Languedoc-Roussillon wine, coast and Pyrenees
With its 27,500 km2 and 2.3 million permanent inhabitants, Languedoc–Rousillon is situated in the extreme south of France and bordered by the Pyrenees, Andorra and Spain from below – and Provence and the Midi-Pyrenees as far north as the Auvergne. It has a long Mediterranean coastline of sandy beaches stretching 180 km from the Spanish border to the Camargue.
Languedoc encompasses the largest wine producing area of Europe and is noted for its relaxed pace of life.
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Languedoc-Roussillon where to go
Montpellier, the (arguably) 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 the largest Mediterranean fishing port on the coast of France and has many excellent seafood restaurants – 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; close to town, situated in a wild valley, is the Benedictine abbey of Fontfroide with its 13th century church and 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 used for bullfights in August.
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, which at the turn of the century 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 is flying everywhere.
Good beaches and resorts along the coast, offering a variety of water
sports. Many golf courses throughout the region – some of competition
standard – accessible to all levels and inexpensive. Numerous health
spas that offer treatments for a variety of ailments – or simply 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 for
hiking, trekking, cycling and riding. Good fishing in the rivers and
lakes – they are well sign-posted and there are easily available
During the summer in the Pyrenees there is mountain climbing, accompanied by experienced guides, mountain biking, or walking. In the winter there are good cross-country ski routes and excellent skiing. Serious walkers can follow the ancient pilgrim pathways to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, that takes you across the region. Markets and country bric-a-brac markets 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 welcomed and included in all activities everywhere.
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