Languedoc Roussillon

Languedoc-Roussillon

 

Languedoc-Roussillon offers an unparalleled diversity of landscapes and activities ranging from sunbathing on the long beaches of the Mediterranean coast or on the rocky coves of the Vermilion coast to observing wild life in Petite Camargue and lagoons or the many outdoor activities provided either on the seaside or in the mountains.
Part of Languedoc-Roussillon’s year-round appeal also comes from a rich historical heritage dating back to the Roman times.
A colourful culture with varied influences, lively cities, market towns or pretty villages are also part of the charm.
Languedoc Roussillon is a region with a lot of potential for capital growth thanks to a fast growing population, an improving transports network and therefore a dynamic economy.

Part of the region's appeal is of course due to a clement climate and an average of 200 sunny days per year!
Last but not least, Languedoc is the oldest and widest vineyard in the world which in itself is worth a visit!!

A great diversity of landscapes and natural wonders

Being spread over five French “départments” and bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the East, the wild Massif Central to the North and the Pyrenees and Spain to the South the region of Languedoc-Roussillon provides a great diversity of landscapes and activities.
In the North East corner, Lozère is stretched over 4 mountain ranges. The wildest French department, the most scarcely populated offers a rough natural beauty and splendid isolation. Just below in the Gard department landscape turns into scrubland, olive trees plantations and as one goes further South this landscapes morphs into a fertile plain where vine, vegetable and fruit trees are grown. Deeper down South the Rhône’s waters infiltrate the soil to create a wet marshy area, called “Petite Camargue” where rice is cultivated and wild life can be observed. To the South West of Gard the “department” of Hérault offers a natural landscape in the North, as part of the Cévennes, an agricultural landscape in the centre and a long strip of beaches and resorts on the coast, which is continued in the neighbouring department of Aude. In Aude the coastline is dotted with salted water lagoons set in an untouched landscape of vineyards, scrubland and pine trees forest. To the North, Lauragais is a series of rolling hills with fertile soil dedicated to agriculture. Then Pyrénées-Orientale, nestled between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea offer a dramatic coastline of rocky steep hills planted with vineyards and rolling down into the sea, known as Vermilion Coast. The Albères, foothills of the Pyrenees command fantastic views over this mountains range while landscape in the centre is a vast fertile plain, irrigated by 4 rivers, where fruit trees and vegetable are cultivated. Part of the coastline in Pyrénees Orientales also boasts wide sandy beaches with nice views on the Pyrenees and the Vermilion coast falling down into the Mediterranean.

Heritage, culture, things to do and visit

Languedoc offers up plenty to fill your time. The region was an important Roman colony and remnants of their presence can be found all along the Via Domitia, a cobblestoned road stretching from Italy to Spain, in Nîmes, in the Oppidum of Ensérune, in the Roman Villa of Loupian, and of course as one admires the Pont du Gard, listed on the Unesco World Heritage, one of most outstanding testimony of their ingeniuty.
Another episode of History that has left its marks on Languedoc’s territory is the Cathars episode. These were religious dissenters of the XIIth century and during the Crusade against them, the Cathars found shelter in ten Cathar castles or fortresses, usually set on impressive crags and in a rough landscape of limestone mountains planted with scrubland. Castles of Puylaurens, Peyrepertuse, Quéribus, Aguilar offer now a fierce timeless beauty.
Many religious buildings such as abbeys and churches are to be found in this religious land: Abbey of Fontfroide, Lagrasse, Saint Hilaire, Saint-Guilhem-Le-Désert, impressive cathedrals like in Béziers or Narbonne. The impressive fortified town of Carcassonne, listed on the Unesco World Heritage was built between the XIth and XIIIth on the ruins of the former Roman city walls. Another impressive fortified town is Aigues Mortes, built by Saint Louis as a harbour on the Mediterranean sea but now that place has silted up and the city walls are in the heart of marshes and high profile marina.
An original site, also listed on the Unesco World Heritage, is The Canal du Midi, a waterway, leading from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, and built in the XVIIth century. Lined all the way through with more than hundred-year-old plane trees sheltering a towpath it is ideal for walking, cycling.
But Languedoc is not turned only towards its glorious past and has its share of lively cities, market towns and villages. Languedoc Roussillon is the fourth French region where you can find the most “Plus beaux villages de France” (Prettiest French Villages) such as Minerve, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Lagrasse, Aiguèze, Olargues, Eus etc… Uzès is a market town reknowned for its beautifully restored mediaeval architecture and is as trendy as the trendiest Provence’s market towns.
Montpellier thanks to its dynamism and buoyant students’ life could easily compete with Barcelona. As for the people leaving in Languedoc Roussillon, if they are not listed on the Unesco World Heritage they are nonetheless picturesque and endearing. In France, southern people are said to warmer, which is subjective. What is objective though is the tuneful accent of the French spoken here which is enjoyable even for non-French speakers. What is enjoyable too are the diverse cultural influences, particularly the Catalan and Spanish ones which is found from Pyrenées Orientales to the Gard. In Pyrenees Orientales, part of the former Catalan province, a traditional dance, the ‘Sardane’ is still danced and Catalan spoken by old people. Bullfights and feria, a pure Spanish tradition, are common particularly in Nîmes, Béziers and throughout Camargue. Rugby, another imported tradition but from the UK, is huge and Languedoc people can get passionate about it. In fact, all occasions are taken to party.
 

Economy, transports and demography:

Despite a reputation of merry-makers, Languedoc people are serious and hard-working as proves the economic dynamism of the region. Agriculture and tourism are the two major sources of income. Fifteen millions visitors a year bring €7 millions and Languedoc Roussillon is the fourth most visited French region. Industry’s contribution is limited but services are the fastest-growing sector, driven by a huge demographic growth.
Languedoc has ceased to be a land of emigration and is now a very-sought after destination. In less than 50 years the population has almost doubled to reach 2.6 millions inhabitants in January 2009 and according to the French Office for National Statistics (INSEE) demographic forecast are of 3.3 millions in 2030. This 27% growth comes mainly from new inhabitants, with a record high growth foreseen for Hérault (+40%), while Aude and Pyrenees Orientales are respectively expected to grow by 23% and 28%.
Dynamism also comes from an ever-improving transports network. After a short one-and-a-half , flights from the Uk and Ireland can land in five cities: Béziers, Carcassonne, Nîmes, Montpellier and Perpignan. Paris is just a three hours trip by hig-speed train (TGV). Barcelona is a mere two-hours drive from Perpignan and a high-speed link between Perpignan and Barcelona will connect the two cities in just 50 minutes in 2013.
 

The oldest and widest vineyard in the world

Languedoc Roussillon has a very old tradition of wine growing. Since vine was introduced by the Romans and perpetuated until now, it is the oldest vineyard in the world. It is also the widest with 2,996 km2 of vineyards, which represents three times the area cultivated in Bordeaux. More than 40 varieties of grapes are grown there which accounts for the many famous Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) such as Côtes du Roussillon, Fitou, Cabardès, Corbières, Costières de Nîmes, Listel, Banyuls, Minervois, Clape, Limoux to name but a few. Up until the 80’s Languedoc, known as “red-plonk country” was more in quantity than quality. But with the decrease of wine consumption and a new state-of-mind, Languedoc’s wine growers have decided to make the most of their blessed climate and territory and a fair amount of their produce are found in the best restaurants.
As for gastronomy, given the geographical diversity of Languedoc Roussillon, it also offers a wide range of regional delights. In Camargue and around Nîmes and Arles, beef reared in this marshy preserved area is a keystone of the regional gastronomy. So is rice which is cultivated locally. Inland and more and more as you go towards the Cévennes mountains, the local cuisine is made out of earth produce such as sweet onions, mushrooms (cep mushrooms, truffles…), chestnuts and cheeses (goats’ and ewes’ cheeses mainly). In central Languedoc, in the Carcassonne area, a rich stew of white beans, pork sausages and duck ‘confit’ is ideal in winter. Along the coast fish and seafood are well represented in particular in the neighbourhood of big fishing harbours such as Sète and Port-Vendres; mussels and oysters are reared in the coastal lagoons of Thau near Sète or Gruissan near Narbonne. Fruits particularly cherries, apricots and peaches thrive in the fertile soil of the Roussillon plain and under its sunny and warm climate. Another important fruit growing area starts around Nîmes with a reputation for melons, plums, peaches and apricots.