The Languedoc-Roussillon region is the ‘real’ South of France. Still authentically French, Languedoc is a beautiful and mostly untouched region of mountains, scented ‘garrigue’, endless beaches and rolling vineyards - dotted with medieval villages and towns. The area offers Europe’s best medieval and Roman ruins, the majestic Canal du Midi and of course some of the world’s best wine and delicious seafood along the coast.
Bize-Minervois is one of the prettiest villages in Languedoc, with a river and swimming ‘pool’ running through its medieval centre of cobbled streets and old stone houses. There are two bakeries close to us serving delicious breads and pastries, as well as some charming artisan boutiques. There’s even an olive mill where you can buy fresh olive oil and other olive-related products, and an ‘Olive Festival’ is held each year on the third weekend in July.
Narbonne is the nearest city to us (20 minutes), and was once the Roman capital of Gaul - in fact there’s still a section of exposed Roman road in the middle of the town. It’s a charming place, with a spectacular cathedral and archbishop’s palace, and a canal that wends its way through the centre, past boutiques and restaurants and a really fun indoor market.
Only 25 minutes away, Beziers is one of the oldest towns in Europe, its medieval centre a tight warren of cobbled streets lined with boutiques. It boasts the majestic Cathedral Saint Nazaire overlooking the River Orb, the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Fonserannes Locks on the Canal du Midi, which runs through the city. The town is also famous for its spectacular fountains, built recently to revitalise the centre.
1 hour 15 mins
Languedoc’s largest city is also the favourite city in France to live, thanks to its pretty pedestrianised centre and easy access to the sea. Montpellier is bustling with chic boutiques and excellent restaurants, as well as a very good art museum - the Musée Fabre. A fun, university town, sit in a leafy square with a coffee and watch the world go by.
France’s 2nd most popular attraction after the Eifel Tower, the ‘La Cité’ medieval fortress and town is enormous and spectacular, and the biggest medieval castle in the world. Pay to get into the ‘château’ in the centre, and you can get up on to the walls which give amazing views both inside across the turrets and batlements, and beyond the castle to the Pyrenées mountains in the distance. Only 45 minutes away.
Pézenas is one of the most beautiful towns in Languedoc, if not France. Once the capital of the region, it boasts a gorgeous 17th century centre of carved façades and cobbled streets - lined with artists galleries, artisan workshops and boutiques selling everything from fine pottery to antiques. There’s a fantastic Saturday morning market, and some very good restaurants.
Minèrve is a picturesque medieval village perched on a rocky outcrop carved out on two sides by two rivers. Its claim to fame was a famous siege in 1210, where crusaders hurled rocks across the gorge at sheltering ‘Cathars’. Today, it’s a pretty place to wander around, and boasts a very good restaurant with a nice terrace. Minèrve is classed as ‘One of the Most Beautiful Village in France’.
Collioure is the Languedoc’s answer to St Tropéz, and is arguably more beautiful. Pastel-coloured houses and tiny cobbled streets arrange themselves around a pretty turquoise bay, with an imposing medieval fortress looming over the town, an iconic pink-domed lighthouse, and of course the majestic Pyrénées mountains forming the backdrop. Weekends here in summer are lovely, with the port full of fishing boats and the restaurants and streets full of people.
Limoux is a delightful village, and well worth a visit. It is home to the very first sparkling wine - and you can pop into the town’s many wineries for a tasting and tour. Less dry than Champagne, both ‘Crémant de Limoux’ and ‘Blanquette de Limoux’ are delicious and far cheaper than their norther rival. The town also offers some nice restaurants, cafés and shops. Other villages worth a visit are Lagrasse, Castelnaudry, Caunes-Minervois, Gruissan, Lezignan-Corbières, Olargues and Aragon.
Our nearest beach is Gruissan Plage, about thirty five minutes away. Just outside the lovely ‘circulade’ village of Gruissan, it offers miles of beautiful sand and a port where you can hire wind surfers. The village of Gruissan offers lots of nice restaurants and cafés.
Langueodoc’s coast stretch for miles, and the beaches here are usually very wide, with dunes behind them. Some beaches are more urban in nature, with restaurants, bouncy castles and ice cream stalls. Others are more wild and tranquil. There are plenty of naturist beaches too - and Cap d’Agde offers visitors Europe’s largest naturist resort. Further down the coast, you’ll find smaller, more intimate cove beaches.
For the shoppers amongst you, we can recommend the indoor food market at Narbonne, the morning markets in Sete (great for seafood), the Polygone shopping centre in Béziers (fashion, homeware etc), streets brimming with chic boutiques in Montpellier and the craft-shops and antique shops of Pézenas. Most bigger towns also have their own weekly markets - which are a great way to stock up on fresh, local produce.
The Canal du Midi is the oldest canal in the world, and winds its way from Bordeaux to Sète under a canopy of plane trees. Why not hire a boat or a bicycle for a few hours, and make your way past pretty bridges, locks and villages, and perhaps stop for a picnic. For boat hire, we suggest SunBoat.fr - where you can hire a by the hour from €30. For bicycle hire, we suggest Relax Bike Tours (www.relaxbiketours.com or ☎ 06 38 12 32 82).
The Oulibo Olive Co-operative, a local olive mill, is in Cabezac, just 2km down the road from Bize. You can taste a variety of olives and olive oils here, the buttery-flavoured "lucques" being our favourite. There is also a large gift shop, selling olives, olive oil and a huge range of products, household goods and souvenirs from the region. Tours can also be arranged.
The lively Bize market is held every Wednesday morning from 10 to 12 on the promenade. The market stalls sell fresh, locally-grown fruit and vegetables, delicious breads and cheeses, and fresh fish and seafood, as well as clothing, shoes, flowers and plants. Other local markets of interest are located at Capestang (on Wednesdays and Sundays), Olonzac (on Tuesdays) and St Chinian (on Thursdays and Sundays).
Hire a bike for a day of local sightseeing; visit www.relaxbiketours.com or www.mellowvelos.com for details. The beautiful hills around Bize are ideal for horse riding. There are two equestrian clubs close by; visit Les Appaloosas du Pech and Equestrian Club at Ginestas. Visit the many caves for a wine tasting. You could also book a wine tour at www.vinenvacances.com