Holiday in the South of France
A Mediterranean Climate in the Most Visited Country in the World
The Languedoc Roussillon region of France holds a feast of pleasant surprises for holiday makers. The region may not be as popular as it's neighboring Provence but in many ways that adds to it's charm.
Knowledge of this spectacular, part of France is gradually getting out with more and more tourists coming to the area. Carcassonne has around 3 million plus visitors a year, a bit of an achievement for a city with a population of circa 44,000.
But there is far more to see and do than just Carcassonne, many people take to boats and tour the region via the Canal Du Midi for example, wondering at this amazing feat of engineering. There are the Cathar fortresses, fabulous cities like Montpellier and Perpignan, a rich culture of French cuisine and all to a backdrop of fantastic sea and landscapes. Safe to say there is probably something of interest for everyone that visits the south.
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What You Can Do on A Holiday in the South of France
Languedoc Roussillon Alone Has Much to Offer
There are a whole host of UNESCO registered world heritage sites including La Cite in Carcassonne, The Canal du Midi and the Pont du Gard. Also the Millau viaduct close to the capital Montpellier on the A75 is in my opinion, a potential world heritage site for the future, it's a massive man made structure that spans the valley and overlooks the town from which its name came and when built was the tallest bridge in the world.
You will find the largest wine producing region of France responsible for about 30% of the countries wine production, a large proportion of which comes from the Corbieres, Minervoise and Fitou vineyards.
On the Mediterranean coastline there are some wonderful resorts such as Collioure, La Franqui, Narbonne Plage and Gruissan naming only a few.
The Black Mountains host a national park with inland waterways and rocky tracks.
A large proportion of the Pyrenees mountain range, with snow capped mountains during the winter and fabulous views all year around.
There are many Cathar fortresses of which Carcassonne's La Cite is probably the most famous but also includes the likes of Montsegur, Queribus, Peyrepertuse, Puivert and many more among the count.
Some fabulous cities including Montpellier, the capital of the region, Beziers, Nimes, Mende, Narbonne, Perpignon and of course Carcassone.
To go with the wonderful Mediterranean coastline you can find inland lakes, some natural and some man made. Lac de la Cavayere is a popular recreational lake just outside of Carcassonne for instance but there are many more in the region, including those in the Black mountains mentioned previously plus the Lac de St Ferreol which was created to supply the water to the Canal Du Midi and sits just above Revel in the Haute Garonne.
For sporting enthusiasts there are a large selection of options available ranging from water sports, to skiing to cycling, white water rafting, canooing, hiking and the list goes on.
The clarity of light in this region, largely unaffected by the pollution found in many part of the world, is relatively well known and has attracted some famous artists in the past including Picasso, probably the most famous, who for a time took up residence at Collioure.
This clarity of light works well for the photographers out there as well and there are many opportunities for photographic experiences aided by the presence of some of natures best backdrops. They include mountains, lakes, rivers, beautiful skies and Mediterranean coastline. If your preference is architecture then there is no shortage here either whether you visit the cities, towns or perhaps some of the world heritage sites.
Languedoc Roussillon is made up of 5 departments, Aude (11), Gard (30), Herault (34), Lozere (48) and the Pyrenees Orientales (66). Herault is the most densely populated and is where the capital Montpellier resides, Lozere is the least populated. Given the region stretches from the coast to the mountains and then inland towards Toulouse, the climate can vary depending on where you are. The coast tends to benefit from the warmest weather and the mountains are generally the coolest but overall it is still a Mediterranean climate and during the summer months it is possible to see peaks of up to 35C anywhere within the region with an overall average temperature of around 28C for the main summer months of July and August.
August is when the French take their national vacation and the 1st Saturday in August is when you will see a mass exodus from the North to the South of France, Languedoc Roussillon is no exception to this trend and when most of mid to northern France closes down for the summer holidays, it is the busy season both in Languedoc Rousillon and the South of France in general. Places such as Carcassonne, Beziers, Narbonne and the coastal resorts fill to the brim and you may be lucky if you can even find somewhere to park in the smaller resorts such as La Franqui and Collioure, assuming of course you can make it close enough to think about parking.
For the cycling enthusiasts there will be a chance to follow the Tour de France as they race through the region, normally sometime in July, there are lots of websites that detail the exact route and schedule so you can pinpoint a suitable location where you can observe the race. This really is a spectacle worth seeing even if you are not an ardent cycling fan, there is still the sense of circus as the pack approaches and the sponsors drive around and around throwing out their free samples to the waiting crowds of multi-national fans. It can be a long wait but when you see the circling helicopters following the pack leaders you know they are nearly upon you, so make sure you have your cameras at the ready because they whip past at unbelievable speed. The serious followers of course run back to their cars and set off for the next vantage point, for the less serious it is fun way to spend a few hours and to chat to some international neighbors.
All this and then add to the pot that the region is steeped in the history of France and boasts numerous places of historic interest dating as far back as the Neanderthal men who roamed the area 28,000 years ago. They weren't of course as infamous as the dreaded Simon De Montfort who was practising his dastardly deeds a much more modest 800 years ago in the 13th century.
The Lauragais Story describes the events, history and impact that this little region of France had on how the France we know today evolved. It starts in the prehistoric period and takes us right through to how the region has become the centre of the aerospace industry today.
Landscapes & Architecture France Has it All - From the Mediterranean Coastline to the Skies over the CitesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Grotte De Limousis - Underground caves near Carcassonne
The Grotte de Limousis is one of a series of underground caves that are scattered throughout the Languedoc Roussillon region in the South of France. Stalagmites and stalactites have formed in the Grotte de Limousis over literally thousands of years, sometimes joining in the middle to create some amazing barrier columns. It was pointed out on the tour of the chambers of the underground caves that some of the columns had been broken out and removed by workmen looking to make a bit of cash, selling them off as special pieces of rock formation. What a shame for something that had taken so long to form.
The last room of the cave plays host to a chandelier of aragonite and as part of the show you get a background of rock music and a light show that uses the chandelier as its centre piece. On route to the last chamber you will pass through 7 other chambers with stalagmite and stalactite barriers, underground lakes and crystal rock formations visible as a result of the large chambers being cut out by a subterranean river.
The right guide will also point out the scratches on the wall made, allegedly, by a very large bear that had hibernated in the cave over winter and upon wakening stretched out against the limestone walls consequently leaving a permanent reminder of its presence with it's claws. This is in the first of the 8 chambers close to the entrance and was of course from a time when bears roamed in this region; no longer the case.
If after visiting Limousis you have not had your fill of underground caves, then you can travel 10 minutes on from the Grotte de Limousis to the Gouffre gÃ©ant de Cabrespine, (The Giant Cabrespine Cave) The first chamber in this cave is as tall as the Eiffel Tower and is over 1,600,000 m3. Amazing for an underground feature.
Grotte De Limousis ImagesClick thumbnail to view full-size
A Guide to France
You will enjoy France much more if you do a little bit of planning. When you chose a destination just take a little time to find out what the best and most interesting things there are there to see. France has so much history, architecture, beautiful landscapes and places of natural beauty, it would be a shame to miss a lot of it for the lack of a little planning.
Self catering apartment in Languedoc Roussillon.
Driving through the Gorge de Galamus on the way to Rennes le Chateau
The Hermit lodge in Gorge de Galamus
The cascades that fall down the hillside next to the Canal Du Midi museum.
Walking in the Argentouire valley and river.
Spectacular views from the hillside next to Rennes le Chateau
14th of July celebrations in Caarcassonne.
The sunniest ski resort in the Pyrenees.
A whirlwind tour of the Languedoc Roussillon region.
The cascades from the River Argentouire in the Argentouire valley.
South of France Additional Resources
New design from recycled materials. Agricultural machinery, obsolete, outdated and heading for the scrapheap. Now saved and turned into wonderful sculptures and works of art. Port Vendres in the South of France.
- European Travel Tips & Advice
Euro Traveller offers general travel advice for Europe, including cheap flights to Europe, ferrys to France, rail travel and bus travel for Europe
- Gite in Laroque Des Alberes, Pyrenees Orientales
A 2 bedroom gite - Laroque des Alberes, close to Perpignan, the Mediterranean and the Spanish border. A perfect location for a holiday in the South of France
- French History Books - The Lauragais Story | eBookIssues.com
This story of the Lauragais, a region steeped in history, has been loving researched and detailed to produce one of the best French History Books of the region.