iconic 17th century waterway, engineered by Pierre Paul Riquet whose statue stands in the centre of Béziers.  Followed marked circuits to take in the local vineyards and stop for a tasting.

Ecluses de Fonséranes – sit at a café table to watch the comings and goings of boating folk at this spectacular series of nine locks just outside Béziers on the Canal du Midi.

Nine locks of Fonseranes on the Canal du Midi, Languedoc

St Guilhem-le-Desert – beautiful medieval village with Romanesque abbey church, cobbled streets and pretty squares on the hillside above the Hérault Gorges.

Pézenas – elegant market town with a discovery centre dedicated to French playwright Molière who performed here often with his troupe for local dignitaries.

Local Flavours

Fish and shellfish are big business on the Mediterranean coast of Languedoc and the Etang de Thau between Sète and Agde yields 10% of the French national production of oysters and mussels. Visit the Etang de Thau Museum centre at Bouzigues for the inside story on oyster and mussel farming and try them for yourself at one of the many specialised seafood restaurants. For a different kind of local flavour, try eels, grilled and in sauces or stews, perhaps accompanied by some rice from the Camargue, and sprinkled with the highly prized Fleur de Sel salt crystals from the Camargue.

You’ll almost certainly see cassoulet on restaurant menus, a hearty dish of beans, sausages, and duck with a crisp topping. Slow cooked in a traditional pottery dish or cassole, it hails from the area around Carcassonne and Castelnaudary. And if you’re visiting Pézenas, try the town’s local speciality, the Petit Paté – a small pastry filled with chopped lamb and crystallised fruits that was invented by an Indian chef when Lord Clive was staying near the town.

Hérault is famous for its vineyards. Minervois is probably the best known variety but look out too for names such as Faugères, Saint-Chinian and Clairette du Languedoc. And for an aperitif, try a glass of Noilly Prat, created in 1813, and made from white wines around Marseillan that are matured outdoors in oak barrels to produce a dry, golden-coloured vermouth.

Front Page News

Every French town, large and small, lays on an event for July 14th, but there can be few more spectacular celebrations than the firework display that bursts over the medieval city of Carcassonne.  More than 400,000 people come together at 10.30 on the banks of the River Aude to admire the 25-minute show that lights up the ancient ramparts.  Unforgettable!

For two weeks in July, more than 120,000 spectators arrive in Montpellier for the Radio France Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon Festival. Expect Mozart and Mahler, Ravel, Debussy and a whole lot more from musicians of international repute.

Tourist information from www.destinationsuddefrance.com

Where to stay

You are spoiled for choice with three superb siblu holiday villages in Languedoc, including La Carabasse, Le Lac des Reves and Les Sables du Midi. See our holidays in Languedoc here, or find out about owning your own holiday home in Languedoc at our dedicated website.

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