What to see and do in Languedoc

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…from your self-catering accommodation in Languedoc whether you’re close to Montpellier, Nimes, Beziers, Carcassonne, Narbonne or Perpignan.

This region is an area of dramatic contracts – we have miles and miles of glorious sandy beaches yet there is ski-ing to be found only a couple of hours away in the Pyrénnées. We have endless vineyards and a tour of this region reads like a wine list.

Inland are amazing gorges and rivers and a myriad of fortresses and castles dating from the bloodthirstly Cathar times. No matter where your self-catering accommodation is located in the Languedoc region, you’ll find a plethora of things to do and see…

 

 

Agde & Cap d’Agde

Agde is one of those towns that has a rich and fascinating history. Like its larger sister town of Béziers, it has existed since Neolithic times, and hides many historic and archaeological treasures left behind by our ancestors who settled on the banks of the Hérault. You can admire such treasures at the Ephèbe Museum or the Agathois Museum.

Agde became a tourist town in 1970, when the decision was taken to develop a seaside resort at Cap d’Agde. It is also very well known for its naturist quarter which welcomes around 50,000 people each year.

Cap d’Agde is very busy in the summer and I have never been able to navigate around it without feeling quite stressed. However, Aqualand is a great waterpark and is not badly signposted with parking directly opposite. It will be busy in peak season though but you can easily spend the whole day there from your self-catering accommodation, and the kids will love it.

Beaches

The beaches at Valras Plage, Sérignan Plage and Narbonne Plage are all very suitable for children and a quieter option to the beaches closer to Cap d’Agde. They have sheltered bathing areas for children and Valras Plage has some great play equipment on the beach.

For ‘all the fun of the fair’ head to Cap d’Agde with the fabulous ‘Aqualand’ water sports park as well as plenty of water sports, boat trips, a beautiful harbour, golf, casino, fashionable shopping, nightclubs, waterfront restaurants and several children’s theme parks.

At Vias Plage, there is a funfair open during July and August called Europark which is very popular with teenagers.

 

Béziers

Beziers is a vibrant town bustling with traditional Mediterranean shops and its magnificent Cathedral that looks out from its great height over oceans of vineyards. The Canal du Midi cuts through town, ideal for boat hire, or cycling along the tow path. Each summer the ‘Feria’ Carnival brings tourists from around the world

The main boulevard is in the centre of the town and is lined with platanes trees and lots of restaurants and bars. The old town has plenty of interesting shops along its little cobbled streets in the old town.

From your self-catering villa, visit the imposing St Nazaire Cathedral which overlooks the river Orb and Biterrois plain, for a voluntary contribution you can climb the 164 steps winding up through the Cathedral to see a magnificent view of the whole area but take care if you have very young children, some of the walls have holes just that bit too large for my comfort with a little child!

The cathedral adjoins Béziers Courthouse, the gardens of which you can visit by passing through the cloister of the cathedral. This historic centre is charming and ideal for a day strolling around, soaking up the culture or doing some shopping.

Other sights would be the bull arena, the theatre and the Plateau des Poètes (a stunning English style garden where you can find many species little known in this part of the world). The paths running along the top of the park have fine façades honouring the Allées Paul Riquet, the inventor of the Canal du Midi who was born in the town.

If you are in the town in the morning then have a look in the central covered food market, Les Halles.
It has perhaps the best flower market in the whole of the south on Friday mornings in the beautiful tree-lined main boulevard.

There is a tourist train which you can take from the St Nazaire Cathedral to the Locks and back through the old town – great fun and the guided tour is delivered in several languages.

Béziers Adventure Park

In this tarzan like adventure park in the forest, there are 10 courses of varying levels, an extreme course and two unique and special zip-wire courses . An adventure for everyone!

Boat excursions

At Grau d’Agde on board the Millésime you can take a guided excursion between the Canal du Midi, Thau lagoon and the Hérault river. Also boat trips available at Valras Plage, either trips up the coast or even sea fishing ones.

 

Bouzigues

The Etang de Thau is famous for its oysters and shellfish. (and Rick Stein!) Go towards Sete and follow the signs to Agde ( not Cap D’Agde), turn off the main road and head for the town of Adge along the river side and then head for Marseillan. Go down to the harbour and there are some nice shops and the Noilly Prat factory.

Move onto Meze and the harbour there is very pretty and you can have a swim here as well.

Go back to the main road following the signs to Sete, at the right hand turning to Bouzigues turn toward the sea.

Look out for the tasting restaurants (degustations) which are often very unprepossessing with plastic chairs and tablecloths but the views are fantastic and the shellfish walk up the beach. You can see the oyster beds which is a pretty stunning sight. No meat is available just clams, mussels and oysters with wine, dessert and coffee.

The Canal du Midi

No self-catering holiday in Languedoc is complete without seeing the Canal du Midi – a beautiful tree-lined Canal which links the Atlantic with the Mediterranean anc which has miles of flat walks along the shady tow paths. Explore it on rollerblades, on horseback, by bike, by barge or simply on foot. Whichever you choose, it will be an ideal way to discover one of the longest canals in France.

A historic feat, the Canal du Midi, an immense and incredible project for its time, connects the Mediterranean sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It spans across 240 km (150 miles), weaving its way between Sète and Toulouse where it meets the Garonne river. Its engineer, Pierre Paul Riquet, who was born in Béziers, took almost 20 years to design and build this jewel in the French heritage, now classed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

If you return to Beziers and take the road to St. Pons at the second exit you can head towards the ‘Neuf Ecluses ’ which are the nine locks on the Canal de Midi. Follow the signs around the one way system.

You can walk to the bridge which carries the Canal over the river, viewing the Cathedral in Beziers from down below.

 

Canoeing & Kayaking

The canoe and kayak club at the Tarassac windmill (50km/30 miles north of Béziers) offers you the opportunity to explore the Orb valley in an original way. With a choice of several routes, you can opt to be guided along the water by qualified instructors or instead freely explore the Orb at your own pace by hiring a boat from the club.

There is kayaking at Cessenon sur Orb. For 30 euros they bus you up the river and you canoe back.

If you go to Murviel les Beziers and then follow the ‘toutes directions’ signs, then follow the signs to Cessenon sur Orb, over the one way bridge the centre is just down on the right hand side by the car park.

You can get a ticket to fish and you can also swim there as well.

You can also kayak in Roquebrun near the bridge – if your self-catering accommodation is near the Orb Valley.

The Camargue

Take the A9 towards Montpellier. Turn off at the junction for Montpellier airport. Carry on the turn off and head for Port Camargue and La Grand Motte, then you can enter the Camargue itself. Aigues Mortes, a medieval walled town where they run the bulls and St. Michele sur Mer take you into the genuine Camargue. Black bulls and white horses!

Carcassonne

All the recent Da Vinci Code style books regarding the ‘Cathars’ make the fortified medieval castle, (Ile de Cite) in Carcassonne a must to see out the Holy Grail! Take the A 9 to Narbonne and then the A61 to Carcassonne, about an hour’s trip. There is parking outside the castle and then you walk in. The Citadel and the church are very interesting and the hotel next to the church worth a visit. Lots of lovely restaurants to stop and have a meal or just a drink outside.

There is also a haunted house (which is very scarey!) and a horrible torture museum for those with strong stomachs!

You can take a trip around the ramparts on a horse and cart or just have a guided visit to the citadel.

Horse jousting events are held in the summer from time to time, great fun!

 

The Devèze Cave

An authentic and living French speleology museum, it is often referred to as the glass spinner’s palace. On exiting the entrails of the earth after your one hour visit, the botanical pathway and the Chemin des Capitelles (path of dry stone huts) await you to prolong your adventure.

Further afield

Barcelona is just 2 1/2 hours away, easily achievable for a lunch in Spain!

About an hour to the south from your self-catering accommodation is the Pyrenees.

Take a day trip (about 3 hours each way) to Andorra.

The Massif Central starts only a short distance to the north.

Not far away you can discover the ‘Pont du Gard’ en route to Provence, just beyond Languedoc-Roussillon, and in the other half of the south of France.

Golf

Several good golf courses are within easy reach, Golf Saint Thomas at Béziers, approx 20 minutes drive – see www.golfsaintthomas.com/english/

The spa town of Lamalou les Bains has a golf course on the main road but the town is pretty and worth a visit – have a kir on the terrace of the Casino, a place to watch the world go by.

The Gorges d’Héric

The stunningly pretty’ Gorge D’Heric’ is a must for walkers and swimmers, the micro-climate providing beaches and rock pools. Spend a day here, take a picnic, and take a hike up to the plateau. Horse riding, Golf and Kayaking are also available in the Orb valley. Nearby Olargues has been described as ‘one of the prettiest villages in the whole of France, and Roquebrun (with its Mediterranean Garden’ enjoys the nickname of ‘Petit Nice’.

Horse Riding

There are plenty of places offering horse-riding in the area. One is the St Jean Ranch in Serignan Plage which offers a range of activities such as excursions, horse-drawn carriage rides, horse rides on the beach or at sunset, and even excursions for experienced riders.

Portiragnes Plage also has a horse riding stables – coming from Portiragnes towards Portiragnes Plage, you will see it on your left just before you get to the town.

Local madness

This area has many bull related shows, some of which are hilarious. If you see a Toro Piscine advertised then maybe you would want to take a look. Young bulls are put into an arena with the youths of the village who are desperate to show off their macho skills at out-running a bull. Various games are played with the youths generally coming off worst. The bulls are not harmed and the youths are also generally fine too! More upmarket displays are held at the Beziers or Cap d’Agde Arenas.

Minèrve

This village is classified as one of the ‘Prettiest villages in France’ and is worth a trip. It is off to right on the way to Carcassonne is a must for those interested in the history of the Cathars.

Montpellier

If you fancy a ‘city-day’ uring your stay at self-catering accommodation in the south of France, try Montpellier. Montpellier offers excellent shopping and hypermarkets. Enjoy the superb Tram system, alight at the ‘Place de Comedie’ for sightseeing and refreshment.

It is a dynamic city and renowned as much for its heritage as for the great scholars and thinkers who settled here throughout the centuries. There are plenty of attractions on offer for children. There is the Mare Nostrum Aquarium where you can see over 300 species housed in this underground world; the Amazonian Greenhouse; the Lunaret Zoological Park or the Galileo Planetarium. The monuments and museums are all equally fascinating. The Theatre Square (Place de la Comédie), the town’s central hub, is one of the largest pedestrianised areas in Europe.

But the best way to appreciate the riches of this dynamic and lively town is to let yourself be swept along by its energy, lose yourself in the quaint little alleyways and discover in its streets the history that made the town.

The city has trams to connect the above attractions to the town centre and also a tourist train where for 6 euros you can have a guided tour around the town.

 

 

Pézenas

Renaissance Pezenas is worth a visit, with its winding cobbled stone streets housing Antique Shops and Art Galleries. There is a large open-air market every Saturday which is well worth a visit. The town boasts that it was once the home of Molière and there are many craft shops, restaurants and beautiful buildings. During July and August the craft shops are open until midnight some nights and you will often find street theatre groups to entertain you !

The architecture and the streets of the village are well worth a detour. The centre has been magnificently maintained and renovated. A destination particularly appreciated by the British due to its luxurious charm and refined boutiques, Pézenas has a wealth of buildings and hotels in characteristic architecture.

Molière built up his success in Pézenas, which he had chosen as his favourite place to stay. The town is also the birthplace of the singer Boby Lapointe and maintains its tradition as a town of street entertainers and artists, with theatricalised guided tours and numerous art galleries and artists’ workshops.

The town also has several unusual museums such as the museum of toys and delights of yesteryear, or the door and wrought iron museum.

Worth a visit on Saturday for the large market. The food market closes at 12 noon but everything else stays open. Wander through the old quarter, the artisan shops are very interesting and are all one off individual stores.

Pretty villages

We have so many lovely traditional wine-producing villages in the Languedoc part of the south of France, all with weekly street markets and of course those sun-blessed Mediterranean beaches. There is bound to be one close to your slef-catering holiday accommodation. If you enjoy the atmosphere of medieval streets, you will love walking through the old part of these villages, with their tiny squares, ancient porches and ramparts. Most villages have several fetes and festivals throughout the year, including the famous processions with floral floats.

Roquebrun

Roquebrun is a gorgeous medieval village and the river is stunning – as you enter Roquebrun there is a bridge and directly before crossing it take one of the tracks down to the river where there is a stony beach and parking. Kids love building dams here in the river and there are areas to swim and kayaking. Watch out for the current with young kids though, it can sometimes be quite strong.

Look up to Roquebrun from the river and you will see the restaurant Le Petit Nice with its maroon awnings – get a space on the balcony for an evening meal and you be in heaven with the lovely view and watching the birds and even bats flying around!

Salagou Lake

Lake Salagou is wonderful for fresh water swimming and water sports. It is on the way to Clermont Herault – wind surfing and sailing one end of the lake. The west side is quite remote and good for picnics. Majestic lake created in 1969 to irrigate the Salagou valley and reduce the rise in water levels in the Hérault river.

A breathtaking lake offering a variety of spectacular views, the Salagou lake is the ideal place to take a stroll in harmony with nature or to have a picnic with the family.

Sète

Sète is a charming town which has the air of a village, and nestles at the foot of Mont St Clair, between the Mediterranean and the Thau lagoon. Sète’s unique feature is that it is located at the mouth of the Canal du Midi. Sète was therefore made into a port at the request of the Knight of Clerville, and thus became the first port of cooperage in the world thanks to the development of the wine trade. Sète is a traditional town which nurtures its culture and identity.

Sète is also renowned for its nautical jousting tournaments inherited from an ancestral tradition as well as for its local speciality, the Tielle (a sort of octopus pie with spicy tomato sauce). Lots of seafood restaurants, the best ones being at the far end away from the centre and towards the port. There is a boat trip out into the harbour which is fun and also a land train.

Sigean African Nature Reserve

Safari lovers no longer need to travel to the other side of the world, here you have the opportunity to observe animals just a stone’s throw away from your holiday location. Unique in Europe, this park is home to almost 4,000 animals which roam free all year round. There are bears, lions, ostriches, all roaming free plus a great zoo area for smaller animals and a café restaurant. My highlight was seeing the pink flamingos take flight over the lake – breathtaking!

 

St. Chinian

Good Sunday market. Pretty little town and the drive there is wonderful through the vineyards and with a fantastic viewing area for you to pull over and take some photos.

Valras Plage

Great beach resort, miles of sandy beaches and play equipment for youngsters on the beach. Plenty of restaurants and bars line the beach and there are lots of shops as well. It has entertainment most days or evenings so pop into the Tourist Office by the beach to get a leaflet of events, some are listed below but there are plenty of others.

Vineyards

Many of the local vineyards offer free tours and wine-tasting. There is one at La Baume between Beziers and Pezenas and the tour was offered in English. Great fun and very interesting to see how they turn the grapes into wine.

The coastal plain provides literally hundreds of Domaines for superb wine-tasting – its obligatory! Samples will be generous, and in many cases guided tours are provided.

Water-Jousting

This is very popular in the summer and is held on many canals in the area. Two specially adapted boats with a full crew of white clad men and a trumpeter race towards each other. One of the crew is balanced precariously atop a ramp holding a joust and a shield. The objective is simply for one man to knock the other into the water. Very funny especially when the audience are invited to join in!

 

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