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DESTINATION LANGUEDOC ROUSSILLON MIDI PYRÉNÉES
Sud of France! River tourism
From the Canal du Midi to the banks of the Rhône
Rambling, sailing, mountain biking, the whole gamut of sensations
DESTINATION LANGUEDOC ROUSSILLON MIDI PYRENEES - ABSOLUTELY SUD !
From the Côte Vermeille to the Camargue
From the gates of Gascony to the Camargue, wine and gastronomy as standard
Toulouse, Montpellier : capital “Sud”
From Gavarnie to Pont du Gard, unique experiences
THE MAGAZINE OF TOURISM IN LANGUEDOC ROUSSILLON MIDI PYRÉNÉES
2 DE COUV DESTINATION_Mise en page 1 09/05/16 11:48 Page1
Département Communication Sud de France Développement - 05/2016 Crédit photos : C. Deschamps, P. Thibault, D Viet
LANGUEDOC ROUSSILLON MIDI PYRÉNÉES
LES NOUVEAUX HORIZONS
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MEDITERRANEAN ............ p 7
• Petite Camargue, Aigues-Mortes ..............p 8 - 9 • Etang de Thau, Sète .............................p 10 - 11 • The Clape and the Narbonnaise ..................p 12 • Catalan coast .............................................p 13 • Along the coast - TOUR .........................p 14 - 15 • Collioure and the côte Vermeille..................p 16
TOWNS ......................................................... p 17
• Mende........................................................p 18 • Nîmes.........................................................p 19 • Montpellier ..........................................p 20 - 21 • Béziers .......................................................p 22 • Narbonne ...................................................p 23 • Perpignan ...................................................p 24 • Rodez et Millau ...........................................p 25 • Toulouse ..............................................p 26 - 27 • Albi et Gaillac.......................................p 28 - 29 • Cahors et Moissac.......................................p 30 • Lourdes ......................................................p 31 • Auch...........................................................p 32
..................................................... • National and regional nature parks ......p 34 - 35 • Causses and Cévennes ........................p 36 - 37 • The great lakes of the Pyrenees TOUR .......................................................p 38 - 39 • Canigou and the Catalan Pyrenees ..............p 40 • Pic du Midi of Bigorre..................................p 41 • Great Pyrenean cirques ...............................p 42
HERITAGE ............................................. p 43
• Pont du Gard et Uzès............................p 44 - 45 • Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage routes..................p 46 - 47 • Vauban fortresses.......................................p 48 • Conques, Cajarc..........................................p 49
• Canal du Midi ......................................p 50 - 51 • Medieval city of Carcassonne ...............p 52 - 53 • The Cathar castles – TOUR ....................p 54 - 55 • Rocamadour, Valley of the Dordogne ..........p 56 • Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Valley of the Célé .............. p 57 • Cordes-sur-Ciel, Villefranche-de-Rouergue............................p 58 • The ladies’ cave in Niaux.............................p 59 • Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges ....................p 60
ART OF LIVING ...................... p 61
• Wines: the most varied vineyards .........p 62 - 63 • Wines: from rosé wine to sparkling wine ..p 64 - 65 • Wines: the map of the greatest vineyard in the world............................p 66 - 67 • Gastronomy: a rich diversity .................p 68 - 73 • Gastronomy: recipes inot-to-be-missed ................................p 69 - 73 • Gastronomy: the central food market, the beating heart of good living............p 74 - 75 • Traditions : from rugby-playing areas to bull running ......................................p 76- 77 • Arts/Museums the basics ....................p 78 - 80 • Festivals: a plethora of events..............p 81 - 82
OPEN AIR .............................................. p 83
• Activities: from kite-surfing to paddle boarding ..............................p 84 - 85 • Activities: from diving to climbing ........p 86 - 87 • Activities: from cycle tourism to mountain biking...............................p 88 - 89 • Activities: from rambling to golf ...........p 90 - 91 • Wellness: Healthy waters and spa towns .....................................p 92 - 93 • Accommodation: custom-made holidays.........................p 94 - 95 • How do you get here?..................................p 96
monnouvelhorizon.com Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées I CONTENTS I 1
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Special edition published by the Société du Journal Midi Libre a limited company with a capital of € 6,278,802 - Main shareholders: Groupe La Dépêche du Midi SA - Head Office: rue du Mas-de-Grille 34430 Saint-Jean-de-Védas - Postal Address: 34438 Saint-Jean-de-Védas Cedex - Tel : 33 (0)4 67 07 67 07 - A production of Pôle Editions, in collaboration with Sud de France Développement and the Regional Tourist Board. Publishing Manager: Bernard Maffre - Design, editorial coordination: Didier Thomas-Radux, Tel : 33 (0)4 67 07 66 11, Mail : email@example.com - Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial staff: Didier Thomas-Radux, Marie Vanhamme, Anaïs Arnal, Catherine Betti, Cécile Marche, Saskia Leblon, Matthias Jaulent, Eric Delaperriere - Design: Studio IDM, Saint-Jean-de-Védas. Picture archive: CRT Midi-Pyrénées, Sud de France Développement (A Cougnenc, C Deschamps), Archives Midi Libre, ADT du Lot (p.30.2 et p. 67.2), Jerome Morel (P. 57.2 / p.59.3), ADT 82 , Samuel Duplaix (p.3 / p.75.4)), Didier Thomas-Radux (p.9.1 / p.28.1), Gouffre de Padirac (p.56.2), Grotte de Cabrespine (p. 59.2), AOC Faugères (p.63.2), Philippe Klein (p.65.3), Pierre Lasvenes (p.68.1 / p.69.3 / p.69.6), CDT du Tarn (p.71.1), CDT 32 (p.71.2), Eric Delaperriere (p.38-39), Michel Clementz (p.40.2), William Truffy (p.19.2 / p.7.5/ p.69.1 / p.69.5 / P.73.3 / p. 74.1 / P.75), Fotolia (p.26.1 / p.70.2 / p.71.5 / p.83.1 / p.85.2 / p.88.2 / p.89.3), Marc Ginot (p.81), Aurélio Rodriguez (p.13.3 / p.22.2 / p.26.2), Nelly Blaya (p.82.1), Emilie Gentils (p.72.3 / p.73.2 / P.74.2), Sensotek (p. 83.4 / p.93.1), Ville de Toulouse (p.26 / p.27.2 Patrice Nin), Tourisme environnement Hautes-Pyrénées (p.31.2 / p.31.3 / p.33.2 JP Meyer / p.42.1 JP Meyer), Thierry Nava (p.45.2), Christophe Levillain (p.13.2/ p.24.2/ p.34.2 /p.50.2 / p.51.1), Laurent Ballesta - Club Andromède plongée bio (p.86). Cover photo: Céline Deschamps - Impression: Léonce Deprez, France - Legal deposit: on publication - ISSN number: 2112-7468 - Joint Committee: 0418K 90782 - Midi Libre – may 2016 ©
2 I ÉDITO I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
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A vast land of welcome and liberty Bigger than a country, heir to a past so rich that it concentrates in itself alone more sites on the register of World Heritage sites or classed as such than any other region in France, Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées is that land where uniqueness is everywhere within your grasp. Exceptional places labelled “Grands Sites” or those inscribed in the World Heritage of Humanity by Unesco fly high the flag of our South. The Canal du Midi, the Chemins de SaintJacques, the episcopal city of Albi, the Causses and the Cévennes, the fortifications of Vauban, the Pont du Gard, the Cirque de Gavarnie and the Mont Perdu, the city of Carcassonne… The destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées is a veritable history book. So many prestigious places, tourist sites famous all over the world which are the object, with the 4,500 other historic monuments registered, of an ambitious policy of valuing tourism. This is the ideal destination for all those, male and female, who seek out authenticity with notable landscapes and a notable heritage from the Cévennes to the Pyrenees, from the Camargue to the valley of the Dordogne. In this immense area covered by the South of France, intimate links between landscape and architecture, between villages and men are proof. Nature has been preserved and is accessible to all, a source of harmony, pleasure and relaxation. Going off to explore this region is to taste the atmosphere of the country houses “bastides” that decline their arcades, of half-timbered houses, of ports and markets in the noonday sun, to go from the Rhône to the Garonne, from the Margeride to the Pyrenees by way of Toulouse, Montpellier, Sète, Auch… It is to go back through time in Ariège with the sites that tell of 14,000 years of history, to rediscover the splendour of the Roman Empire in the arenas of Nîmes, the medieval beauty of the towers of the Pont Valentré and the castle of Foix. It is to savour the Mediterranean for more than 200 kilometres of coastline. For to travel through the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées region is also to go out to meet those extraordinary vineyards, those quality products which are dear to us, that philosophy of life in which quality culture is important and the sense of welcome fundamental. Whether it be in Laguiole at Michel Bras, the latter having been recently singled out as the “best cook in the world” or in a straw hut near La Franqui, exigency and generosity go together. A change of scene and rest. Tradition and gourmandise. Marvelling and sharing. This is this region’s triptych where tourism, thanks as much to canals and beaches as to spas and its 41 ski resorts, is a reality all the year round. Residing in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, among the most beautiful villages in France, the poet André Breton wrote: “I’ve stopped wanting to be anywhere else.” A sentence that we invite you to share!
Carole Delga Chair of the Region Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
For more information: in order to complete your reading and your discovery of the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées, you have at your disposal a web site: monnouvelhorizon.com This little square is a QR code allowing you to connect directly to the site monnouvelhorizon.com by scanning it with your Smartphone.
Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées I ÉDITO I 3
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Most beautiful villages in France
Santiago de Compostela Pilgrims’ Route: Via Tolosana
Loubressac Grotte de Alvignac-Miers
Golf de Montal Grotte des Merveilles
Canal de la Robine
Grotte de Cougnac
Canal du Rhône at Sète
Canal des Deux Mers (Two Seas Canal):
A20 des Causses du Quercy
Canal du Midi
Grotte de Lacave
Parc Naturel Régional
Canal de la Garonne
Pleasure boat marinas
Cities and Countries of Art and History
VALLÉE Carennac Gouffre DE LA de Padirac Souillac DORDOGNE
Souillac Golf et Country Club
Via du Piémont
Great Sites of France
Brives/ Vallée de la Dordogne
Top Tourist Destinations of Midi-Pyrénées
Grotte du Pech Merle
Grotte de Foissac
Phosphatières du Cloup d’Aural
Golf de Fleurance
one Gim ts
Chemins St-Jacques de Compostelle
A6 Villefranche1 de-Lauragais AvignonetLauragais
Golf du Château de Barbet Golf de la Ramée
4 A6 RamonvilleSaint-Agne
Golf Club de Toulouse
Golf de Gascogne
Golf du Château de Pallanne
Golf du Téoula
Golf las Martines
Golf de Fiac
Golf de Palmola
Exclusiv Golf ToulouseSeilh
e al d Canaronne la G
Albi Florentin Golf
lise Gé e
FLARAN BAÏSE ARMAGNAC
Golf de Guinlet
Golf des Aiguillons
Grotte du Bosc Académie Couleur Golf
Golf d’Espalais Gers
Barbotanles-Thermes Mid ou Séviac
Golf de Montauban L’Estang
Canal des Deux Mers
Fourcès Montréal Larressingle
BAGNERESGouffre d’esparros DE-BIGORREGrotte ur
e de Pau
Pic du Midi Nes te
Val Louron Superbagnères
BAGNÈRESDE-LUCHON 3222 m Pic Perdiguère
Pyrénées Mont Perdu
COLLECTION ARIÈGE Grotte de SAINTLIZIER
Mont Valier 2838 m
Écogolf de l’Ariège
Bédeilhac Grotte de la Vache
Grotte de Niaux
Aulusles-Bains Goulier Guzet
Gouffre des Corbeaux Grotte de Lombrives
Pic d'Estats 3115 m
Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises
Ax-les-Thermes Ax-3 Domaines
Puyvalador Formiguères Les Angles
GAVARNIE MONT PERDU
Grotte du Mas d’Azil
Golf de Salies-du-Salat
Vignemale 3298 m
Vallées d’Aure et du Louron
Hautacam Barèges 2872 m
Grotte de Gargas
64 Capvern- A les-Bains
ARGELESGAZOST CAUTERETS PONT D’ESPAGNE
Golf du Comminges
Grotte de Betharram
Golf de Tarbes Les Tumulus Golf de l’hippodrome Golf Country de Bigorre
Golf de Lannemezan
Lourdes Pyrénées Golf Club
Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes Puymorens
Font Romeu Golf de Font-Romeu
4 I MAP I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
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A75 CLERMONT-FERRAND PARIS
La Chaldette Bès
FLORAC Gorges du Tarn et de la Jonte
Ville Fortifiée Historique
Golf de Narbonne
Etang de Bages Etang de et de Sigean l’Ayrolle
Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise en Méditerranée
A9 2027 m Pic de la Fageolle
Golf de Montescot
2910 m Le Puigmal
Etang de Canet
Massif du Canigo
Canal du Rhône à Sète A54 MARSEILLE
Anse de Paulilles
Falgos Golf Resort
Grotte de Fontrabiouse
Fortifications de Vauban
lf de omeu
Golf de SaintCyprien
Argelès-sur-Mer Villefranche-de-Conflent du Tech et du Ter Collioure Vernet-les-Bains Le Boulou Port-Vendres
Pyrénées 2000 St-Pierre-des-Forçats Eyne
Vallée de la Têt
el Régional s Catalanes
Puyvalador Formiguères Les Angles
Mosset Molitgles-Bains Evol
Etang de Leucate
Grotte de l’Aguzou
La Franqui Leucate
Port-la-Nouvelle La Palme
Etang de Lapalme
Golf de Carcassonne
uM l idi
Etang de Mauguio
Etang de Méjean
Grotte de Limousis
Montagne Noire Can d a
Gouffre de Cabrespine
Etang de Scammandre Etang du Charnier
La AiguesVilleneuveCarnonGrande- Mortes lès-Maguelone Motte Palavasde Vic Vic- Etang les-Flots Grotte de la Devèze la-Gardiole Pézenas BalarucLe Grau-du-Roi Thoré les-Bains Parc Naturel Régional 5 Port Camargue Frontignan A7 du Haut-Languedoc Golf de Bassin Canal Golfe d’Aig Cap d’Agde de Thau ue BEZIERS du Midi sMinerve Hé rau M Marseillan lt Agde Portiragnes Vendres Capestang Vias Le Cap d’Agde NissanSérignan-Plage Cap d'Agde Sallèles-d’Aude lez-Ensérunes ValrasHomps Le Somail Plage Canal de Au Port Cabanes de Fleury A9 de la Robine A61 Saint-Pierre-la-Mer NARBONNE u Narbonne-Plage bie Or Olargues
Golf Club de Mazamet La Barouge
Grotte de Clamouse Golf de La Golf de Coulondres Grande-motte Camargue gardoise
Vallée du Salagou et Cirque de Mourèze Golf de Montpellier Massane
Lac du Salagou
A9 Villeneuve-les-Avignon Rh
1117 m Roc de la Layre
Golf de Gourjade
Golf de Fontcaude
Gorges de l’Hérault
Pont du Gard
Grotte des Demoiselles
Cirque de Navacelles
Gouffre les Espélugues Gorges du Gardon
Grotte de Labeil
Causses et Cévennes
Golf Club Alès Ribaute
Grotte de Trabuc Abîme de Brambiau
Albi Florentin Golf
Golf d’Albi Lasbordes
Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses
Viaduc Meyrueis de Millau
Aven Armand Grotte de Dargilan
La Roque-sur-Cèze Pont Saint-Esprit Allègre-les-Fumades
Grotte de la Cocalière
Lac de Pareloup
VIADUC DE MILLAU
Grotte de la Salamandre
Golf de La Garde-Guérin
Mas de la Barque
Pays d’art et d’histoire Mende et Lot en Gévaudan
Bastides du Rouergue
1699 m Mont Lozère
Le Bleymard Villefort
© Réalisation STUDIO IDM (Midi Libre) pour Destination LRMP. Juin 2016 - Reproduction interdite sans autorisation préalable.
Golf du Totche
Golf des Gorges du Tarn
Golf du Grand Rodez
Grotte de Foissac
Domaine de Barres
Golf de Mezeyrac
Grotte de Presque
Grotte des Grandes Canalettes
Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées I MAP I 5
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6 I MEDITERRANEAN I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
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MEDITERRANEAN Running over four departments and more than 200 kilometres the coastline of the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées region is an invitation to take it easy and relax on the Mediterranean.
Little Camargue Between land and sea: the Thau lagoon The Clape and the Narbonnaise Collioure and Côte Vermeille
From the wild spaces of the Petite Camargue to the creeks of the Côte Vermeille, the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées has a unique maritime sea front more than 220 kilometres long, lying along the Mediterranean. Wild areas, fine sandy beaches, fishing ports, places where you can dive… the coastline harbours treasures jealously preserved, whether it be the superb natural setting of Collioure, the nature reserve of the Clape, the diving zones of Cap d’Agde, the lido near Sète, the unique atmosphere between sea and lakes of the Grand Travers, the immensity of the eleven kilometres of unspoilt beach of l’Espiguette. A unique kingdom of sands.
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Camargue in Gard Petite
A spellbinding alchemy To the west of the Rhône, from the sea to the Costières du Gard, the petite Camargue extends a mosaic of landscapes. Vines and rice fields, agricultural land irrigated by ‘roubines’. Meadows and marshes where black bulls and white Camargue horses browse. Sansouïres, between marsh and lake, which are tinted in autumn with the red colour of the Salicornia. A reedbed, harbouring purple herons, bitterns, ducks and other water nesting birds. As to lakes, that of the Scamandre, the centre of a regional nature reserve where prepared paths and belvederes invite you to admire the numerous birds, privileged and discreet occupants. The pine forest of great umbrella pines stand out against the blue of the sky and the sea, saturated in summer with the singing of the cicadas. The dunes planted with euphorbia and other trees to stop the sand moving give to the sandy arrow of l’Espiguette the appearance of a desert by the sea. Here and there, away from towns (Beauvoisin and the
abbey of Franquevaux, Saint-Laurent-d’Aigouze and la Tour Carbonnière…) on the edge of the Petit Rhône, some big isolated farms shelter behind groves of pines or deciduous trees. Man has known how to stay withdrawn from this wild land, a timeless symbol of an untameable territory, contenting himself sometimes to orientate nature and to extract from it certain riches. Reeds served for the making of cob for walls and for the roof of the first dwellings and if the sagneurs [reedcutters] can be counted today on the fingers of one hand, they are still the masters of the biggest reedbed in Western Europe. In wine-producing areas planted on pebbly alluvial deposits or on sandy soils the herds succeed each other. The rearers and the gardians still move the bulls on from one meadow to another, helped by the horse in the Camargue. Centre de Découverte du Scamandre. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 76 78 55 camarguegardoise.com
8 I MEDITERRANEAN I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
Useful to know The prestigious past of Saint-Gilles A place for passing though during the Middle Ages, Saint-Gilles is a peaceful town rich with a unique patrimony including the abbey church built in 1116 above the tomb of Saint-Gilles, venerated by the faithful and which has a superb façade with three portals separated by columns sculpted throughout. Situated on the road to Santiago de Compostela, registered as part of the World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, Saint-Gilles is the 4th most important place of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Various manifestations are in the pipeline this year from June to September to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the abbey church.
Office de Tourisme de Saint-Gilles tourisme.saint-gilles.fr
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Le Cailar at the hour of la bouvine A votive feast entirely devoted to passion for the bull The best bulls participate in the courses camarguaises the calendar for which goes from April to October. But Le Cailar, named ‘Mecque de la Bouvine’ [heart of Camargue lifestyle] celebrates bulls during its votive feast in August. Each day the courses camarguaises see the most intrepid bull jumpers or razeteurs and the quickest to snatch the attributes affixed to the bull (rosette, tassel, string). The ferrade competition (branding of the young bulls), the courses de vachettes [bull runnings] and
balls complete the programme. If “abrivado” and “bandido” open and close every day, on Wednesday, the ‘journée à l’ancienne’ [old-style day] invites the participants to put on costumes dating back to 1900 to be present at the selection of bulls in the Ladies’ Meadows, then, after lunch, to accompany them, surrounded by gardians on horseback to the arenas to the sound of a peña band. Fête votive du Cailar, from 6 to 14 August 2016. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 88 01 05
The “Bayle” (he who guards the bulls) is responsible for the herd which he rides through on horseback equipped with his trident, which allows him to have himself obeyed by the bulls.
Two infinite spaces
Girded with impressive ramparts flanked with six towers including that of Constance, a symbol of the power of Saint-Louis, Aigues-Mortes resembles a citadel of stones in a universe of water. The alleyways and shaded places of the city breathe a gentle way of life. Seen from the covered way on the ramparts the salt marshes have a geometry with pink, blue and ochre nuances. The salt flower, manually harvested by the saltworkers (sauniers), forms white heaps bordering the reddening water (‘camelles’). The micro-algae that colour them are appreciated by pink flamingos which are just some of the numerous guests of the saltpans to be visited in a little train with the ascent of a camelle or by mountain bike with a guide. Office de Tourisme d’Aigues-Mortes. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 53 73 – ot-aiguesmortes.com Salins d’Aigues-Mortes. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 73 40 24 – visitesalinsdecamargue.com
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Between land and sea
The Thau lagoon Sète, the temptation of an island If the Ile Singulière as it is called is today the first fishing port in the Mediterranean, its vocation as a port was not born yesterday and is inscribed in the town’s layout. Alleyways bordered with narrow houses with coloured frontages, washing at the windows, chairs on the pavement to cool down and chat… The Upper town, given the name “Little Naples”, is inhabited by Italian fishermen. The Virgin Mary, Queen of the Sea, “Regina Maris”, who, at the top of the church of Saint-Louis, watches over the fisherman, is there to remind us of it. La Pointe Courte, the quarter of French or Catalan fishermen, is concentrated in a few alleyways consisting of small houses and fishing shacks lining the edge of the lake where lobster pots and nets dry in close proximity to the boats. The Pointus have their team for nautical jousts, where teams confront each other in summer on the Canal Royal, which celebrates 350 years of being there
this year. Along the quays restaurants, shops, coloured frontages, wealthy apartment buildings, a consular palazzo in Art Déco style invite you to make your walk longer or to embark to slide down the canals and go under their nine bridges. On one of the slopes of Mont Saint-Clair which dominates the town from a height of 183 metres, offering a panoramic view as far as the horizon, the graveyard by the sea stands out against a background of sea and blue sky. Paul Valéry and Jean Vilar are buried there while Georges Brassens chose the cemetery of the poor facing the Thau lagoon. The ultimate expression of the relationship that unites artists with their island. Office de Tourisme de Sète. Tel. 33 (0)4 99 04 71 71 tourisme-sete.com
10 I MEDITERRANEAN I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
Useful to know From the maritime museum to dinosaurs Between landscapes of vineyards and stretches of lagoon, the gentle way of Mediterranean life takes on its full meaning in the little villages of the Thau lagoon. In Loupian there are the vestiges of a Gallo-Roman villa which are open to the general public. In Mèze we can go even further back in time with the Plain of the Dinosaurs, a site rich in the eggs and the bones of this prehistoric animal.
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Abundance The “singular island” has an artistic side “The Crossing” of Jean Denant on the coast road, “The Madonna” in the Upper town by Richard di Rosa – the brother of Hervé, leader of the free Figuration movement and president of the International Museum of Modest Art situated on the outskirts of the canal -, the artists of Sète love their town. The Regional Centre for Modern Art installed in a former factory, the Paul Valéry Museum that devotes its summer exhibition to Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy, the Georges Brassens Gallery, the open air museum and its
works by “street artists”, guests of the K-Live Festival… Sète loves artists – Soulages has set up his summer residence there and his studio -, and not just visual artists. The Theatre on the Sea, with its stage open to Big Blue, is the magical backdrop of Fiest’A Sète, a festival of “world music”, Jazz in Sète and lots of other concerts too… Espace Georges Brassens. Tel. 33 (0)4 99 04 76 26 espace-brassens.fr
Lagoon The Thau lagoon, a paradise for oysters
It was in the 1980s that the town council in Sète invited Richard Di Rosa, a native of the Upper Town, to complete a sculpture. It is this well-proportioned madonna with the fleshy mouth who is enthroned in the native quarter of the artist.
From Bouzigues to Mèze oyster beds criss-cross the Thau lagoon. The oyster is the pearl of this lagoon where farms are sometimes open to the public to visit and sell on directly their harvest of oysters and mussels. The museum of the Etang de Thau highlights every aspect of the oyster-farming tradition which has made this lagoon’s reputation. It is also celebrated for its biodiversity. Walking along the lake from the museum via the Angle creek allows you to drink in its particular atmosphere, to watch, in the shadow of the umbrella pines, the silver sheen of the fish, the spectacular diving of the terns or the graceful step of the avocet. Musée de l’étang de Thau. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 78 33 57 – bouzigues.fr
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Ste-Lucie An island in the middle of the lakes
The Clape and
The Narbonnaise Between land and sea Long sandy beaches, marshes and lakes, the clear gulfs sung of by Trenet mark out the seaside resorts here. Narbonne-Plage with numerous nautical activities; Saint-Pierre la Mer whose most unspoilt beach stretches out as far as the lake of Pissevaches; Gruissan, an old fishing and wine-making village and its chalets on piles. Port-la-Nouvelle and its long beach of La Palme; Leucate, a spot celebrated for sand-yachting and kite-surfing, and its cliff that dominates the sea; La Franqui which possesses one of the most beautiful beaches in France… At the heart of a natural world
preserved by the Regional Nature Park, the Narbonne area reveals multiple facets from scrubland to vineyards, dotted with superb wine-producing abbeys. The rock of Cornillac, a celebrated observation platform from which to see migrating birds, offers a unique vantage point over the lakes and massifs of La Clape and Corbières Office de Tourisme de Narbonne. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 65 15 60 narbonne-tourisme.com
A maritime heritage
A heart of limestone to be tamed… La Clape was an island. The draining of the marshes and the filling in of the lakes have joined it to the plain of Corbières and a coastal cordon has separated it from the sea. The rock face, either naked or covered by scrub, is omnipresent. The massif contains however a network of underground rivers, brought to light in the
We need to cross the lock of the canal de la Robine that borders it in order to come out on Sainte-Lucie island. The long unspoilt beach, the pinewoods of Aleppo pines, the scrubland, the marshes at the foot of the cliff… the island concentrates in one limited area the finest landscapes of the Mediterranean coast. Various vestiges recount its history, the old Roman quarries, Romanesque ruins, the wine cellar, the old smallholding, the bunkers… Blue dominates from the panoramic viewpoint of the Roc Saint-Antoine to that of the lakes of Ayrolle, Bages and Sigean, the salt marshes and the sea. Office de Tourisme de Port-la-Nouvelle. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 48 00 51 ot-portlanouvelle.com
chasm of L’Oeil Doux, a circle of emerald green water in the hollow of the high cliffs. The chapel of Notre Dame des Auzils, protector of sailors, with numerous ex votos, looks out to sea. From the domain of L’Oustalet several paths go through odorous scrubland, a holm oak-clad massif, a forest of Aleppo pines, a steep coomb, while to the
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cliffs where birds of prey nest, clings the very rare Centaury of La Clape. The massif of La Clape presents multiple faces which we need to take time to discover. Maison de la Clape. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 45 25 47 parc-naturelnarbonnaise.fr
The Marie-Thérèse, a big boat built in 1855, is the first restoration project to be credited to Yann Pajot. Other boats have taken on new life and colours at his hands in the boatyard of the lock of Mandirac. The young naval carpenter also runs the Ateliers de la Mémoire [Memory Workshops] installed on the island of SainteLucie and devoted to the restoration of a fleet of boats traditionally found on the lakes and the coast
Ecluse de Mandirac. Tel. 33 (0)6 83 06 06 23. parc-naturel-narbonnaise.fr
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Salses, the buried fort
Catalan coast The Florida of seaside tourism From Barcarès to Argelès-sur-Mer, the Catalan coast or Radiant Coast, stretches out its kilometres of sandy coastline between sea and lakes. A coast so flat that you have to go back to Leucate in the Aude to find cliffs to climb that allow you to admire it in its entirety from north to south. This part of the Roussillon coast became one of the targets of the Mission Racine at the beginning of the 1960s which created several “new tourist units” as elsewhere on the coast of Languedoc. Port-Leucate, Port-Barcarès (and its famous run-aground steamship,
the Lydia), Canet-en-Roussillon, Torreilles-Plage, Saint-Cyprien, Argelès-sur-Mer and its camping sites… The ports and seaside resorts that have emerged from the coastal development were often decried for the anarchy of their architecture and the harm they did to the environment, but some of them are yardsticks, considered as models of environmental friendliness, such as the Village des Sables of Sainte-Marie. Whether you are for or against, you are obliged to admit that “solar tropism” continues to attract people to the coastal areas of our shoreline.
The blue line of the Albères Among the natural niches of the Catalan coast, there is one that is appreciated in particular, unspoilt and more accessible than the Canigou: it’s the massif of the Albères, straddling both sides of the Pyrenees. A strategic passing point between France and Spain (via the col de Panissars and the col du Perthus), this beautiful mountain
cross-bred with maquis, cork-oaks and plantations of beeches, contains pretty villages and culminates in Pic Neulos (1,256 metres), which affords a breath-taking panoramic view of the plain of Roussillon. An oasis of coolness and calm only a few minutes from the beaches. You can do rock-climbing there,
mountain biking, canoeing and discover little jewels of the heritage like the Madeloc Tower and the Tower of Massane, old medieval signal towers; the castle of Ultrera and several magnificent preRomanesque abbeys, notably the priory of Santa Maria del Vilar of Villelongue-dels-Monts.
A stone’s throw from the lake of Salses-Leucate the fortress of Salses, built by the architect Francisco Ramiro Lopez and marking the frontier between Catalonia and the Kingdom of France, surprises us with its feline architecture, all curves and photogenic stones. A formidable war machine designed by the Catholic kings of Spain at the end of the 15th century to resist the cannonballs from French canons, Salses is largely inspired by the architectural trickery of Muslims. The surprising secrets of the construction of the building, which will be partially restored by Vauban, are worth a detour. forteresse-salses.fr
A region of lakes
Irrigated by three rivers (the Tech, the Têt and the Agly) the Catalan coast is also rich in its lakes, like that of Canet-Saint-Nazaire, one of the finest in the Eastern Pyrenees, a protected space of a million hectares in which some 250 species of bird are spread out. The lake of Salses-Leucate, which owes its existence to marshland, plays host to the last traditional fishermen (the “artmanos”) whose boats and shacks in reeds (sanills) are visible to Barcarès. The 145 hectare nature reserve of Mas Larrieu is situated in the commune of Argelès-surMer and Elne.
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Ephèbe - Agde
Coastal tour How many variations of surroundings and atmosphere there are over the 220 kilometres of the Mediterranean coast! From the marshy moors of the Petite Camargue to the sheltered bays of the Côte Vermeille, let’s have an overview.
The discovery of a manade... Manades cannot be disassociated from the landscape of the Petite Camargue. The cross of the Camargue, the costume of a herdsman, young bullfighters are just a few of the symbols which have gone to make up the Camargue identity. And if today the daily duties are carried out in 4x4s, the horse of the Camargue is indispensable to move bulls and, of course, for the numerous festivals that punctuate the summer season. Proud of their tradi-
tions, numerous manadiers welcome groups for demonstrations of techniques of rearing and the explanation of Camargue traditions. Events on the programme include the ferrade (the branding of baby calves), the selection of bulls, the whole thing finishing traditionally with an aperitif and a meal with singing. Office de Tourisme d’Aigues-Mortes. Tel 33 (0)4 66 53 73 ot-aiguesmortes.com Office de Tourisme du Grau-duRoi. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 51 67 70 vacances-en-camargue.com
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An animal, animals Shivers down the spine are guaranteed at the shark tank of the Seaquarium of Le Grau du Roi where 30 species of shark are moving about. The African safari park of Sigean is visited by car. Aquatic fauna have given themselves a rendezvous in the aquarium of Canet-en-Roussillon, while in Sorède turtles reign supreme, from the giant turtle of the Seychelles to the alligator turtle. The biodiversarium represents biodiversity in the sea and on land in the Pyrénées-Orientales associating the
Aquarium of Banyuls-sur-Mer and the Mediterranean garden of Mas de la Serre. - Seaquarium. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 51 57 57 seaquarium.fr - Réserve Africaine. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 48 20 20 reserveafricainesigean.fr - Aquarium. Tel. 33 (0) 04 68 80 49 64 aquarium-canet.com - Vallée des Tortues. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 95 50 50 lavalleedestortues.fr - Biodiversarium. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 88 73 39 biodiversarium.fr
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Varied pleasures from the Petite Camargue to the Côte Vermeille In pursuit of the étang de l’Or
You need to get high up to admire the savage beauty exuded by the chaplet of lakes stretching out along the coast from Grau-du-Roi to La Grande Motte. A thin and fragile sandy cordon separates them from the sea. The planned paths of the étang du Méjean and their observation platforms along marshes, reed beds, salt meadows favour the discovery of bulls, horses and numerous birds. The banks fringed with reeds of the Or lagoon with its traditional shacks serve as refuges for ducks and coots. Planted in the middle of the lakes, the cathedral church of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone is the organ stop in this terraqueous submersion. Its pure lines impart a feeling of fullness. Office de Tourisme de Mauguio-Carnon. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 50 51 15 carnontourisme.com Office de Tourisme de Palavas-les-Flots. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 07 73 34 ot-palavaslesflots.com
The tour of private beaches On the long coastline of Hérault, between Le Grau-du-Roi and Cerbère, private beaches are not thin on the ground. If the principle is identical – steamboats, mattresses for lazing about in the sun and peaceful or hectic evenings – each straw hut cultivates its style and its look. Grilled fish, feet in the sand at the Estuaire Plage done up in an enchanting
interior décor in Grau du Roi, scalloped nuts in a chic atmosphere at La Paillote-Bambou in La Grande Motte… Or then again a cuisine bearing the signature of the Pourcel chefs at Carré Mer in a laid-back atmosphere modelled on the pretty beach of Villeneuvelès-Maguelone. A family atmosphere and fisherman’s shack décor for Les Voiles where fish is the main course in Portiragnes. As for lovers of tranquillity, they will be seduced by Chez Hervé Côté Plage in Grau d’Agde
Karine and Yvan Caussel at Mèze… There are many of them to accompany the sampling of a Picpoul de Pinet whose territory stretches round the basin. Marseillan is also the head office for the Cellars of Noilly Prat where the guided tour, after reservation, finishes with a sampling of this aperitif created in 1813… Office de Tourisme de Marseillan. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 43 93 08 tourisme-nordbassindethau.fr Noilly Prat. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 77 20 15 noillyprat.com
Agde, an explosive town
A hunger for oysters It is well-known for its slight taste of hazelnut. Raised along cords in the farms that criss-cross the Thau lagoon, the oyster of Bouzigues has known how to conquer gourmet palates. From Bouzigues to Mèze by way of Marseillan oyster farms have chosen to open their doors to visitors for them to discover the work of the sea’s gardeners and to sample the production. The Saint-Barth, the Mas Roucairol at Marseillan, the Recantou, Chez Petit Pierre at Bouzigues, the petit Mas, L’Atelier at Loupian,
It owes its name, “the black pearl”, to its numerous buildings made of basalt. Its ramparts, the cathedral of Saint-Étienne, the musée de l’Éphèbe which contains “The Beautiful Young Man of Agde”, an ancient bronze statue found in the waters of Grau d’Agde, prompt you to take a stroll around this old port city. To the beaches of fine sand of Cap d’Agde, of which some are prized by naturists, may be added those of black sand at the foot of the lava cliffs of La Conque. At the diving spot of Les Grandes Tables, each dive-trip is guided by an instructor and the exploratory path at the side of the beach suits a tête à tête with deep sea depths that offer great diversity. Lovers of fiestas will head for the Ile aux Loisirs and its discos, while Dinopark and Aqualand will delight the children. Office de Tourisme d’Agde. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 01 04 04 capdagde.com
In the footsteps of the painters Collioure the “Fauve” pays tribute to the pictorial movement led by Matisse and Derain. The Chemin du Fauvisme follows the places where the two painters positioned their easels and offers a face-toface between the reproduction of
the picture and the port, the beaches, the houses and the roofs of the town that inspired them. Picasso and Braque stopped off at Céret which witnessed the birth of the Cubist movement. The Musée d’Art Moderne brings together the works of the greatest artists of the 20th century who stayed in the town and its surrounding area. Aristide Maillol, a native of Banyuls-sur-Mer, has his own museum in the former smallholding that served him as a studio. Office de Tourisme de Collioure. Tel. 33 (0)68 82 15 47 collioure.com Musée d’Art Moderne de Céret. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 87 27 76 www.musee-ceret.com Musée Maillol. Tel. 33 (04) 68 88 57 11 museemaillol.com
The coastal path After leaving Le Racou, at Argelès-sur-Mer, the coastal path is ideal to explore the Côte Vermeille. The walking trail goes along preserved creeks, forts and vines on terraces on the massif des Albères. The seagulls that nest in the schist cliffs sometimes go with you for part of the way. The path goes through Collioure, passing the foot of the Château Royal and carries on towards Port-Vendres. The stroll along the quays with coloured houses can be extended as far as the cove of Paulilles via Cap Béar and its lighthouse. The coastal path continues up to the Spanish border, to Puig de Cerbère, twisting and turning in the middle of the odorous scrubland, offering magnificent views over the rugged shore of the back country. Office de Tourisme Banyuls-surMer. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 88 31 58 banyuls-sur-mer.com
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The cove of Paulilles, a savage beauty
Collioure The jewel of the Côte Vermeille in a brushstroke Named the “jewel of the Côte Vermeille”, Collioure has captivated painters who have dipped their brush into its luminous colours. The Château Royal lays claim to its medieval past, the church of Notre Dame des Anges, with its feet in the water and its steeple beacon watching over the bay while the jetty goes along a small shingle beach. The quarter of Mouré aligns its houses of pink and ochre, its floral balconies along alleyways paved with pebbles where the studios of craftsmen and galleries are installed. Sheltered from a creek where the
Mediterranean laps against the foothills of the Pyrenees, this old fishing village, bathed in poetry and a gentle way of life, was for a long time one of the main places in France for anchovy fishing. Two salting shops are open to visitors. A half an hour walk leads to Fort Saint-Elme for a unique panoramic view of the town and the surrounding countryside. Office de Tourisme de Collioure. Tel. 33(0)4 68 82 15 47 collioure.com
A coastline highly coloured The Côte Vermeille is a palette of colours: the blue of the sea, the white of the summits of the Pyrenees, the green of hills that are wooded or furrowed with vines, turquoise creeks, golden sands… Here the sand gives way to rocks, the massif des Albères plunges into the sea. The beaches nest in the creeks, the ports in the hollow of the bays…
Argelès-sur-Mer and the unspoilt beach of Le Racou, Collioure, Port-Vendres and its village backing on to a hillside facing the lagoon, Banyuls – famous for its wines and its picturesque alleyways. Cerbère and its amazing hotel Rayon Vert. The wild coast, the capes of Béar and Rédéris, unroll the magic carpet of the Roussillon coast
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as far as Spain. Tourist Offices: Argelès-sur-Mer Tel. 33 (0)4 68 81 15 85 argeles-sur-mer.com Collioure. Tel. 33(0)4 68 82 15 47 collioure.com Port-Vendres. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 82 07 54 port-vendres.com Banyuls-sur-Mer. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 88 31 58 banyuls-sur-mer.com
Between Port-Vendres and Banyuls, the cove of Paulilles stretches out its sandy beaches and its turquoise waters. At the site of an old dynamite factory, henceforth classed as a site of natural beauty, nature has come into its own again. Woods of holm oaks, lush vegetation in which are mixed local flora and the exotic variety in the old Director’s garden. The buildings have become a belvedere, a hostel, a restoration workshop for Catalan boats… The magic is operating underwater too. All you need is a mask and a snorkel to dive into its limpid waters, also protected, and to admire the marine depths. Maison du site de Paulilles. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 95 23 40 ledepartement66.fr
From the beach at Peyrefite the underwater path of the Réserve Naturelle Marine of Cerbère-Banyuls may be visited with a mask, a snorkel and flippers. Five observation platforms marked with a buoy are equipped with submerged signs for information purposes, an aid to exploring the marine depths. The voice of Astrée, a little starfish, via an FM breathing tube, accompanies children to introduce its friends to them…
Réserve Naturelle Marine de Cerbère Banyuls Tel. 33 (0)4 68 88 56 87
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TOWNS The Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées destination is a region which, around its two main towns Toulouse and Montpellier, has at its disposal an important network of towns.
Montpellier, Languedoc radiant Toulouse, the town where you can see life in the pink Albi, colourful and gourmet-friendly Lourdes, a town that belongs to the world
From Roman Nîmes to medieval Cahors, from Auch in Gascony to Catalan Perpignan, the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées offers wide open spaces and urban areas of character. Toulouse the pink town, the home of Airbus, possesses a unique charm on the banks of the Garonne while Montpellier spreads towards the Mediterranean, situated only a few kilometres away. Between towns two thousand years old on the old Roman road and medieval cities which have kept proud traces of their past, there is a whole string of cities that are charming and have character, of which a great number are labelled «Ville d’art et d’histoire» [“Artistic and historical town”], offering themselves to visitors half-modern, half-historical.
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Leisure time Nature as a playground
Mende The pious city at the heart of the Lozère Mende seems to huddle under the grey mantle of its schist roofs topped by the two impressive asymmetrical bell towers of Notre Dame cathedral and Saint-Privat. An episcopal city, considered in the 16th century as one of the richest dioceses in Languedoc, it was in the 5th century B.C. that the town developed benefitting from the spin-offs of numerous pilgrimages to the grotto of Mont Mimat, the place where Saint-Privat, bishop of the Gabales (or those who lived in the Gévaudan) was martyred. The Tower of the Penitents, the old Carmelite convent and of course the cathedral,
bear the mark of this story. It was built at the behest of Pope Urban V, a native of the Gévaudan, whose bronze statue still stands in the square in front of the church. The cathedral, destroyed in 1581, was rebuilt in the 17th century. The climb up the 430 steps of one of the bell towers offers a superb view over the town Office de Tourisme de Mende. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 65 60 00 ot-mende.fr
Following a trail through the town Mende counts a great number of fountains in its centre and many statues of the Virgin which nestle in tiny oratories. Like a paper trail tracking them down allows you to discover the town by ploughing through the streets lined, here and there, by superb half-timbered houses with wooden sides. There’s a Virgin carved in wood in 18 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
the rue Basse; a niche of a semi-circular shape hollowed into the wall of a house sheltering a Black Virgin, topped by a fountain running into a stone basin in the rue Notre-Dame ; a Pieta in multi-coloured stone in the street of Aiguës Passes… Madonnas still venerated at great religious feasts. The public fountains are
fed by the waters of several springs channelled into a subterranean network which can be seen in the basins of the old wash-house of La Calquière.
Children are the privileged interlocutors of this park which offers a strange journey through a region of water and sounds and which sets you off on a walk among the trees. More than a park to relax in, the Vallon du Villaret, half an hour from Mende, is a big modern garden with installations created by artists issuing an invitation to an intelligent, ludic and marvellous encounter with nature. Exhibitions (Ben, Claude Viallat, Pierrick Sorin, Alain Clément, Soulages, Tapies…) in a 16th century tower and concerts come to punctuate the season. Vallon du Villaret. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 47 63 76 levillaret.fr
Panoramic view over the town
The Causse of Mende affords a superb panoramic view over the town to the Cross of Mont-Mimat, situated in close proximity to the grotto and the chapel of Saint-Privat. In July and August several rendezvous at 6 o’clock in the morning invite you to be present when the sun rises over the town, with music and accompanied by a sweet and savoury breakfast based on local products.
Office de Tourisme de Mende. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 94 00 23 ot-mende.fr
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Harmony and transparency
Nîmes The centuries old dialogue of the “French Rome” Its ancient monuments have made a reputation for it. The amphitheatre naturally, one of the best preserved of the Roman world. Then there are the Maison Carrée, a temple that dominated the ancient city, the Gate of Augustus, the Temple of Diana, the Tour Magne [Great Tower]. But far from resting on its laurels, Nîmes – which is waiting to be listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO – has set up a dialogue with the centuries. Norman Foster’s Carré d’Art faces the Maison Carrée. The Jean Jaurès alleys have been revisited by Jean-Michel Wilmotte who is also renovating the Halles (food market) with François Fontès. Jean Nouvel has put his name to the
Némausus, futuristic social housing. Next to great architects, designers and renowned artists: Philippe Stark has made a monument of a bus shelter and is redesigning the town’s coat of arms, a crocodile attached to a palm tree. Martial Raysse for his part is restructuring the place of Assas a stone’s throw from the Carré d’Art and is imagining with Silvio and Vito Tongiani the fountain in the market square. The future museum of the Roman era has been entrusted to Elisabeth and Christian de Portzamparc. History goes forward. Office de Tourisme de Nîmes. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 58 38 00 - ot-nimes.fr
A garden historical and refreshing The Jardins de la Fontaine offer a refreshing pause in a beautifully landscaped environment, punctuated with vases and statues. A spring which was for a long time a mystery, dedicated to the god Némausus, was there at the start of their construction in the 18th century on the ancient sanctuary that gave birth to the town
of Nîmes, bringing together the Tour Magne and the Temple of Diana. Water is omnipresent, flowing into canals and basins, hiding under white water lilies, falling down in a curtain over a grotto. Here and there benches invite you to be contemplative in the garden rockery bordering the basins while stairs going from terrace to
terrace, climb towards the Great Tower, a vestige of the ancient Augustan enclosure. In August the Féérie des Eaux choreographs in water and light this “remarkable garden” labelled as such by the Ministry of Culture. Jardins de la Fontaine. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 58 38 00.
Signed by the architect Norman Foster, the Carré d’Art faces the Maison Carrée which is reflected in its glass façade. Totally transparent the great hall serves with glass-walled lifts and stairways at different levels the two upper floors sheltering the Museum of Modern Art. In partnership with the Centre Pompidou and the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, the museum will offer this summer an exhibition by Ugo Rondino. On the top floor, under the glass roof of the atrium, the terrace of the restaurant offers a view over the red tiled roofs of the old Roman city. Carré d’Art. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 76 35 70 carreartmusee.com
Leather boots from the Camargue
Roman and modern Nîmes also bathes in taurine tradition. Provençal shirts and boots from the Camargue are required dress during ferias. In the little village of Villetelle, « La Botte Gardiane » labelled Living Heritage Enterprise, specializes in the making of herdsmen’s boots. Made by hand these classic Camargue boots, in calf leather, are sometimes embellished with embroidery and inlays.
La Botte Gardiane. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 66 29 58 labottegardiane.com
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Montpellier Languedoc radiant Endowed with a recent history – hardly a thousand years – Montpellier has been able to make up for it with an extraordinary dynamism. The town retains a timeless charm thanks to the medieval appearance of its streets and numerous private dwellings. The squares, animated like the place de la Comédie or more intimate like the place Sainte-Anne or that of Canourgue, are one of the treasures of the town, which also contains the warrior cathedral of Saint-Pierre bracketed next to t he Faculty of Medicine and the neoGothic Saint-Roch, an epicentre of the wine bar and restaurant quarter. A town of the South enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year where it does you good to walk around. Office de Tourisme de Montpellier. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 60 60 60 montpellier-tourisme.fr
Coast A metropolis in reach of the sea Up until the end of the 1960s Montpellier was joined to the sea by the little train from Palavas, a seaside resort situated about ten kilometres from the town. For some years now public transport has allowed once again to get close to the coast by tram (Line 3) as far as Pérols, then by shuttle bus. To go to Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone towards the Pilou beach a Tam ticket combining bus and bicycle allows you to finish your journey by Californian bike made available specially in summer. The most sporty can also get to the sea from Montpellier by following the banks of the Lez in less than an hour. Ideal for going to have a little bathe in an environment kept between sea and lagoon, for practising nautical activities by going to one of the sailing harbours on the coast or tasting the fish food specialities of numerous private beaches set up for the season by the side of the sea. These last years the coastline has been the object of important developments on the Grand and the Petit Travers. Office de Tourisme de La Grande-Motte. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 56 42 00 – lagrandemotte.com
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A garden to explore
The Jardin des Plantes of Montpellier, situated near the Jardin du Peyrou, is a jewel of 4.5 hectares in the heart of the town. Created in 1593 under Henri IV it is the oldest botanical garden in France. It still remains the property of the University which had at its disposal in this way medicinal herbs. The location consists of an orangery, created at the beginning of the 19th century, of tropical hothouses, of a vegetable garden, of an English-style garden. Whatever the path, one can admire among the ponds that adorn this location the oldest ginkgo biloba in France, holm oaks of 400 years old, a bamboo grove.
Jardin des Plantes. Tel. 33 (0)4 34 43 36 20 umontpellier.fr
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Grandiose The paradise of architects In three decades architecture in Montpellier has been completely revolutionized making of this town in Languedoc a veritable urban laboratory. To stretch it out towards the sea these are the greatest international architects that have been invited to Montpellier: Ricardo Bofill first of all, the creator of the Antigone quarter in the 1980s,
but also Paul Chemetoff (the Zola Médiathèque), Christian de Portzamparc (the La Lironde quarter), Zaha Hadid (Pierrevives), Claude Vasconi (Corum), Jean Nouvel (Town Hall), Philippe Starck (Le Nuage), Massimiliano Fuksas (Lycée Frêche), Rudy Riccioti (Pont de la République). For urban furniture and also design
great names have been summoned like Daniel Buren on the square outside the Fabre museum, Garouste and Bonetti then Christian Lacroix to decorate the tramlines. Today it’s the programme of the “Follies of the 21st century” including L’Arbre blanc [The White Tree] which continue the momentum.
Majestic The Pic Saint-Loup, Languedoc’s sentry
Situated 20 kilometres north of Montpellier the pic Saint-Loup, 658 metres high, is, with its slender point, visible from a large part of Hérault and Gard. Among the most beautiful natural sites in the region, at the start of a wine-growing area of high quality, the peak may be climbed starting from Cazevieille in two hours and thirty minutes. From its summit on which are found the ruins of the castle of Montferrand, a splendid panoramic view offers itself over the Hortus, the sea, the salt marshes of Aigues Mortes, La Grande Motte, the Cévennes and in clear weather the Canigou and even Mount Ventoux. Office de Tourisme du grand Pic Saint-Loup. Tel. 33 (0)4 11 95 05 75 tourisme-picsaintloup.fr
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The creator of Marianne
Béziers Attacking the Gothic cathedral With its towers, its fortified buttresses, its machicolations and its loopholes, the Gothic cathedral of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Celse has the appearance of a fortress. Built between the 13th and the 15th centuries and dominating the plain of the Orb, it bore witness to the “Sack of Béziers” during the Albigensian crusade. The abundance of the elements of interior decoration, friezes, frescoes and sculptures adorning the various side chapels reflect the imposing aspect of its façade. Below the cloister the gardens
of the bishopric afford a vast panoramic view of the valley of the Orb, over the bridges (Pont-Vieux, Pont-Canal), over the locks of Fonserane, the winegrowing villages and the first hills of the massif of the Caroux and the Espinouse. In the west the medieval quarter of Béziers has kept some fine buildings in the maze of its alleyways. Office de Tourisme de Béziers. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 76 84 00 beziers-tourisme.fr
A native of Béziers, the sculptor JeanAntoine Injalbert, first prize of Rome in 1874, a member of the Academy of Fine Arts (1905) was the man who sculpted the bust of Marianne, realised in 1889 for the centenary of the French Revolution, copies of which took pride of place till the start of the 20th century in French town halls and schools. The monumental fountain of the Titan, the busts of poets and other sculptures on the Plateau of the Poets, the Antonine Villa, the sculptor’s summer residence, his tomb in the Old Cemetery and the collection of his works received as a donation to the musée des Beaux-Arts render his presence noticeable in Béziers, but also in Montpellier where he created statues of lions at the entrance to Le Peyrou and those of the Opera House as well as in Paris where the Pont Mirabeau owes its allegories to him. Musée des Beaux-Arts. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 28 38 78 ville-beziers.fr
The Valley of the Orb
Curiosities in Béziers The allées Paul Riquet (where the statue of the creator of the Canal du Midi sits enthroned), right in the centre of Béziers, are bordered by sumptuous private dwellings constructed in the 19th century for the rich vineyard owners of the period. To the splendour of the architecture various ornaments are added, 22 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
wrought iron balconies, mascarons representing grotesque faces, fantastic animals. There are few vestiges of the Roman arenas. Those that mark the town’s passion for bullfighting were completed in 1901. Their architecture, calqued on that of Spanish bullrings, benefits from an unbelievably good
acoustic quality. Through the impetus of a wealthy landowner, anxious to make opera accessible to all, they welcomed up till 1911 the greatest singers of the Opéra de Paris and the Scala in Milan. Arènes de Béziers. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 76 13 45 arenes-de-beziers.com
Below the massif du Caroux, along the valley of the Orb, superb villages stand out against a background of holm oaks, vines and olive trees. Vieussan, Ceps, Roquebrun figure among the loveliest villages in the area where mimosas and orange trees flourish. From Colombières passing through the most steepsided bit, from Vieussan to Roquebrun, the refreshing waters of the Orb are a delight for kayakers.
Office de Tourisme du Caroux en Haut-Languedoc. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 23 02 21 ot-caroux.fr
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Narbonne, my love
Narbonne In the palace markets If Narbonne was the “first daughter of Rome” (it was the oldest Roman colony in Gaul after Aix-en-Provence), it was also a medieval capital. The Palace of the Archbishops, the New Palace in the Gothic style and the Old Palace in the Romanesque style, constitute the second most important archiepiscopal collection of monuments in France after Avignon. From the Gilles Aycelin castle keep, an element in the wall enclosing the town and one of the three towers of the palace, a spiral staircase of 162 steps leads to the terrace from where the panoramic view stretches out over
the town and its surrounding area. Impressive because of the dimensions of its choir and notable for its architectural purity the cathedral of Saint-Just, an exceptional medieval monument, backs on to the Palace of the Archbishops. Its construction begun in 1772 was never finished. The Chapter room houses the cathedral’s treasure, considered as one of the richest in France, while strange gargoyles decorate the arches of its cloister. Palais des Archevêques. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 90 30 30 – mairie-narbonne.fr
Narbonne for those who live there With its quays lined by trees, its “walkways” right next to the canal de la Robine, the promenade des Barques at the heart of the town, open to the cours Mirabeau and the central food market, is the favourite place for a stroll for the Narbonnese. The footbridge that joins Bourg with its beautiful medieval residences to
the rest of the town, affords a view of the one arch still visible of the amazing pont des Marchands (photo), which can stand as a witness to ancient history. From the bank boats invite you to another way to explore Narbonne. The other heart of the town, the central food market, constructed in the 1900s with its Baltard pavilion, a metal
structure with pillars and stone gates, still houses an important marketplace. More than 80 businesses offer each morning the products of the region that can also be sampled in one of the numerous restaurants installed at the heart of the market. Office de Tourisme de Narbonne. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 65 15 60 narbonne-tourisme.com
Charles Trenet loved his town and sang of it. Narbonne cultivates the memory of its ‘singing fool’ and offers a tour leading to the house with the green shutters where he was born on 18 May 1913. The giant fresco representing him on a wall in the town, the Gothic church of Saint-Paul, where he was baptised, the Catholic Institute of Beauséjour, his primary school, the food market where he went with his grandmother, the place des Quatre Fontaines [the square of the Four Fountains] he frequented when a young man, the cemetery where he was laid to rest are all as many places to stop and hum his songs dreamily… Maison de Charles Trenet. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 58 19 13 narbonne.fr
Narbo Martius was an important Roman port. Narbonne has kept only one visible monument from its ancient past: the Horreum, subterranean galleries built in the 1st century B.C. In this labyrinthine network of corridors branching off from a series of narrow rooms, a scenic trail, five metres below ground, evokes daily life, craftsmanship and the exchanges that went on in what was doubtless the warehouse for a market.
Tel. 33 (0)4 68 90 30 65.
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Memorial Rivesaltes faces up to its past
Perpignan From the Lodge of the Sea to the Ladies of France Unlike Narbonne Perpignan was not built on Roman remains. It’s a commercial town whose architecture translates this maritime and merchant power from the Middle Ages onwards. A fine spa town with the river Basse going through it, a tributary of the Têt, Catalan Perpignan prefigures the atmosphere, the colours and above all the light of Catalonia in Spain. In the enclosure of its historic heart, formerly ringed by ramparts, the town mixes thirty of its historic jewels (le Castillet, la Loge de Mer, the cathedral of Saint-Jean,
the Palace of the Kings of Mallorca…) with life in its eclectic and colourful quarters where it is good to saunter. Long promenades and airy esplanades offer fine perspectives down to venerable buildings, witnesses to the industrial wealth of Perpignan at the beginning of the 20th century like les Dames de France, place de Catalogne, or the Castillet cinema, today the oldest in France. Office de tourisme de Perpignan. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 66 30 30 perpignantourisme.com
A town with strong symbols Having emerged from a tormented history between the kingdoms of France, Aragon and Mallorca, Perpignan is rich in an exceptional heritage, whether it be architectural or intangible. Rarely have a town and department accumulated as many strong symbols and means of identification. From rugby – with the USAP but also 24 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
the Dragons – to the procession of the Sanch during Holy Week by way of Sant Jordi, the fires of Saint-Jean, the Sardana (sardane) or the pessebres dances of Christmas cribs, there is no shortage of occasions to affirm its belonging to a Catalan culture thriving on the French side of the frontier. Adherence to the “Catalan
flag” as the coat of arms of the town, which consists of the arms of the House of the Counts of Barcelona and Kings of Aragon and the effigy of Saint-John the Baptist, patron saint of Perpignan.
Inaugurated in October 2015, the Memorial of Rivesaltes on what was to begin with a camp to accommodate refugees during the Spanish Civil War is destined to become an iconic place for remembering. Ex-interns, the children of refugees, of immigrants or of prisoners (Spaniards, gypsies, Algerian harkis…) come here from all over France to match their own personal story with this edifice. The modern lines of the building, designed by the architect Rudy Ruciotti, are a deliberate contrast with the ruins of the camp. As for the inner layout, it presents the chronology of the camp’s history and on the screens of the exhibition room films and audio tablets allow you to listen to the witness statements of former detainees. Mémorial du camp de Rivesaltes. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 08 34 90 memorialcamprivesltes.eu
The Feast of Sant Joan
On 24 June the whole of Catalonia celebrates the feast of Saint-John the Baptist. In Perpignan bonfires are lit to greet the summer solstice. The flame, preserved all year in Castillet, is brought up on the eve to the summit of the Canigou where kindling burns in a huge fire visible from all over the plain into which it is traditional to throw papers containing wishes. This flame is then distributed through the villages. On the evening of 24 June it arrives at Castillet in Perpignan where it will be kept as something precious till the following year.
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The elegance of the viaduct of Millau
Rodez History for all to read Founded 2,000 years ago by the Gaulois tribe, the Rutenae, the prefecture of Aveyron is a history in miniature. Perched on a peak, the old capital of the Rouergue was fashioned by two authority figures (the nobility and the clergy) whose communities lived side by side independently for centuries. Directed by the Bishop the city developed around the old episcopal palace and the imposing cathedral of Notre Dame, erected between the 13th and the 16th century and whose bell tower in lacy pink sandstone culminates at a height of 87 metres. Numerous medieval buildings (maisons de Benoit, maison
Guitard, maison canoniale) can still be admired in this quarter. The market town of the former county has, for its part, kept beautiful private dwellings and bourgeois residences from the 16th century with Renaissance decoration like the house of Armagnac and that of the Annunciation that bear witness to the affluence of the merchants who made their fortune at the region’s fairs. Office de Tourisme du Grand Rodez. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 75 76 77 tourisme.grand-rodez.com
The amazing statues-cum-menhirs of the musée Fenaille They were planted in the open, sometimes under little shelters, carved for the most part in the region’s sandstone. More than 130 life-size statuescum-menhirs have in this way been found in the Rouergue, in Aveyron and in Tarn. Each time the head is shown, as well as the
hands, the legs and the feet. But not the mouth or the ears. More than 5,000 years old these first human carvings in Western Europe, both female and male, remain a mystery. The Musée Fenaille in Rodez has seventeen majestic examples of them. It also contains
thousands of pieces covering the history of the region from the settlement of the first inhabitants in the Palaeolithic period right down to the 16th century. Musée Fenaille. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 73 80 30 museefenaille.rodezagglo.fr
Since 2004 the viaduct of Millau conceived by Michel Virlogeux and designed by the architect Norman Foster is both a work of art and a technological challenge. Fascinating in the purity of its lines which elegantly inscribe it into the landscape this shrouded bridge built in 3 years has collected world records – the highest pillar at 245 metres, the longest metal apron at 30,000 tons in weight, etc. – and attracts more than a million people a year to the viewing platform of the viaduct. The carrying-out of the work allowed them to make of the Méridienne (A75) the shortest route from Paris to the Mediterranean. millau-viaduc-tourisme.fr
The Bras brothers, viscerally from Aveyron
Elected in 2016 ‘Best chef in the world’ by the magazine Top Chef, Michel Bras represents the quintessence of a regional cuisine in harmony with nature. If the three-star creator of the famous ‘Gargouillou de légumes’ in Laguiole has handed over to his son Sébastien, the family have been developing culinary concepts for some years now to “whet the Aveyron’s appetite”. Notably with the Café Bras in Rodez, a bistro at the very heart of the musée Soulages.
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Toulouse The town where you see life in pink Pale pink in the morning, purple red at night… Toulouse, capital of the region Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées, is built with Roman bricks of baked earth, that local material that imparts to the fronts of buildings shimmering colours and has given the city its name of “Ville Rose”. To walk through it is to go back to the time of the Capitouls, charged with its administration and its system of justice. It is to walk in the footsteps of the wealthy merchants of pastel by discovering the 70 odd private dwellings they had built during the Renaissance. It is to hear the accents of Occitania by walking on its gigantic cross on the place du Capitole. And it is to hum the tune that its most famous child, the singer Claude Nougaro, dedicated to it with “Ô Toulouse!” Office de Tourisme de Toulouse. Tel. 33 (0) 892 180 180 toulouse-tourisme.com
From the blue of pastel to the violet
Spirituality From the Romanesque art of Saint-Sernin to the Gothic Jacobins In its protected area of 220 hectares Toulouse benefits from an important religious heritage. The basilica of Saint-Sernin, built between the 11th and the 13th century in honour of the first bishop of Toulouse, is the tallest Romanesque edifice in Europe. The basilica is remarkable for its octagonal bell tower in brick and stone constructed in stages with an openwork design of double bays with small columns, a typically architectural practice from Toulouse. It is also the church that possesses the most relics in France, which made of it a principal place of pilgrimage. The church of the Jacobins, erected from the 13th century onwards is in its way a masterpiece of Southern Gothic art. The 22-metre piles lend a tremendous lightness to the building while a column bigger than the others receives all the ribs of the vault onto a coloured stone lining, giving the effect of a palm tree to the whole. Recently the monastery has been offering an interpretative trail with multi-media halts presenting the history and the architecture of the place. 26 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
The development of the cultivation of the violet in the 19th century has made it an emblem of Toulouse. The pretty flower has given birth to a whole gamut of products (perfumes, beauty products, confectionery, delicacies) and articles that bear its image (textiles and porcelain). On the Canal du Midi, boulevard Bonrepos, a House of the Violet has even taken its place in a barge where an exhibition showcases its history and its cultivation locally. Another plant, the isatis tinctoria, famous for having made the fortune of the golden triangle between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne spreads its good deeds today in the world of wellness and cosmetics by offering health care, unique in France, with a pastel base.
Maison de la violette. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 80 75 02. grainedepastel.com terredepastel.com
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Aérospatiale Space as a playground Toulouse became an aviation pioneer with the creation of the Aérospatiale in 1927. The installation of the Airbus group in Blagnac in 1970 confirmed its place in this sector. The metropolis lives henceforth at the speed of this international company, a key actor and driving force in the local and regional economy. In order to dive into this fascinating world
Let’s visit Airbus offers tours allowing you to discover what goes on behind the scenes in these factories, especially the assembly line for the famous A380. Next door the recently opened Aeroscopia museum contains an impressive collection of scale models and real planes including the legendary Concorde. In order to go further by climbing onto
the launch pad of the Ariane rocket or on board the space station Mir, meet up at Space City. Let's visit Airbus and musée Aeroscopia (Blagnac). Tel. 33 (0)5 34 39 42 00 manatour.fr Cité de l'Espace (Toulouse). Tel. 33 (0)5 67 22 23 24 cite-espace.com
Garonne A vein throbbing with life
Seen from the sky Toulouse looks like a heart: two lobes separated by the Garonne. In the 18th century its banks were developed. On the right bank the quays SaintPierre, Lucien Lombard, de la Daurade and de Tounis offer a superb pedestrianized area. You can explore the heritage that borders the river: the dyke of the Bazacle, the pont Neuf, the hospital de la Grave, the water park. New steps facilitate access to the banks from the place Saint-Pierre and from now on you can do boat trips. In summer the quays are the backdrop for animations and festivals. toulouse-tourisme.fr
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Colourful and gourmet
Albi welcomes the visitor into a gentle almost Italian way of life. It owes its peculiar light, which inundates its squares and its alleyways and varies according to the time of day, to the colour of the terracotta bricks and tiles fashioned through the centuries by tile and brick makers from the clay of the banks of the Tarn. The Palais de la Berbie which houses the musée Toulouse-Lautrec, the cathedral of Sainte-Cécile, the half-timbered houses, the Renaissance dwellings which are hidden in the interlacing of its alleyways, all show off the chromatic nuances of the omnipresent brick and aggrandize the architectural harmony of the episcopal city registered in the annals of Unesco’s World Heritage sites for Humanity. Office de Tourisme d’Albi. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 49 48 80 albi-tourisme.fr
Blue gold An affluence due
to the production of pastel A plant with yellow flowers is the basis for the town of Albi’s prosperity. The cultivation of the isatis tinctoria, a plant used in dyeing that produces a fade-resistant blue pigment, developed there. Albi, the capital named a land of plenty, referring to “cockles” – leaves worked into balls – became at the end of the 15th century one of the biggest centres of production and exportation of pastel. Fine private dwellings of the early Renaissance like the maison Enjalbert, the hôtel Reynès, the hôtel du Castelnau with its drying loft or the hôtel de Saunal bear witness to the prosperity due to “blue gold” and to the wealth of its merchants. The shop of the Pastel craftsman allows you to discover the various shades of blue coming from pastel via a gamut of water colours, inks, pigments and pastel colours. artisanpastellier.com
On foot or by supply boat
The Green Escape offers walkers a tour of 3 kilometres along the Tarn and the Caussels. The path along the bank leads to the landing stage for supply boats which, at water level, offer other points of view over the resplendent city. The old towpath on the banks of the Tarn reveals the size of the fortifications of the Palais de la Berbie which houses the musée Toulouse-Lautrec, while its terraced gardens invite you to take peaceful strolls that offer an unimpeded prospect of the Tarn.
Embarcadère. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 43 59 63 albi-croisieres.com
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Gaillac Between vineyard and bastides Gaillac is the main village in the AOC Gaillac vineyard which stretches out either side of the banks of the Tarn downstream from Albi. Its numerous monuments relate a history of several centuries, the abbey-church of Saint-Michel, between Romanesque and Gothic; the church of Saint-Pierre with its sumptuous colonnaded portal ; the place du
Griffoul with its fountain, resting on vaulted arches ; the numerous private dwellings or even the Palmata Tower, the residence of the Gaillac family; the quarter of the Hortalisse and its market gardens which used to feed the neighbouring markets till half way through the 20th century. A walk along the Tarn as far as the bridge
of the pretty bastide of Lisle-sur-Tarn offers a view of the château SaintGéry which has bordered the river since the 13th century and carries on to Rabastens whose church, on the road to Compostela, is registered as part of Unesco’s World Heritage. Office de Tourisme de Gaillac. Tel. 33 (0)805 400 828 ville-gaillac.fr
Episcopal city An urban complex unique in its potency and harmony
From the pont Vieux the view of the city reflected in the waters of the Tarn is magnificent. The cathedral of Sainte Cécile and the Palais de la Berbie provoke a faceto-face with the history of a poignant beauty. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site the episcopal city of Albi, dominated by these two fortresses spreads over four medieval districts including the town of Saint-Salvy and its collegiate church. This rich historical past goes hand in hand with a gentle life style distilled by its streets and its animated alleyways. cite-episcopale-albi.fr
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Peaceful Moissac, where roads cross
Cahors 2,000 years of history in a loop of the Lot First of all a Gallo-Roman city the capital of Quercy developed during the Middle Ages, particularly during the Hundred Years’ War when the famous pont Valentré – a fortified bridge unique in Europe –, the Tower of the Hanged Men and the north wall were built. Situated in a meander of the Lot Cahors is a peaceful town in which the quarter of Badernes plunges us back into the medieval period with its narrow alleyways, houses with fine vaults, corbelled façades or even doors decorated with sculptures from the 15th and 16th centuries. The cathedral, an imposing building from the 12th to the 14th
century, apart from its cloister in flamboyant Gothic style, has the distinction of having been designed with two Romanesque cupolas, unique in France. It is at the foot of this building that, every Wednesday and Saturday, the open-air market is held, very colourful and renowned for the quality of its products, reflecting the image of this region of the good life. We can also savour the charm and the inventiveness of the Secret gardens which make the town blossom by telling its story. Office de Tourisme du Grand Cahors. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 53 20 65 - tourisme-cahors.fr
A dive into the vineyard of the valley of the Lot From ancient times onwards Cahors and the valley of the Lot were wine-growing land. Benefitting thanks to the English who were mad about “black wine” of great notoriety, the wine of Cahors adorned all the tables of the great of Europe from the 14th to the 18th century. Unique in type with its 30 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
Malbec vine, the vineyard of Cahors extends to the valley of the Lot from Mercuès to Puy-l’Évêque. A trail punctuated by charming wineproducing towns like Douelle, Albas, Prayssac. Luzech and Puy-l’Évêque, both built overhanging the Lot, offer superb views of the river and the valley. Under the impetus of the Union
Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors, wine tourism is developing over the 60 kilometres of the valley, which may be explored from a different angle by navigating on board supply boats, pleasure boats or house boat available at the location. tourisme-cahors.fr
At the confluence of great terrestrial and fluvial roads, between the Tarn and the Garonne, on the way to Compostela and the road to Cluny, Moissac is renowned for its grape – the chasselas, its mills on the Tarn and above all for its abbey-church. The abbey Saint-Pierre de Moissac harbours a magnificent cloister finished in 1100, adorned with 76 marble capitals remarkable for the lightness of its arcades and its columns representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments as well as the lives of the Martyrs. The portal of the abbey church too is remarkable for its representation of the Apocalypse, which makes of it one of the masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture. Office de Tourisme de Moissac. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 04 01 85 tourisme.moissac.fr
Montauban, the town of Ingres
Welcoming, warm, with its architecture of pink brick, Montauban spreads out on the banks of the Tarn. City of Art and History, the hometown of the painter Ingres, of the sculptor Bourdelle and of Olympe de Gouges, it is considered as the oldest medieval new town in the southwest of France. A century before the golden age of the bastides the town was built on a chequerboard pattern around the place Nationale. Surrounded by double arcades this splendid square with an Italian accent remains the beating heart of the town.
Office de Tourisme de Montauban. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 63 60 60 montauban-tourisme.com
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Panorama The Pic du Jer by funicular railway
Lourdes A town that belongs to the world A place of fraternity and spirituality Lourdes receives each year millions of visitors from all over the world. Known for its sanctuary and the miraculous grotto of Massabielle – situated in a loop of the Gave de Pau –, Lourdes is a principal place of pilgrimage since 1873. Three basilicas are situated in the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Lourdes, each displaying a different style: Romano-Byzantine for the basilica of the Rosary with superb mosaics, neo-Gothic for the basilica of the Immaculate Conception, notable in which are the stained glass windows retracing Mary’s history
and under which is found the grotto where a Virgin in Carrara marble marks the location of the appearances. The underground basilica of Pius X, a huge building – in reinforced concrete, in the form of the hull of an upturned boat, is situated under the waterline of the Gave. The Lourdes museum reconstitutes the town in 1858 with the old professions of former times, small businesses, the costumes of the period. Office de tourisme. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 42 77 40 lourdes-infotourisme.com
Life inside a fortress Perched on a rocky peak the fort, an example of medieval defensive architecture, was to watch over the seven valleys of the Lavedan. Rebuilt over the centuries, consolidated by Vauban in 1685, the fortress has retained a massive keep, at the foot of which a pleasant botanical garden stretches out. The Musée Pyrénéen
devoted to popular arts and traditions has invested its walls. Costumes, musical instruments, furniture, Samadet earthenware from the 18th century form parts of its collections enriched by scale models illustrating Pyrenean architecture. The castle’s chapel houses statues in multi-coloured wood,
an altar, woodwork coming from the old parish church in the town. From the walkways outside the view embraces the chain of the High Pyrenees and the valley of the Gave de Pau. Château de Lourdes. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 42 37 37 lourdes-visite.com
The hundred-year-old funicular railway which leads to the Pic du Jer 1,000 metres high, goes through two tunnels carved out of the limestone and a viaduct with twelve arches. A “fun” climb that takes a few minutes in order to discover, from the viewpoint indicator, a panoramic view over the town of Lourdes, the plain of Pau, Tarbes, the valley of the Gaves, Argelès-Gazost and the chain of the Pyrenees, the Pic du Midi… The descent can be executed on foot along paths bordered by spruces, pines and boxwood or by mountain bike along two trails, one classed as blue, the other black, a competition trail reserved for experienced amateurs. Pic du Jer. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 94 00 41 picdujer.fr
On foot, by bike, on roller skates towards the valleys of the Gaves
Laid out on an old railway line on the side of a mountain the green way of the Gaves follows a sideways itinerary in order to discover the valleys of the Gaves over a trail of eighteen kilometres, the first part of which, from Lourdes to Pierrefitte-Nestalas, is labelled ‘Tourism and handicap’. Steeper and with a big difference in height « Le Chemin des Voyageurs » [“The Travellers’ Way”] takes it as far as Cauterets through the gorges going through a tunnel and over the footbridge of Meyabat.
Vallée des Gaves. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 42 64 98 valleesdesgaves.com
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Panache A staircase for d’Artagnan
Auch Capital of Gascony Built on an old Roman fortification the cathedral of Sainte Marie, the Tower of Armagnac (a former prison) and the old Archiepiscopal Palace overhanging the Gers give to Auch its outline proudly displaying the status of capital of Gascony. Registered as a Unesco World Heritage site as a major stop on the ways that lead to Santiago de Compostela the cathedral houses three treasures: the choir and its hundred and sixteen stalls sculpted in oak, the great 17th century organ and the twenty-eight windows of Arnaud de Molles, a masterpiece
of the art of stained glass. The place de la Libération is at the crossroads of the upper town’s activity in which are concentrated shops, café terraces and restaurants inviting you to lay yourself open to the gastronomical pleasures of Gers. A trail “In the footsteps of Etigny” goes in search of the Intendant who embellished the town under the Second Empire. Office de Tourisme d’Auch. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 05 22 89 auch-tourisme.com
Art in Auch Installed in the old Jacobin monastery the Musée des Jacobins possesses a remarkable collection of preColumbian art – the second in France after the musée du Quai Branly in Paris – bringing together more than 10,000 objects, stone masks from Teotihuacán, Chupícuaro large statuettes in red or black, Lambayeque goblets or 32 I TOWNS I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
“keros”… Lyrical art, baroque music, variety shows in the June festival “Loud Voices” joyfully mixes genres for as long as the festival lasts. In July and August the “Summer Nights” offer a show each week or a concert in a heritage venue. In October CIRCA, the international Festival of present day Circus offers a shop window onto contemporary
creativity by revealing the most inventive and representative spectacles of the circus of today. Musée des Jacobins. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 05 74 79 musee-jacobins.auch.fr Eclats de voix. Tel. 33 (0) 5 62 61 65 00 eclatsdevoix.com CIRCA. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 61 65 00 festival-circa.auch.fr
D’Artagnan, the valiant captain of the Musketeers – made popular by the novel of Alexandre Dumas but who really existed – was born at the beginning of the 17th century in the castle of Castelmore thirty kilometres from Auch. The statue of this iconic character from Gascony poses, hand on hip, on one of the landings of the monumental staircase which joins in 350 steps the “upper” and “lower” parts of the town. Nearby the Pousterles, medieval stepped alleyways, go down the slope. They used to allow the upper town’s inhabitants to go down to the Gers to take in provisions of water.
A tour in Lectoure
Girded with ramparts on a rocky spur the medieval fief of the Counts of Armagnac has lost nothing of its proud appearance. Between the cathedral of Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais and the remnants of the castle the town stretches out showing its riches: the fountain of Diana from the 13th century, old private residences, gardens and numerous religious sites… The archaeological museum presents a unique collection of altars whereon bulls were sacrificed.
Office de Tourisme. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 68 76 98 tourisme-lectoure.fr
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NATURE From the Pic du Midi to Mont Aigoual, from the cirque de Gavarnie to the reserve of Banyuls protected wide open spaces are the common denominator of the region, jealous of its treasures.
From the Pyrenees to the Cévennes, nature XXL Causses and Cévennes, landscapes of character The great Pyrenean lakes From the Pic du Midi to the Canigou Gavarnie and the great cirques of the Pyrenees
A fine combination of sky and land, of sea and mountain. The Pyrenees, Grands Causses, Haut-Languedoc, Causses du Quercy, Ariège Pyrenees, Catalan Pyrenees, Narbonnaise, Cévennes, Margeride, Aubrac, Gévaudan… over the vast territories of nature parks and over the great regional sites like the Canigou or the cirque de Gavarnie everything is a reason to be amazed at the genius of nature and to be moved. We are summoned before the dazzling beauty of the elements facing the treasures of history. The unexpected is everywhere through landscapes with atmospheres and odours of a thousandfold subtleties to which there is more than one emotional response so numerous are the sources of delight in these great spaces to be explored.
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Regional and national
From the Pyrenees to the Cévennes, nature XXL
The region harbours numerous zones remarkable for their natural, cultural and human wealth. So as to value them and preserve them several of them have been classified. So it is that we can itemize over the thirteen departments of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées 2 national parks, 6 regional nature parks and 1 marine nature park. The Parc National des Pyrénées protects on the frontier crest with Spain territories of an altitude culminating at 3,298 metres above sea level. The Parc National des Cévennes between Gard and Lozère, also classified as a biosphere reserve, harbours a contrastive mosaic of landscapes and natural environments. The Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées ariégeoises is rich in a string of magnificent lakes and a historic and prestigious
prehistoric heritage. The Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy combines verdant valleys, limestone plateaux and cliffs. The Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes is a haven for old glaciated valleys and warm water natural springs. The Parc Naturel Régional de la Narbonnaise harbours altogether marshes, lagoons, scrubland and exceptional vineyards. The mountains and their moors of heather, the dark forests of the Black Mountain are the prerogative of the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut Languedoc. The Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses is the setting that contains the gorges of the Jonte, of the canyon of La Dourbie and the narrow steepsided passes of the Tarn. Adventure is everywhere and even under the water with the Parc Naturel Marin du Golfe du Lion.
Parc naturel marin du Golfe du Lion Off the coast of the Pyrénées-Orientales and the Aude the Parc naturel marin du Golfe du Lion is the third biggest French marine nature park. It follows the coast from Leucate to Cerbères and includes in its perimeter the marine nature reserve of Cerbères-Banyuls, an underwater paradise possessed of remarkable biodiversity. With a total area of 650 hectares of sea, from the port exit of Banyuls-sur-Mer to Cap Peyrefite close to Cerbère, the reserve contains more than 12,000 animal species and 500 vegetable species. Diving is regulated but the underwater path as well as the diving centres that subscribe to the reserve’s charter grant access to marine depths, coral formations, herbaria of posodonia crossed by groupers, skates, moray eels, while a few big dolphins sometimes venture into the open sea. Parc naturel marin du Golfe du Lion. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 68 40 20 parc-marin-golfe-lion.fr
100% Nature in Haut-Languedoc
Situated in the south of the Massif Central between Tarn and Hérault, the Parc Régional du Haut-Languedoc presents a great diversity of landscapes. Between Castres, Revel, Saint-Chinian and Lodève are the mountains of Lacaune, the Black Mountain, the massif du Caroux, the gorges of Héric, the Sidobre and the Minervois which notably make up this semimountainous region. This makes of the park an adventure playground ideal for activities at the heart of nature, from mountain biking to climbing not to mention fishing and rambling.
Maison du Parc. Tel. 33 ( 0)4 67 97 38 22 parc-haut-languedoc.fr
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Val d’Azun Meeting birds of prey A high mountain park, the Parc national des Pyrénées plays host to very threatened species that find refuge in these protected areas. The maintenance of herding favours the presence of great birds of prey that feed on the dead flesh or waste of animals. The path for birds of prey in the Val d’Azun is an exploratory path consisting of 5 life-size outlines (wings
outstretched) of the most iconic birds of prey in the Pyrenees: bearded vulture, tawny vulture, black-winged vulture, golden eagle. This is an excellent way to observe them at close quarters so as to be able to recognize them afterwards in flight. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 97 43 13 parc-pyrenees.com
Aubrac A land of emotion soon to be classified
High plateaux crossed by transhumant trails, with a scattering of shepherds’ huts, crossed by the road to Compostela, the plateau of Aubrac extends over the departments of Aveyron, Cantal and Lozère. A forthcoming Parc Naturel Régional (regional nature park) is in the process of being constructed which ought to preserve and value the riches of this semi-mountainous area. In the kingdom of the famous Aubrac breed, a cow with gentle eyes, pastoral environments and high plateaux rub shoulders with the steep-sided valleys of the Lot and the Truyère. More than 2,000 kilometres of signposted paths make hiking the activity which is best adapted to the discovery of Aubrac. Parc Naturel Régional de l’Aubrac. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 48 19 11 projet-pnr-aubrac.fr
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Causses and Cévennes Landscapes of character This vast territory which is divided between four departments, Lozère, Aveyron, Hérault and Gard is the result of a close relationship between man and nature. The Causses and the Cévennes have grandiose landscapes associated with them and a cultural tradition henceforth recognized by Unesco. Mont Lozère and Mont Aigoual impose their tormented contours. The causses, huge limestone plateaux bristling with rocky chaos, covered with lawns and moors are gouged out with gorges making for turbulent journeys… The valleys of the Cévennes align their terraces with low dry stone walls planted with chestnut trees, vines, mulberry trees and sweet onions. These landscapes are the ever-lively expression of the Mediterranean agro-herding which has fashioned them from ancient times. On the Causses the ewe comes first with the addition, on high ground, of
cattle rearing when goats populate the Cévennes valleys. The Causses and the Cévennes include exceptional natural sites like the Gorges du Tarn and the Gorges de la Jonte, those too of Hérault, the Cirque of Navacelles. Isolated farms, houses grouped into small hamlets, but also the drailles – transhumant trails – contribute to the charm of the Causses landscape. Certain transhumant trails use old Roman roads while others have been transformed into footpaths, perfect for a day out from the plains to the high plateaux. The gorges themselves are there for canoeing. Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Templar and Hospitaller citadels in Larzac further enrich this exceptional heritage. The Causses and the Cévennes. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 48 31 23 causses-et-cevennes.fr
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must-see The belvederes of Blandas Situated 3 minutes from the village of Blandas in Gard they offer three unimpeded views of the Cirque de Navacelles and the alignment of the gorges of the Vis including one that was designed as a hanging garden. The Site Building houses a tourist documentation space, a permanent exhibition, a film presenting the archaeological discoveries made on Causse and in the Cirque.
Le Relais du Cirque, route de Navacelles. Tel. 33 (0)4 99 51 60 36.
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Sailing In a boat on the Gorges du Tarn The Tarn has eroded a veritable canyon between the Causses of Sauveterre and Méjean. Its gorges of which certain steep rock walls attain a height of 500 metres compose unforgettable landscapes. On its banks picturesque villages invite you to stop, Ispagnac and its Romanesque church, Sainte Enimie with its alleyways paved with Tarn pebbles. La Malène is situated just before the Straits, the most remarkable part of the Gorges du Tarn.
Carrying on the hiring out of boats to tourists that started at the end of the 19th century, the boatmen of La Malène will take you on board for a guided sail with commentary to the Cirque des Baumes. Les Bateliers des Gorges du Tarn. Tel. 33(0)4 66 48 51 10 gorgesdutarn.com Les Bateliers du Viaduc. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 59 12 41 bateliersduviaduc.com
Larzac La Couvertoirade, a Templar and Hospitaller site
Along with La Cavalerie, Saint-Jean-d’Alcas, SainteEulalie-de-Cernon, Le Viala-du-Pas-de-Jaux, La Couvertoirade is one of the five fortified sites brought together in a cultural tour “Larzac Templier et Hospitalier”. It reveals the heritage left by these knights of the Middle Ages and their role in the organization of agro-herding in the causse of Larzac. The castle that looms up on the top of the village surrounded by a rampart with circular towers, the Hospitaller church, the streets lined by houses typical of the Causse constitute one of the finest testimonies to their presence. La Couvertoirade also possesses various amenities linked to the collection of water, water tanks on roofs, calades (pavement in cobblestones), lavognes (stone washing facilities). Conservatoire du Larzac. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 59 12 22 conservatoire-larzac.fr
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The lake of Aubert The lake of Matemale
Tour From great lakes formed by dams to little mountain tarns, known only to fishers of trout, the lakes of the Pyrenees are all magnificent in their setting of mountains !
The lake of Carlit
The lake of Bouillouses At the heart of the Capcir the lake of the Bouillouses is the gateway to a vast protected space which stretches as far as the summit of the pic Carlit (2,921 m). Thanks to a regulated traffic and a system of shuttles which allow you to leave cars far from the lake itself, the site is a natural setting. You can stay there in a hotel, an inn or a refuge at the heart of mountains where deer, izards and… trout abound ! Numerous walks are possible to discover, for example, the succession of
The lake of Bouillouses
lakes in the Carlit or around the Camporeills: a small corner of the Great North at the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees. - Big site at Les Bouillouses: ledepartement66.fr. Access forbidden to cars between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, shuttles from the car park of Pla de Barrès (5 €). - Hôtel Les Bones Hores : boneshores.com. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 24 22. Superbly situated by the side of the lake. - Refuge FFCAM des Bouillouses: refugedesbouillouses.ffcam.fr Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 93 88. A true mountain refuge, easy to get to with nourishing fare!
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The lake of Matemale At the foot of the station des Angles the lake of Matemale is the miniature sea of Capcir. Easy to get to, bordered by pine forests and an area for leisure activities, it’s a family destination where you’ll be able to practise numerous activities in summer: sailing at the nautical base of l’Ourson, riding, hiking or mountain biking on the road which goes round the lake (in 2 to 3 hours), archery or quite simply chilling out on the beach – a seaside atmosphere a stone’s throw from the mountains!
- Office de Tourisme de Matemale. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 41 02 matemale.fr - Office de Tourisme des Angles. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 32 76 lesangles.com - Parc animalier des Angles. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 17 20 www.faune-pyreneenne.fr A pretty walk through the forest to discover species of European fauna. Admission 14 €. - Nautical base of Ourson (sailing, kayak, pedal boat and also a restaurant). Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 30 77 clubnautique-fontromeu.fr
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TOUR - NATURE
Great lakes of the Pyrénées The tarn of Soulcem
Among the numerous tarns of Ariège this one is accessible to cars via a trail suitable for motor vehicles which climbs up to the orris (shelters of stone) of Carla at more than 1,600 metres high. This is the point of departure for numerous rambles towards Montcalm or the lakes of the Picot.You can also go up the valley bottom to Port del Rat thanks to a herding track (closed to traffic) in the middle of the herds of cows and horses of Mérens. This track was the rough draft of a transborder route which was to go to Andorra. It goes as far as the Andorran station of Arcalis, a pretty mountain bike ride away! Office de Tourisme de Vicdessos. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 64 87 53 montagnesdetarasconetdu vicdessos.com
Tel. 33 (0)5 61 79 21 21 luchon.com. - Refuge du lac d’Oô. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 79 12 29 A small refuge, simple and welcoming, accessible in an hour from the barns of Astau. - Refuge du Portillon. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 79 38 15 It takes a long time to get to a high mountain refuge, but the glacier backdrop is worth the effort!
The lakes of Néouvielle
The lakes of the Luchonnais Above Bagnères-de-Luchon three lakes succeed one another in the mountains along the same path. According to how fit you are you can admire in this way the lake of Oô, very easy to get to, that of Espingo, already situated high up in the mountains above the treeline, and even higher still, the lake of Portillon, often frozen at the start of the summer and surrounded by glaciers. At each of these lakes a mountain refuge welcomes you for refreshments and a meal and even an unforgettable night spent at the heart of the Pyrenees. - Office de Tourisme de Luchon.
summer) climbs to the car park at the lac d’Aubert, an ideal point of departure for a great variety of rambles around the lakes. Many refuges allow you to break your journey and even to contemplate a grand tour on foot for a week! - Office de Tourisme de Saint Lary. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 39 50 81 saintlary.com - Chalet-hôtel d’Oredon. Tel. 33 (0)6 23 05 72 60 refuge-pyrenees-oredon.com. A mountain hotel with prices easy on the purse, with an unimpeded view over the lake of Oredon.
The lake of Gaube Above Cauterets the Pont d’Espagne is a preserved site in the vast forests of pines and meadows through which twist fastflowing streams. Just above this the lake of Gaube is, since the 19th century, an important venue for Pyrenean tourism, wedged in its setting of mountains. Access to it can only be on foot, but it is possible to take a chairlift at the start for the steepest bit. Hotel accommodation and mountain refuges allow you to prolong your stay in this magical site where izards are numerous. Do not hesitate to continue the walk to the refuge of Le Clos, the easiest to get to, that of Wallon-Marcadau, with its old-fashioned charm, or even that of the Oulettes de
Gaube, prized by mountaineers, situated at the foot of the impressive north face of the Vignemale. - Office de Tourisme de Cauterets. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 92 50 50 cauterets.com - Chalet du Clos. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 92 61 27 chaletduclos.fr. Access is obtained via a wide path easy to negotiate in summer and via downhill ski runs in winter.
The lake of Estaing The lake of Estaing (1,163 metres) has been easily accessible by car from Lourdes or ArgelèsGazost by going up the Val d’Azun towards the Soulor pass. Situated in a wide glaciated valley with the high peaks of the massif du Balaïtous (3,144 metres) as a backdrop, it offers to the visitor a picture postcard landscape, very prized by anglers. Its approaches are populated by colonies of marmots while herds of cows spend summer there in peace and tranquillity. The children will adore it. - Office de Tourisme de Lourdes. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 42 77 40 lourdes-infotourisme.com - Gite de la Pauze. Tel. 33 (0)6 88 45 99 98 - Camping intercommunal du lac d'Estaing. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 97 24
The Réserve naturelle du Néouvielle in the Pyrenees between the valley of Aure and that of Barèges is an incredible sowing of lakes and tarns of all sizes, dominated by the glacial summits of the Pic de Néouvielle and the Pic Long. A regulated route (open in
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Textile Les Toiles du Soleil
Canigou and the
Catalan Pyrénées The Catalan sacred mountain The dolmens and megaliths of Prehistory, the buildings constructed during the Early Middle Ages, the narratives and legends of which it is the hero reveal the sacred dimension of the Canigou. Is the force that issues forth from its imposing outline and is present at the often snow-capped summit which faces the sea and dominates the plain of Roussillon enough to explain the bewitchment exercised by this mass whose peak was for a long time considered to be the highest in the Pyrenees? A land of gods, of giants, of fairies, but also
of witches and dragons, celebrated by poets, exploited for its iron up until the end of the 20th century, the sacred mountain of the Catalans also makes the tourists dream who undertake its ascent like an initiation ceremony. Numerous hiking paths reveal the poetry and the magic of these iconic landscapes. Rock climbing, canyoning are also available. Offices de Tourisme Canigou Conflent. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 05 41 02 tourisme-canigou.com
The Yellow Train, symbol of the Catalan region This regional express doubles up as a tourist vocation. The sixty-three kilometres of track covered by the Train Jaune accounts for 650 engineering works including the Séjourné viaduct with its sumptuous stone arches and the Gisclard bridge, the only railway suspension bridge still in service. An exploit which 40 I NATURE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
is worth the journey in itself. From Villefranche-deConflent to Latour-de-Carol the yellow train goes through the Regional Nature Park of the Catalan Pyrenees. Seen from the open carriages the magnificent landscapes parade past and arouse emotion when the train overhangs the gorges of the Têt, grips
narrow cornices, crosses rocky narrow passes, goes along valleys and climbs up the sides of mountains. The Yellow Train is a unique and fun way to travel in order to discover in a novel way the Conflent and the Cerdagne, summer as well as winter. Le Train Jaune. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 96 63 62 vernet-les-bains.fr
By buying the last textile factory of Saint-Laurent de Cerdans Henri and Françoise Quinta safeguarded the tradition of Catalan fabrics with shining stripes. Their business “Les Toiles du Soleil” carries on a method of weaving and renews, without betraying it, the identity of these fabrics which give to deckchairs, curtains or tablecloths the appearance of eternal summer… Nor should we forget “vigatanes”, those authentic Catalan lace-up espadrilles, indispensable for dancing the Sardana! Les Toiles du Soleil. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 39 33 93 toiles-du-soleil.com Création catalane Tel. 33 (0)4 68 54 08 68 espadrille-catalane.com
Izards, mouflons, cervidae, grey wolf inhabit the Catalan mountains, but the marmot is the star of lakeside meadows and prefers the cool of the morning or the evening. Its whistle designed to warn its fellow creatures of an undesirable presence allows us to distinguish it, but the colour of its fur blends in with its surroundings. The experienced eye of a guide can make meeting it easier.
Offices de Tourisme Canigou Conflent. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 05 41 02 tourisme-canigou.com
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Pic du Midi of
Bigorre The “vaisseau des étoiles” A museum and cupolas over the 750 metres of terraces of this observatory. As its name indicates, situated well forward, in the south, the Pic du Midi of Bigorre in the High Pyrenees is an extraordinary viewpoint. From its summit at 2,877 metres you can take in the whole chain of the Pyrenees from Catalonia to the Basque Country over more than 400 kilometres of mountains. It is on this terrace that, for more than 140 years, researchers and space technicians have been observing, decrypting and photographing the sky and all its planets as far as the furthest galaxies.
Astronomy is the main subject for this site in the Pyrenees, with the study of the sun in particular and of the moon for the Apollo missions and planets. What make it different is its special light and the stability of its atmosphere, linked with its position. The purity of the air allows for a rare quality of observation of the sky and of the panorama around. Since June 2000 the site has been open to the general public and was classified in 2003 as a national nature site by reason of the beauty of its landscape. Tel. 33 (0) 825 00 2877 - picdumidi.com
A night on the roof of the Pyrénées
In order to share the magic of the site at sunset and to discover the celestial vault, the Pic organizes twenty or so “starry nights” for the general public from March to
November. After visiting the museum, the highest in Europe, and the installations, you can observe the sunset, then pass on to the astronomic
animation studios with astronomers. The Pic has also been open at night since 2006. Accompanied by a specialist the group of 27 people at most spends the night studying the stars with the naked eye and through the 500 mm telescope of the Charvin cupola. A traditional dinner of regionally labelled products is served in the restaurant. The following
day, after having taken advantage of the sunrise, these privileged ones can discover the science cupolas sharing some moments in the life of the researchers. The “Nights at the Summit” are accessible on reservation all the year round. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 56 70 00 ou 33 (0)5 62 56 70 01 (groups)
An exceptional human adventure If today one can ascend to the Pic du Midi from the Mongie in 15 minutes thanks to cablecar, it was a different story in 1873 for General de Nansouty who set up the first weather station in the col de Sencours. In 1878, with the engineer Xavier Vaussenat, he laid the first stone of the observatory at the summit. In 1908 the first cupola was built (Baillaud). The other cupolas followed. Threatened by closure in 1995 the observatory was saved thanks to the investments of a mixed syndicate. On 19 December 2013 the Pic was labelled “Réserve Internationale de Ciel Etoilé” [International Starry Sky Reserve], the first in France. Since then 251 communes in the Hautes-Pyrénées have reduced their light pollution.
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Great cirques of the
Pyrénées Gavarnie, unmissable and enormous It’s the biggest cirque in the Pyrenees, a natural monument! From the village you can guess that it’s going to fill your line of vision. But nothing can prepare you for the shock when you finally come face to face with this almost 1,500 metre high wall in three successive stages, furrowed by waterfalls which come down from the glaciers of the Marboré (3,248 m high) in the Taillon. The best known is that of Gavarnie, 422 metres high, at the source of the gave of Gavarnie which feeds the gave of Pau. Already in the 19th century this hamlet had become a must-see tourist destination. Registered with the Patrimoine mondial de l’Humanité (World Heritage) by Unesco in 1997 and henceforth
situated at the heart of the Parc National des Pyrénées, the site Gavarnie-Mont Perdu still attracts as many people in summer. It is still possible to gain access on foot to the bottom of the cirque as far as the old hostelry now a restaurant, then to carry on to the foot of the Grande Cascade, 423 metres high. The walk is easy and very popular. In summer a medieval spectacle is offered at the end of the day in the cirque, a walk of 30 minutes in an extraordinary setting. Office de tourisme de Gavarnie-Gèdre. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 92 48 05 – Gavarnie.com “Merlin, the story of a wizard” from 26 July to 7 August 2016. festival-gavarnie.com
Walks through the cirques From the Port of Boucharo access on foot to the refuge of the Brèche de Roland is not too difficult, and in the evening sunset over the cirque of Gavarnie is incomparable there. On the other hand the ascent by the ladders of the Sarradets from Gavarnie is much longer and more technically demanding, but what an 42 I NATURE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
atmosphere! Quieter, the ascent to the refuge of the Espuguettes (PNP), then to the Horquette d’Alans quite near will reveal an unimpeded view over the neighbouring cirque of Estaubé. Less known, but much quieter for the road from Gèdre stops at the dam of the Gloriettes, the cirque of Estaubé lends itself well to family walks in
the middle of summer pastures and herds. Out of three cirques the most accessible remains that of Troumouse: the road ascends there to a height of more than 2,000 metres up to an excellent inn and it is easy to go on walks from there to see marmots! ete.gavarnie.com
The setting of the Parc National des Pyrénées
Created in 1967 to protect landscapes, fauna and flora in the Pyrenees, the Parc National des Pyrénées imposes specific rules and regulations so as to manage visits to the zone at its heart. It is easy to observe marmots, izards, eagles and vultures there during one of the numerous walking tours possible! An excursion for instance to the valley of the Luze by the Chemin de Saint-Saud which leads to the plateau Bellevue and affords a superb view of the cirque of Gavarnie. Since 2015 the Iberian ibex, which had disappeared from the Pyrenees by the year 2000, made its great comeback thanks to several reintroductions, notably above Cauterets. It should not be slow to finally reach Gavarnie… parc-pyrenees.com
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HERITAGE A unique richness which places Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées in the leading group of regions harbouring sites classified as World Heritage of Humanity sites.
The Pont du Gard The Canal du Midi, the gem that’s been snaking for 400 years Carcassonne, the proud fortress Conques, the vessel of stone
Eight. It’s the number of sites registered by Unesco as part of the World Heritage of Humanity we can count in the region, in other words more than a quarter of the listed sites in France! From ancient Rome to the Middle Ages by way of the Crusades, the Cathar epic, the Fronde (civil war in the 17th century) and all the jolts of history, Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées has been rooted in these traces of a past that has made the world what it is. But even beyond these sites that are recognized globally, from Gers to Gard, from Lot to the Pyrenees, from Haute-Garonne to Lozère, the thirteen departments of the region teem with sublime and moving places, made by man and nature, which are on familiar terms with history and are today accessible treasures.
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Pont du Gard A history of water for 2,000 years Listed as part of Unesco’s world heritage, the Pont du Gard, not far from Uzès, is the most visited ancient monument in France. Built in the first century B.C., it spans the Gardon and was just one element in the fifty kilometre long aqueduct, designed to provide the Roman town of Nîmes, situated tens of kilometres away, with water. A mixture of power and grace it stands out clearly in an exceptional natural environment. Scrubland, hollowed-out cliffs, caves, holm oak forests and agricultural plots of land decorate the banks of the Gardon. The path of the aqueduct follows the trace of the ancient work, leading from vestiges to vantage points with pretty views. Office de Tourisme du Pont du Gard. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 37 22 34 ot-pontdugard.com
Bathing hole A refreshing place in summer The Gardon offers, beyond the space laid out with cabin and raft of the Pont du Gard itself, numerous bathing holes. A few kilometres upstream paving stones, sandy and shingle beaches, cliffs to climb, clubs for canoeing and kayaking, make of Collias a place much prized by families and those who like sport. A footpath going up the watercourse invites you to discover the gorges of the Gardon. It leads to the cave of La Baume which harbours a little hermitage and its chapel. Below two mills bear witness to past activity. A few Bonelli eagles and some black-winged vultures have sought refuge in the cliffs and beavers have colonized the banks. Nocturnal webcams allow you to discover this largest of the European rodents. Maison des Gorges du Gardon. Tel. 33 (0)4 48 27 01 00 gorgesdugardon.fr
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Fun and educational
So as to understand how the Romans became masters of the water and in order to launch ourselves in their footsteps, the Ludo Museum initiates the youngest children to understand and overcome, thanks to numerous manipulations, the difficulties encountered during the construction of the aqueduct. The Museum, about discovering Roman antiquity, “Memory of Scrubland”, an open-air trail between Mediterranean agriculture and remains of the aqueduct as well as the cinema complete this cultural and family approach to the bridge-aqueduct.
Site du Pont du Gard. Tel 33 (0)4 66 37 50 99 pontdugard.fr
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Uzès Back to the Source(s) near the first dukedom in France It is at the fountain of Eure, near Uzès, that the aqueduct and its history begin. Several sources spurt out around 75 metres up and the site was chosen by the Romans to feed Nîmes in water. A tour conducts us to vestiges of the first section of the aqueduct revealing the construction of the canalization, a tunnel into which it goes and the
regulatory basin opposite a watchtower. On the way ruins of old mills can be found and that of Tournal used to send water from the river to the fountains of Uzès. Bordered by poplars and wide lawns with picnic areas the valley of the Eure invites us to pause in the company of ducks, swans and geese… A pleasure to be followed
by a visit to Uzès which counts 37 historical monuments classified or listed. Just to saunter under the arcades of the place aux Herbes or under the castle of the “first dukedom of France” is enough for you to fall under its spell. Office de Tourisme d’Uzès. Tel. 33(0)4 66 22 68 88 uzes-tourisme.com
The pont du Gard lights up in June at nightfall. “Feux Gaulois” is the name of the extravaganza for 2016. Sound and light, pyrotechnics, characters and structures made of lights plunge us into an intoxicating Celtic atmosphere. Each night in the summer at 10:30 pm the lighting up of the Bridge “A la belle étoile” prolongs the magic. Still in festive mode the dance hall spirit and its accordion music, from swing to Argentinian tango, makes you get up and dance each Friday in summer. Finally the festival ‘Live au Pont’ offers two nights of present day music on 7 and 8 July. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 37 50 99 - pontdugard.fr
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The pilgrimage routes to
Santiago de Compostela The emotion at the side of the way From the beginning of the 11th century Compostela, the village in Galicia in Spain where the tomb of St James is supposed to have been found, has been the destination for a pilgrimage that thousands of the faithful undertook all through the Middle Ages. Nowadays these paths of faith are no longer used just by pilgrims. Numerous ramblers undertake the adventure for the beauty of the landscapes and the exceptional heritage that marks them off, for the magic of encounters. Four historic paths come together at Punte Reina. Two of them go through the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées region. The most southerly one, the Via Tolosana (GR653), or Voie d’Arles, passes through Saint-Gilles and its abbey church with its sculpted façade and its Romanesque triple portal. After the abbey of Gélonne, a jewel of Romanesque art in the Languedoc and the Devil’s bridge, the Via goes on through Toulouse and the Saint-Sernin basilica up to the col du Somport. The Via Podensis (GR65) starts at the cathedral of Puyen-Velay which houses the famous black Virgin, an object of cult and pilgrimage. Its itinerary is also punctuated by monuments and engineering works, the “pilgrim”
bridge at Saint-Chély-d’Aubrac, the Pont Vieux [old bridge] in Espalion, that of Estaing, the bridge over the Dourdou at Conques whose splendid abbey church stands guard over the Treasure of Sainte Foy, Saint-Sernin cathedral and the pont Valentré at Cahors, the abbey church of Moissac… On leaving Narbonne the Pyrenean Piedmont way (GR 78) is a variant of the voie d’Arles [Arles route]. It links highly spiritual places, Carcassonne, Saint-Thibéry, Saint-Lizier, Saint-Just de Valcabrère, Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, Lourdes and the Templar chapel at Aragnouet… These principal ways are completed by secondary ways like the road that links the Voie d’Arles to the chemin du Piémont, the variant of this at Rocamadour, from Figeac to Cahors, that of Célé, from Béduer to Cahors. ACIR. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 27 00 05 chemins-compostelle.com 46 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
For your information The spirit of the way
A network of hostelries and monasteries would welcome pilgrims in the Middle Ages. Today lodgings have multiplied with some of them claiming to have kept alive “the spirit of the way” like the Gîte d’étape (stage lodging) “Antoine le Pèlerin” at Figeac (Lot). The “Miam Miam Dodo” guides, éditions du Vieux Crayon, have made an inventory of advice and addresses adapted to all purses on the different itineraries.
Gîte Antoine le Pèlerin. Tel. 33 (0)6 52 72 61 46 - antoinelepelerin.fr
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Rare landscapes and historical monuments In France seven sections of the way of Puy-en-Velay (six of which are in Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées) and seventy historical monuments (twenty-nine of which are in the region) lining the four routes taken by pilgrims are registered as part of Unesco’s World Heritage. But the beauty of the landscapes gone through also contributes to the rebirth of the ways to Santiago. From the great plateaux of the Aubrac
to the charming villages of the valley of the Lot, from the scrubland of the Minervois to Cathar country, from the causses of Cajarc in the Armagnac, from the area round Auch, to the first undulations of the Pyrenees… In the absence of a trip that lasts for thirty days, an excursion out on the ways that lead to Santiago reserves, for each season of the year, a share in the sublime…
An app for the ways to Santiago Launched in 2015 and available on Android and Apple the application “chemins-stjacques-compostelle” dedicated to the ways of Santiago de Compostela offers a complete panorama of the three ways from Puy, Arles and Pyrenean Piedmont with a description of the stage, suggestions, etc.
In the valley of the Hérault Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is an obligatory stage on the Via Tolosana. It was here that around the year 1000, pilgrims converging from the East and Italy towards Spain stopped to rest at the Abbey of Gellone, founded in 804 amid scrublands. This jewel of Romanesque art contains the relics of Saint-Guilhem and fragments of the cross of Christ (a gift from Charlemagne). Having evolved on the left bank of the stream of Verdus, the village (classified among the most beautiful villages in France) is a village with one street. Roman and Renaissance windows and arcatures reveal the medieval identity of the city... Downstream the pont du Diable at Saint-Jean-deFos is the oldest Romanesque bridge in France and was constructed by the abbey’s monks Office de tourisme de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert Vallée de l’Hérault. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 56 41 97 and Maison du Grand Site. Tel. 33 (0)4 99 61 73 01 saintguilhem-valleeherault.fr
Saint-Guilhem, a haven of beauty in untamed nature
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Saint-Martin du Canigou, still higher
Far removed from warlike aims, the isolation appropriate to silence and spirituality motivated the construction of the Benedictine abbey on the slopes of the massif du Canigou at 1,100 metres high. Founded at the start of the 11th century on a site of grandiose beauty which an ascent lasting half an hour allows you to contemplate, the abbey of Saint-Martin du Canigou is today managed by the community of the Beatitudes which arranges visits and retreats. The lower church, underground for the most part, dedicated to Notre Dame sous Terre, the cloister and its marble capitals, the Lombard bell tower, the abbey church and its crypt, make of this a work of art of early Catalan Romanesque. Abbaye. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 05 50 03 stmartinducanigou.org
Vauban At the time of fortifications Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the military architect of Louis XIV, built impregnable citadels in mountainous landscapes. Designed to protect the frontiers from incursions from Spain, Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont Louis in the Pyrenees today figure among the World Heritage sites of Unesco. Mont-Louis, the highest stronghold in France, consists of a military citadel and a new town. The citadel houses the National Centre for Commando Training, but the powder magazines, the Well of the Convicts can be explored in guided visits. Nestling in its fortified enclosure Villefranche-de-Conflent is a lively place with medieval streets full of charm,
The basement of 1,000 steps
restaurants and craft shops. On the square the Romanesque church of Saint-James in pink marble contains a recumbent Christ from the 14th century and a baroque altarpiece by the celebrated sculptor Joseph Sunyer. The visit of the ramparts on the covered way allows you to discover military architecture, from medieval towers to curtains and bastions. Office de Tourisme de Mont-Louis. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 21 97 - mont-louis.net Office de Tourisme Canigou-Fenouilledes. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 97 04 38 office-de-tourisme-canigou-fenouilledes.com
Solar and ceramic oven Built after the Second World War in the enclosure of Mont-Louis the doubly reflective solar oven exhibits itself to present the functioning of its 858 mirrors, what it is used for as well as scientific and technical applications making use of solar energy. High temperatures, from 250 to 3,000oC, totally non-toxic, 48 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
are today at the service of a “solar” craft production: art ceramics and bronzes presented in the oven shop. Four solaire. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 14 89 four-solaire.fr
Hollowed out under Napoleon III a basement with pink marble steps and a vault of dressed stone links Villefranche-de-Conflent to Fort Libéria. This fort, erected by Vauban 150 metres above the medieval city of which it ensured the protection, is built up over three levels surrounded by three enclosures. The various barracks, the chapel and its crypt, the water tank, the bakery and its oven for bread, the magazine for munitions, the reconstituted “women’s prison” with some celebrated poisoners… invite both young and old to go back in time. The covered way bordered by Catalan wrought iron balusters offers an amazing view over the surrounding valleys, that of the Têt and over the Canigou. Opposite Villefranche-de-Conflent the opening of the cave Cova Bastera was fortified by Vauban.
Fort Libéria. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 96 34 01 fort-liberia.com
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The lake Cajarc, lulled by the Lot
Conques Sainte-Foy, the vessel of stone in the middle of the valley Situated to the north of Rouergue, Conques is a little village lost in the midst of chestnut trees, seated on gorges hollowed out by the Ouche, between steep slopes, rocks and austere forest. It is nevertheless in this place far from anywhere that the abbey of Sainte-Foy looms up, built in the middle of the 11th century. The contrast is striking between the dazzling beauty of this jewel of Romanesque art, the houses with roofs of flat schist and the surrounding countryside. Owing to the configuration of the ground the abbey, which contains the relics of Sainte-Foy (a young female martyr of Agen), consists of a
transept longer than the nave, remarkable for its arcades and its cradle vault 22 metres high. Since 1994 the stained glass windows of Pierre Soulages have decorated the orifices of the abbey church, remarkable for its tympanum of the Last Judgment, with 124 characters carved on it. The building also houses the statue-golden reliquary of Sainte Foy, covered with cameos and jewels donated by the pilgrims to this spiritual centre, situated on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Office de Tourisme de Conques Tel. 33 (0)5 65 72 85 00 - tourisme-conques.fr
Figeac, a jewel on the causse To the east of Quercy at the beginning of the Ségala, marking the limit of the Rouergue and the Auvergne, Figeac spreads out over two small hills in the middle of the Célé. A merchant town during the Middle Ages, the town has retained a unique architectural heritage with medieval buildings, private Renaissance dwellings and bourgeois houses from the
18th century. The hôtel de la Monnaie, place Vival, but also the merchant squares of Champollion and Carnot allow us to admire houses alternating between sandstone and half-timbered, equipped with soleilhos, those open lofts used for drying things which support roofs of canal tiles. But Figeac is also the town of JeanFrançois Champollion, the
man who decrypted hieroglyphics. Apart from a superb reproduction of the Rosetta Stone, place des Écritures, the house he was born in plays host to a museum paying homage to him and taking in the whole history of writing. Office de Tourisme de Figeac. Tel. 05 65 34 06 25 tourisme-figeac.com
A small agglomeration in a great plain, Cajarc lives at the tranquil pace of its river. In this spot the Lot has widened its bed allowing for the creation of a lake which permits the practice of water skiing and canoeing as well as kayaking. The church of Saint-Étienne, around which is built the town centre, the monastery of Mirepoises, the metal suspension bridge, give to the town a peaceful air. Cajarc also benefits from a Maison des Arts Georges Pompidou offering surprising exhibitions of modern art. magp.fr
The villages of the Vallon de Marcillac
In this valley dotted with wine-producing houses and fortified houses, built of blue slate, volcanic tuff and red sandstone form part of the charm of the villages of Marcillac, Salles-la-Source, Clairvaux and Valady. These villages are part of the Registered Designation of Origin of Marcillac, a small vineyard in terms of size (180 hectares), but very big in terms of the quality of its red wines. Arrows indicate the location of the wine estates.
Tel. 05 65 71 13 18 www.tourismevallonmarcillac.fr
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Canal du Midi A jewel which has snaked for four centuries where history took it This green serpent, which links Toulouse with the Thau lagoon represents the umbilical cord between the territories of the region, flowing through Haute-Garonne, Aude and Hérault. The most used watercourse in Europe, the canal symbolizes the gentle French way of life. Among its 328 constructions you need to discover the first great dam built in Europe at the lake of SaintFerréol, a master work that feeds the Canal and the museum and Gardens of the Canal which offer a journey to the historical sources of this formidable undertaking. Also in need of discovery is the bridge-aqueduct of the Répudre, the Epanchoir (overflow reservoir) of La Redorte, the port of Somail, the tunnel of Malpas, the nine locks of Fonséranes, the round lock of Agde, the engineering works on Libron and the pointe des Onglous at the Thau lagoon.
The Work of Riquet
Anniversary The Canal has been linking Toulouse to Sète for 350 years The Canal du Midi celebrates 350 years this year of the edict of its digging (7 October 1666 which is also the year of the creation of the town and of the port of Sète, the outlet of the Canal into the Mediterranean) and 20 years of its classification as a World Heritage of Humanity site by Unesco (December 1996). On this occasion you will be able to discover in Toulouse the historical archives relating to the Canal, the graving docks (a basin that allows for the drying out of ships), the ballet du port de l’Embouchure, the 35th canal rowboat rally, festivities at the château du Bonrepos, the baronial residence of Riquet in Haute-Garonne and many other exhibitions and spectacles. The story of this 240 kilometres long engineering work will be the subject of a film in the autumn, “Le Songe de Naurouze”, directed by Jean Périssé with Bernard Le Coq in the part of Pierre-Paul Riquet.
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Born in Béziers in 1609, Pierre-Paul Riquet had for long thought about the idea of a canal which would link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean to save time in the transportation of goods without going around Spain, the rival of the French Kingdom. This Collector General for the “Gabelle” or the salt tax in Languedoc, Roussillon and Cerdagne convinced Colbert, Finance Minister of Louis XIV, to collect the runoff from the Black Mountain in order to channel the water to the Seuil de Naurouze. In 1667 Riquet started the engineering works that required up to 12,000 workers. Over a period of 14 years he invested all his fortune in it. He died on the 1st of October 1680 at the age of 71, six months before the inauguration of his work.
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A canal and canals The fitting out did not stop with its inauguration Toulouse could be reached from Sète then in four days and the Atlantic in fewer than ten. The work was completed in 1694 after the improvements of Vauban in feeding the canal in order to avoid it silting up. But it did not truly become the Canal of the Two Seas until after the construction of other canals: the
joining canal at La Robine up to Narbonne in 1787 (photo), the canal de Brienne in 1776, which goes around the Chaussée du Bazacle at Toulouse and rejoins the canal at Port de l’Embouchure, the canal of the Rhône at Sète in 1808 and finally the Lateral canal which extends it from Toulouse to Castets-
en-Dorthe. Carcassonne was joined to the canal at the beginning of the 19th century. The canal bridge across the Orb at Béziers dates from 1857. The plantation of trees along the canal is also a posteriori: it only began in 1764. Freight transport stopped in 1989, leaving a free rein henceforth to barging.
Engineering works Technological accomplishments
99 locks between Toulouse and Agde, 7 canal bridges allowing one to cross watercourses, 126 bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, inlets, outlets… There are altogether 328 engineering works punctuating the itinerary of the Canal du Midi. Some works are impressive like the locks of Fonsérannes at Béziers which enable you to cross a difference in height of 25 metres thanks to a lock system that extends over 315 metres (photo) or even the round lock of Agde, the port of Castelnaudary and the bridge linking Cacor to Moissac (photo). But apart from the canal-bridge of Répudre, these were not contemporaneous with Riquet. The canal has in effect been modernised many times up to and including the 1970s.
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Carcassonne Cité de
The medieval city, a splendid and proud vessel of stone With its fifty-two towers, its ramparts of the 4th and 13th centuries and its Ducal Castle, this medieval fortress built on an old Gallo-Roman settlement is unique in Europe for its size and its exceptionally well-preserved state. The seat of the Visigoths in the fifth century, then of the Saracens, it will radiate out under the dynasty of the Trencavel during the time of the Cathars. The viscount of Carcassonne then tolerated the Cathar heresy which brought down on him the wrath of the Albigensian Crusade. Simon de Montfort took control of the city and it reverted to the King of France in 1224. In 1260 Saint-Louis decided to build a new town on the left bank of the Aude. This bastide is the archetype of medieval towns with a chequerboard layout organised round a central square and dominated by the tower of the church of Saint-Vincent which
is 54 metres high. In the 14th century it was the economic lung of Carcassonne, the fortified town for woollen cloth and fabrics. Burned and pillaged in 1355 during the Hundred Years’ War by the English under the Black Prince, it was rebuilt around the churches of Saint-Michel and SaintVincent and endowed with an enclosure that is no longer there. In the 19th century it played host to rich private dwellings like the Maison du Sénéchal, probably the oldest house in the lower town. In 1659 the Treaty of the Pyrenees and the pulling back of the Franco-Spanish frontier precipitated the decline of Carcassonne. Fortunately, the architect Viollet-le-Duc undertook the restoration of the city in the 19th century. UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Office de Tourisme de Carcassonne. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 10 24 30 - tourisme-carcassonne.fr
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For your information Machicolations and kangaroos Not far from the city make a leap to Australia to meet with kangaroos and Aborigines by visiting the Australian park. Five minutes from there, the lake of la Cavayère is a privileged site for walking and the practice of outdoor activities. On the programme: water sports, pedal boats and even an acrobatic forest trail, accessible to adults and children. Fifteen metres up yodels allow you to fly over the lake!
Parc australien, chemin des Bartavelles à Carcassonne. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 25 86 83 leparcaustralien.fr O2 Aventure, Lac de la Cavayère. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 25 33 83 O2aventure.com
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Action A real film set! Registered in 1997 as part of the World Heritage of Humanity by Unesco, the medieval city attracts more than 3 million visitors a year. Its majestic setting seduces several film directors. Not long after its restoration Louis Feuillade undertook to shoot there four films from 1908 onwards including “Le Retour du croisé” [“The Return of the Crusader”] and “Le Remords” [“Remorse”]. These were the beginnings of open air filming. In 1928, the medieval enclosure welcomed the filming of “La vie
merveilleuse de Jeanne d’Arc, fille de Lorraine” [“The Marvellous Life of Joan of Arc, daughter of Lorraine”], directed by Marco de Gastyne. Kevin Reynolds will set the scene there of his “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” played by Kevin Costner. In 1991, it was the turn of “Les Visiteurs” by Jean-Marie Poiré to seize hold of the Carcassonne setting, then in 2011 of the camera team for the series “Labyrinth”, inspired by the medieval best-seller of the Anglo-Carcassonne writer, Kate Moss.
Every summer, the Citadel of Carcassonne is the imposing setting of a festival where concerts, theatre and dance performances are held from mid-June to the beginning of August with internationally renowned artists. Festivalde carcassonne.com
A thousand fires When the city bursts into flame!
Every 14th of July the City of Carcassonne shines with a thousand fires during a firework display of more than 25 minutes which attracts nearly 700,000 spectators! The tradition goes back to 14 July 1898, to the arrival of the “Cadets de Gascogne”, a delegation of personalities from literature, art and politics. On this occasion the town organized great celebrations to welcome these distinguished visitors. In order to finish with a flourish, the poet Achille Rouquet had the idea of setting off Bengal lights!
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The castles of Quéribus, Peyrepertuse, Aguilar, Termes, Puilaurens, surnamed “the five sons of Carcassonne”, were the scene of dramatic episodes in the Crusade from 1209 onwards. Their superb ruins are today the guardians of the history of Catharism. Puilaurens
The castle of Montségur In Ariège, Montségur is the symbol of Cathar persecution. After ten months of siege, two hundred “heretics” threw themselves into flames at the stake rather than deny their faith. The old fortified village was the last refuge of the Cathars and the seat of their church under the Inquisition. The current vestiges are those of a fortress reworked in the 14th century. But the stonewalls of the great hall and the keep which rise to 1,200 metres in height, con54 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
tinue to feed the imagination. The castle of Montségur is said to house the treasure of the Cathars. Château de Montségur. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 01 10 27 montsegur.fr
The castle of Termes It was here that Simon de Monfort, head of the Crusade against the Albigensians, and Raymond de Termes, a powerful lord involved in Catharism, confronted each other. After a siege of four
months Raymond de Termes was imprisoned in Carcassonne and the castle became a royal fortress in 1228. The remains of the two concentric enclosures emerge among the vegetation at the top of a promontory dominating the gorges of the Termenet. A “visitors’ book” accompanies the discovery of the ruins of the fortifications of the castle village, then, higher up, of the two concentric enclosures of the royal fortress. A permanent exhibition retraces the siege of the castle. Château de Termes. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 70 09 20 chateau-termes.com
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TOUR • CATHAR CASTLES AND MINERvE
“Once upon a time”, the Cathar castles The Castel of Aguilar
Belonging to the Lords of Termes the castrum of Aguilar, having become the property of the King of France, had as its vocation to guard the southern frontier facing the kingdom of Aragon by controlling access to the Corbières. The fortress counts two enclosures, the first hexagonal, flanked with 6 circular towers at its corners. It is dominated by a second enclosure housing an abode and a quadrangular tower. At the front of the fortress is a chapel in the Romanesque style. The medieval village of Tuchan is worth a visit for the charm of its shady alleyways and its “plane tree walk.” Office de tourisme des Corbières Sauvages. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 45 69 40 corbieres-sauvages.com
enclosures to which one gains access by stairways and corridors shaped or carved in the rock. At the summit the keep is remarkable for its palm-tree vault resting on a pillar and for its window in primitive Gothic style. In the top part a spiral staircase accedes to a terrace with a view over the Mediterranean and the summits of the Pyrenees. Château de Quéribus. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 45 03 69 cucugnan.fr
they stretch out to a length of three hundred kilometres. A remarkable example of Southern medieval military architecture the fortress of Peyrepertuse, some 800 metres high, is surnamed “the celestial Carcassonne”. Three parts are open to visitors: the low enclosure and the keep which constitute the original castle of the 12th century, the middle enclosure, built on a plateau that leans towards the North, and the castle of San Jordi. From the keep of San Jordi, accessible by a staircase hollowed out of the rock bordering a precipice, the view carries to the Corbières and the castle of Quéribus. On the 9th and 10th of August the medieval junketings of Peyrepertuse make the citadel come alive with spectacles, jousts, concerts and walks. Château de Peyrepertuse. Tel. 33 (0)4 82 53 24 07 chateau-peyrepertuse.com
The castle of Puilaurens
The castle of Peyrepertuse
The castle of Quéribus It is at one with the narrow rocky peak whose slope it espouses. Situated in the commune of Cucugnan the castle of Quéribus became a masterpiece of royal defensive military engineering. This eagle’s nest, built up over four landings, is endowed with three
Its ramparts seem to be carved from the rocky crest of the Hautes-Corbières over which
of the castrum where numerous Cathars sought refuge. Its good state of conservation gives the most complete image of these eagles’ nests, as impressive by their defensive equipment as by their architectural beauty. The Red Train invites us to explore as a family another point of view over the castles of Puilaurens and Quéribus. Château de Puylaurens. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 20 65 26 pyreneesaudoises.com
Another vertiginous citadel, the castle of Puilaurens cuts out its twofold crenelated enclosure at the summit of a rocky spur 700 metres high. Dominating the valley of the Boulzane and the High Valley of the Aude the fortress of Puylaurens was built on the site
Laid siege to by Sylvain de Montfort the town of Minerve was the site of the first pyre of the Crusade. La Candela, a ruined tower, is probably the only vestige of this period. Perched on its rocky spur the medieval city stages its gardens in terraces and its calades between the great arid zone of the Causses and vinebearing hills. The Cesse and the Briand have eroded deep gashes and fashioned amazing natural bridges, endowing with a natural fortress the historical capital of the Minervois region. To its historical richness the ramparts, the Romanesque church of Saint-Étienne, Minerve associates the savage beauty of its landscapes. Office de Tourisme du Minervois. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 91 81 43 minervois-tourisme.fr
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Among the most beautiful Catalan villages
Rocamadour The sacred city clinging to the cliffs Dominating the canyon of the Alzou in the Parc Naturel Régional des Causses of Quercy the town dedicated to the cult of Mary clings to the cliffs of the Causse. A stage on the road to Santiago de Compostela Rocamadour has been a place of pilgrimage for nearly nine centuries. Legend has it that the hermit SaintAmadour is likely to have stayed a few years in what was called the Val Ténébreux [dark valley]. His body, intact, was found in this place in 1166. The 216 steps of the Staircase of the Pilgrim lead to the Esplanade of the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Rocamadour where
there are seven chapels, the basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt which houses the relics of Saint-Amadour, both these last having been registered with Unesco’s World Heritage of Humanity. The chapel of Our Lady, going back to the 12th century, contains the statue of the Black Virgin. The Book of Miracles attributes to her the virtues of curing people, the power to liberate prisoners or to save sailors. Vallée de la Dordogne Tourisme. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 33 22 00 vallee-dordogne.com
Padirac, the incredible abyss On 9 July 1889, provided with candles and hanging from a cable 75 metres long, Edouard-Alfred Martel penetrated for the first time into the “Devil’s Hole”. Since then the chasm of Padirac to the north of Gramat has become a major geological site, the most visited in France. 450,000 visitors venture each year into this natural 56 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
cavity 33 metres in diameter and 75 metres deep. Boats allow one to navigate the underground river. Impressively the “Grande Pendeloque”, a stalactite 60 metres in length, is suspended over the lake of Rain. The “Great Dome”, a subterranean cathedral 94 metres high is a lair for alabaster stoups,
stalactites and stalagmites. Finally the stalactite of the “Great Column” dazzles with its 75 metres of height ! Gouffre de Padirac Tel. 33 (0)5 65 33 64 56 gouffre-de-padirac.com
The north-east of the department of Lot, in that valley of the Dordogne marked by human history from the earliest times with world-renowned caves and even down to feudal periods of which there remain superb castles, buildings or medieval villages, is an amazing backdrop where landscapes and monuments vie with one another in the beauty department. Over a short distance three villages may be counted that have been nominated among the “Most beautiful villages in France”. Coiled up in a cirque Autoire contains manors and country houses as well as a 30 metre high waterfall. The fine medieval buildings of Loubressac and its castle are perched on a promontory affording an unimpeded view of the valley of the Dordogne. 10 kilometres away, on the side of the river, Carennac plays host to a Clunisian priory where Fénelon lived.
Castelnau-Bretenoux and Jean Lurçat
Built by the barons of Castelnau, the castle of Castelnau-Bretenoux is a fine example of the castle architecture of the Middle Ages. In the 19th century Jean Mouliérat, a tenor of the Opéra-Comique, rearranged it and installed in it a collection of furniture and fine art objects. 10 kilometres further on Jean Lurçat, the father of the rebirth of modern tapestry, fell under the charm of the castle of Saint-Laurent les Tours where he set up his workshops till his death in 1966. Château de Castelnau-
Bretenoux, Prudhomat. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 10 98 00. Atelier-musée Jean-Lurçat. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 38 28 21.
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Prehistory One of the rare painted caves
St-Cirq-Lapopie One of the most beautiful villages in France The medieval village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie which contains 13 historical monuments is one of the most beautiful villages in France. Fastened to a cliff 100 metres above the left bank of the Lot, this old county town of one of the three viscounties of Quercy constitutes one of the major sites of the valley of the Lot. Situated on the via Podiensis, one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, SaintCirq-Lapopie was able, following on from its tumultuous feudal past, to display a strong craft activity which ensured its prosperity. The village then extended to below the old fort and the narrow alleyways are
bordered with stone houses with steep-sloping roofs covered with flat tiles. The state of conservation of the village with its half-timbered houses attracted to it in the middle of the 20th century numerous artists who restored these dwellings. Man Ray, Henri Martin, André Breton resided in this way in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Do not neglect to climb up to what remains of the castle from where one has a view of the whole village. Office de Tourisme Saint-Cirq-Lapopie - Pech-Merle. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 31 31 31 saint-cirqlapopie.com
From the Valley of the Lot to that of Célé The valley of the Lot, very mineral, is characterized by cliffs of sometimes more than 200 metres in height. After Bouziès the road goes along the river at the edge of the cliff, sometimes transformed into a guardpost during the Middle Ages. The overhanging défilé des Anglais [Pass of the English] is thus the most famous of the “fortified hollows” built
during the Hundred Years’ War. On the other bank the road rapidly becomes a corniche and offers a superb view. Conduché marks afterwards the confluence of the valleys. The D41 that goes along the valley of the Célé leads to the cave of Pech Merle then to Cabrerets. In this area the river is renowned for the quality of its water and offers numerous spots
for a descent by canoe. Upstream the waterfall of the Pescalerie adds to its charm. A few kilometres from here at Cuzals the open-air museum offers a life-size reconstruction of rural life as it used to be formerly in Quercy. Finally Marcilhac is built in its entirety around the impressive ruins of its abbey. abbaye-marcilhac.fr
The cave of Pech Merle situated 3 kilometres from Cabrerets is a fabulous shop window for cave art. Apart from the vast rooms endowed with superb concretions, the cave is adorned with multiple motifs executed more than 20,000 years ago. 700 graphic motifs have been listed of which 70 are depictions of animals (mammoths, bears, cave lions, etc.) and 28 depictions of humans and handprints. And of course the celebrated panel of the punctuated Horses, a panel of two big outlines of horses surrounded by points, mysterious signs and handprints. Nor should we forget the chapel of the Mammoths forming a frieze 7 metres wide and 3 metres high. Be careful, access to the cave in summer is limited in order to preserve it. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 31 27 05 pechmerle.com
The towpath of the Lot
In the 19th century the towing of barges going up the Lot with their cargoes of salt, dried fish or spices, was carried out with the help of oxen or draught horses. But between SaintCirq Lapopie and Bouziès, at the level of the lock of Ganil, the Lot is at the bottom of the cliff. It was therefore necessary in 1845 to hew out of the rock a towpath 300 metres long and barely two metres high. Those willing therefore pulled by hand the barges to go through this passage. The walk above the Lot is superb.
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Bruniquel, the village with two castles
Cordes-sur-Ciel A legendary city turned towards the stars Rolled up on its rocky spur like a spiral towards the stars, Cordes-sur-Ciel looks like a fairy-tale village. This bastide of the Tarn, built in 1222, one of the oldest in the area, combines with its remarkable architectural heritage the beauty and the diversity of the landscapes of the Tarn. A town of artists and craftsmen, it fascinates with its dwellings adorned by dragons and strange characters sculpted with the feet of birds of prey, of a lion… The house of the Great Equerry, the house of the Master of Hounds, the house of the Great
Falconer which contains a museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. The Gothic palaces, built by wealthy merchants, keep their secrets and contribute to feeding the legend which has it that the creation of Cordes-surCiel was presided over by the stars and its location was chosen by fate. On the last terraces the Garden of the Paradises ends up by convincing us of this… Office de Tourisme de Cordes-sur-Ciel. Tel. 33(0)5 63 56 00 52 - cordessurciel.fr
Villefranche-de-Rouergue, an exemplary bastide Situated in the centre of the triangle Cahors, Albi, Rodez, between the valley of the Lot and the gorges of the Aveyron, Villefranche de Rouergue pours out over the contours of the valley of the Aveyron. Its dense network of streets ordered around the central square itself surrounded by arcades surmounted by Gothic or Renaissance 58 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
residences, the houses of wealthy merchants whose doors and towers expressed their social status, are fine examples of the urbanism and architecture of the bastides. The Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur and its small cloister, a masterpiece of Gothic art, the collegiate church and its impressive bell towerporch which juts into the
main street, the old chapel of the Black Penitents in the shape of a Greek cross… A rich heritage in which beats the heart of an animated city which, on market days, vibrates with local accents. Office de Tourisme de Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 45 13 18 tourisme-villefranchenajac.com
To the east of Montauban in the Tarn-et-Garonne the village of Bruniquel, classed among the most beautiful in France, is perched on a dizzy cliff overhanging the confluence of the Vère in the middle of lush vegetation. Inhabited from the remotest times the site also harbours a cave wherein have been found various human remains including the “lady of Bruniquel”, the most complete skeleton of theMagdalenian period (17 to 12,000 years B.C.) Prosperous during the Middle Ages by reason of its being on the way to Santiago de Compostela, Bruniquel has retained a superb architectural inheritance from the 14th and 15th centuries and two amazing castles almost vertically suspended above empty space. Office de Tourisme de Bruniquel. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 67 29 84 bruniquel.fr
Najac a perched town
Dominated by its royal fortress whose loopholes, unique in the world, allow for the simultaneous shooting of three archers, Najac occupies a steep hill hemmed in by a bend in the river Aveyron. Its one street which twists down from the castle burg, the oldest part where the castle thrusts up to the place du Barry, is bordered by old houses with wooden corners. Below the gorges of the Aveyron invite you to bathe or to go canoeing or kayaking.
Office de Tourisme de Najac. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 29 72 05 tourisme-villefranchenajac.com
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Sensations Subterranean transport
Caves A region with a subsoil like a gruyere cheese! The subsoil of the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées hides a vast network of caves, chasms and avens (sinkholes). Forty of them are equipped to welcome visitors. The most numerous, concretion caves, reveal strange landscapes subject to interpretation which feed the imagination, a mineral garden in the chasm of Esparros, a cathedral of the abyss in the Demoiselles cave, the grotte aux diamants in the Cocalière cave, the “hall for 100,000 soldiers” in the cave of Trabuc…
More numerous in the west of the region the painted caves are the precious eye witnesses of cave art, paintings, engravings, drawings made by our Palaeolithic ancestors. The caves of Niaux, of the Mas d’Azil and of Pech Merle figure among the rare painted caves still open to the public and among the most beautiful. Famous for its 200 paintings of negatives of hands, the cave of Gargas displays numerous prehistoric vestiges.
Rendez-vous with the past
From Niaux to Bédeilhac, beauty and history It is visited by the light of portable lamps in order to discover a hundred or so representations of animals – buffalos, horses, ibex, deer – and several hundred geometrical signs, the significance of which is a mystery. The cave of Niaux in Ariège and the representations of animals in its “Dark Room” plunges us into
the magical world of the Magdalenians 15,000 years ago. The motifs and figurative human forms of the cave of Pech Merle in the Lot also give us pause for thought. Just like the cave of the mas d’Azil in Ariège, impressive by its size and its volume which, after two years of work, offers today a new trail for visitors
Underground worlds sometimes have surprises in store. In the abyss of Cabrespine (Aude) we can henceforth walk above 200 metres of empty space over the new glass footbridge. A funicular railway plunges us into the sumptuous sound and light show of the aven Armand in Lozère. We reach the heart of the cave of Lacave in a small train in the Lot. In order to discover the hidden rooms of the cave of the Salamander (Gard) it is enough to put on a potholer’s costume before climbing over blocks, crossing a “monkey bridge” and climbing over rope ladders… Gouffre de Cabrespine. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 26 14 22 gouffre-de-cabrespine.com Aven Armand. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 45 61 31 aven-armand.com Grotte de Lacave. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 37 87 03 vert-marine.com/grottes-delacave-46 Grotte de la Salamandre. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 60 06 00 grottedelasalamandre.com
and fairy-tale lighting. The tour of the cave of Bédeilhac, still in Ariège, leads simultaneously to fine concretions, paintings, drawings and bas reliefs modelled in clay.
Mas d’Azil. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 05 10 10 sites-touristiquesariege.fr Pech Merle. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 31 27 05 pechmerle.com Bédeilhac. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 05 95 06 grotte-de-bedeilhac.org Niaux. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 05 10 10 sites-touristiquesariege.fr
The Park of Prehistory in Tarascon-sur-Ariège presents prehistoric art through films, objects and reproductions. In Tautavel the museum of Prehistory stages an encounter with Tautavel Man in 20 rooms displaying reconstructions of scenes from Prehistory and tools, bones and fossils found on the site of la Caune de l’Arago.
Parc de la Préhistoire. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 02 30 70 ariegepyrenees.com Musée de la Préhistoire. Tel. 33 (0)4.68.29.07.76 450000ans.com
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Gascogne Along the Baïse
St-Bertrandde-Comminges Spirituality as identity The elegant cathedral of Notre Dame and its imposing bell tower-keep constitute the veritable summit of this hill which stands out in the Pyrenean foothills and on which Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges has been built (in Haute-Garonne). The upper town with its medieval streets is encircled by ancient ramparts. In the lower town, next to the chapel of Saint-Julien du Plan are found the vestiges of a Paleo-Christian basilica that dates back to the 5th century, built on the old Roman city, Lugdunum Convenarum. There still remain
numerous vestiges of the ancient site – the temple, the thermal baths, the market, the theatre – on which was built the episcopal city. Off the beaten track the Roman basilica of Saint-Just de Valcabrère proclaims its singularity by using fragments of architecture and sculptures coming from the Roman city. The gardens of the cathedral offer a pretty viewpoint over the valley of the Garonne. Les Olivetains. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 95 44 44 tourisme.haute-garonne.fr
The abbey of knowledge Famous for its abbeyschool whose innovatory teaching attracted from the 18th to the 19th century students from the world over, Sorèze, where literature and science, singing and drama were taught…, blossoms at the foot of the forested massif of the Black Mountain. A museum trail guides the visitor to the discovery of the architecture and the 60 I HERITAGE I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
everyday life of this centre of learning. The abbey school also harbours the musée Dom Robert and that of 20th century tapestry. A little further on the belfry of Revel carries on being intoxicated by the colours, the smells and the hustle and bustle of one of the finest markets in France. The old bastide is also renowned for playing host to the greatest number of
craftsmen specialized in artistic furniture. PierrePaul Riquet, the man who conceived the Canal du Midi resided there and, a stone’s throw away, the lake of Saint-Ferréol, the canal’s main reservoir, pays tribute to him through its Musée et Jardins du Canal du Midi. Office de Tourisme. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 74 16 28 auxsourcesducanal dumidi.com
The Cistercian abbey of Flaran brings together buildings remarkably well-preserved at the heart of a wooded park, the original Romanesque church, the superb cloister, the reconstituted herb garden… The dormitory of the monks plays host to the exceptional Simonov collection (works by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Braque, Picasso…). Along the valley of the Baïse, where the river served to transport Armagnac brandy, the legacy of Condom, the historical capital of Armagnac, bears witness to the power of this old bishopric and the prosperity linked to trade in this precious commodity. Navigable for sixty kilometres the Baïse offers itself to the discovery of Gascony. Office de Tourisme de la Ténarèze. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 28 00 80 flaran-baise-armagnac.com
The city of machines
With its enclosure walls, its bridge and its moats, its crenelated towers, its medieval houses, its castle keep, Laressingle looks like a film set. On its outskirts a reconstructed medieval siege camp reassembles weapons for waging war. Children are invited to manipulate the catapult, to shoot with the bow and crossbow, dressed in the costume of a medieval knight or princess. The camp also offers re-enactments and demonstrations of siege machinery being fired.
Tel. 33 (0)188.8.131.52.8 larressingle.free.fr
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ART OF LIVING Endowed with vast tracts of agricultural land the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées offers a regional gastronomy which is renowned and varied. But it is also the biggest of the world’s vineyards.
The most varied of vineyards A rich diversity Traditions: from ovalie to biou Festivals
Truffles from Quercy, green beans from Tarbes, foies gras from Gers, apples from Tarn, Garonne and the Cévennes, apricots from Roussillon, pink garlic from Lautrec, Roquefort, bulls from the Camargue, chickpeas from Carlencas, Pélardon from the Cévennes… The region’s specialities embrace a sufficiently wide range to draw up a menu, from the hors d’œuvre to the dessert. The fertile agricultural land of the region offers a large palette of local products in a region where eating well and living well go together for the pleasure of true gourmets. And drinking well too! Neither is there a risk in this area with drinking since with its 280,000 hectares of vineyards the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées region represents the vastest vineyard in the world and the most varied.
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The most varied and the vastest of vineyards More than 80 AOCs and IGPs for 280,000 hectares of vineyards
If the vineyards of Languedoc Roussillon were already impressive with their 240,000 hectares, from now on the wine-growing area of the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées is unarguably the biggest in the world with its 280,000 hectares of vines. From Armagnac to the hills of Languedoc the vineyards fashion and punctuate the region’s landscapes. This is also the most varied of vineyard environments since it brings together, apart from ordinary or undistinguished wines, 44 appellations d’origine controlee [designations of origin ] (AOC) and 36 vineyards with the distinction of indication géographique protégée [protected geographical indication] (IGP). Côtes de Gascogne, Cabardès, Gaillac, Saint-Chinian, Comté Tolosan, Corbières,
Cahors, Minervois, Madiran, Terrasses du Larzac, Saint-Mont, Languedoc or Côtes du Roussillon, the wines are multifarious and have an exceptional bouquet. If the wine of Cahors possesses a strong personality with its famous Malbec growth, the other wines of the Southwest are described as possessing a certain freshness. In contrast the wines of Languedoc and Roussillon, sunny land wines, are generous, subtle, vivid and of rare quality. And this holds true for red wine as well as for white or rosé wine, and even for sweet wines and sparkling wines since the whole gamut is represented. So much so that the celebrated American wine-taster Robert Parker wrote that “le Languedoc-Roussillon is the new Eldorado of the wines of the world”.
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Leader for organic wines
With 23,000 hectares cultivated organically (including 21,000 for Languedoc-Roussillon) the region is the undisputed leader for wines to emerge from organic agriculture in France and globally (with Spain). Vines cultivated in this way represent almost 8 % of the total area of vineyards in Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées and 30 % of organic domains in France.
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Since 2013 the Tourism and Wine departments of Sud de France Development have created the Sud de France Wine Tourism Club which brings together notable sites, cellars, people offering accommodation, receiving agencies so as to make even better offers. destinationsuddefrance.com /club-oenotourisme
Heirs to a domain that is out of the ordinary and varied the wine-growers of Languedoc, Roussillon and the Southwest have understood their interest in laying bare their professions and their products by sharing that very special art of living that is the cultivation of the grape. From the springtime onwards the region turns into the Eden of lovers of wine tourism with a multitude of events centred on gastronomy and wine (samplings, vineyard walks, etc.) while the wine roads (including 10 with the label “Vignoble et découverte”) are put in place, notably under the aegis of Sud de France, with an ever growing number of private cellars, restaurants and hotels combining their efforts for the greater satisfaction of customers. destinationsuddefrance.com/club-oenotourisme tourisme-midi-pyrenees.com sud-de-france.com
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Rosé wines A sought-after colour
Offering a rich aromatic palette going from red fruit (raspberries, strawberries) to spices with a bouquet as flowery as it is fruity or mineral, the rosé wines of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées are cool and sensual and are drunk among friends with salads, tapas or grilled meats. From the same growths as red wine they are the result of a technique of maceration using different grapes. In IGP Pays d’Oc in the Corbières by way of the Faugères, the Cahors, the Côtes du Tarn, the Pic Saint-Loup, the coteaux du Quercy, the Corbières, the Frontons or even the Collioures these wines are favoured by an overwhelming majority of consumers. Each year Tavel in Gard, the oldest AOC of rosé wine in France, celebrates its wines. This year Saturday, July 16th – during a festival that combines the sampling of wine, gastronomy and shows. vin-tavel.com
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Sweetwines A speciality of the South
Vins Doux Naturels [Natural sweet wines] have been a Southern speciality for several decades. These VDNs are wines whose fermentation is halted by adding alcohol which increases their alcoholic content and ends up preserving the natural sugars of the grape. Numerous wines of this type are produced near the Mediterranean coast: muscat de Lunel, Mireval, muscat de Frontignan, Saint-Jean de Minervois. Nor should we forget, of course, the great classic wines of the Pyrénées-Orientales: Maury, Banyuls (coming from old vines cultivated in terraces) and Rivesaltes, this last appellation producing wines of a deep amber colour. In Gers le Floc de Gascogne is produced, an apéritif wine with a long history, produced in white and rosé versions, blending fresh grape juice with young Armagnacs. Wines for a long time restricted to being drunk as an aperitif, but which are now being rediscovered in marriages of courses and innovative wines.
From Limoux to Gaillac
The first sparkling wine in the world which is said to have been invented in 1531, la blanquette de Limoux, is a dry wine with a delicate effervescence, vinified and matured in barrels and very much synonymous with that area of Aude where it is produced. It has benefitted from an AOC label for nearly 80 years. The sparkling wine of Limoux is also drunk as a kind of champagne but the appellation also covers red wines and very subtle still wines. Gaillac is also a renowned sparkling wine of Tarn whose distinction is to use local grape varieties like Mauzac or Ondenc. Other effervescent wines may be explored, whether it be the experiments of wine-growers in Gers who not long ago started producing naturally effervescent or frothy wines using the Champagne method, not to mention Frontignan or Picpoul in the shape of which the co-operative offers an agreeable extra dry. Sparkling muscat may also be found with some wine-growers in Hérault.
Armagnac Gascon nobility
Obtained by distilling white wine in a still, then aged in an oak cask for many long years, the area in which Armagnac is produced touches three departments but mainly Gers. The oldest brandy produced in the South-West of France, it is made on the basis of varieties of grape including ugni blanc, baco blanc and folle blanche. An exceptional product made in small quantities by winegrowers and craftsmen blenders, Armagnac benefits from a specific classification according to its origin and when it is harvested. Conscious of this heritage a hundred or so domains, cellars and places of accommodation have created over the entirety of vineyards in Gers the label “Les Bons Crus d’Artagnan”, the guarantee of a quality welcome for a discovery of the inherited wealth of the department. armagnac.fr Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées I ART OF LIVING I 65
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From Saint-Mont to Lirac, the biggest vineyard in the world With its 44 “appellations d’origine controlee”, its 36 IGPs and above all its 280,000 hectares of vines – of which 244,000 are just for the wines of Languedoc and Roussillon –, the territory of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées represents the biggest vineyard in the world. Or should we say vineyards, for diversity is the order of the day among these exceptional wines which use numerous varieties of grape like malbec, syrah, mourvèdre, cabernet-franc, mauzac, négrette, carignan, etc. With 8 % of the area under cultivation planted with vines and offering wines with or without an appellation of ever higher quality, the region is a land for wines. The principal areas of production are AOCs in Languedoc (43,000 hectares), Côtes de Gascogne and Condomois (13,000 hectares), Corbières (9,900 hectares), Côtes du Roussillon and Côtes du Roussillon Villages (6,200 hectares), Armagnac (5,200 hectares), Cahors (4,400 hectares), Saint-Chinian (3,300 hectares), Minervois (3,200 hectares), Gaillac (3,000 hectares)…
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A rich diversity
A pluralistic territory Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées consists of several areas which renders it rich. It is besides, with more than 250 references, the first region in Europe to hold so many products labelled as IGP, AOC, AOP or Label Rouge. In the departments which form an arc round the Mediterranean, from the mountains to the sea, from districts of high elevation to the Mediterranean, from the Camargue to the Côte Vermeille, there are in this way a multitude of specialities on offer and a sun-drenched and refined cuisine. Oysters from the lagoons of Leucate, Gruissan or Thau, anchovies from Collioure, brandade from Nîmes, Pélardon cheese and sweet onion from the Cévennes, eels, melon and lamb from the Cathar area, apricots from Roussillon, dorade, asparagus from the area round Uzès, chickpeas, small pâtés from Pézenas or Nîmes, “truffade”, rousquilles (ring-shaped cakes), garriguettes strawberries… the palette of flavours is rich and important. In Tarn-et-Garonne fruit is plentiful in this region where grapes including the famous chasselas of Moissac, melons and plums abound. In Haute-Garonne they are very proud of the famous Toulouse sausage, in receipt of a Red Label, not to mention Pyrenean lamb. Gers and Lot have in common the tradition of rearing ducks mainly to make foie gras out of some and duck cutlets and conserves out of others. Ariège and Aveyron are both meat areas where excellence may be savoured what with Gascon beef, bœuf fermier from Aubrac and calf from Aveyron. Tarn enjoys a reputation which is unsurpassed for salt meat whether it be the IGP dry ham of Lacaune or melsat, that white pudding made of meat, eggs and bread. The black pig of Bigorre is the pride of the Hautes-Pyrénées while Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne and Ariège divide their forces to relaunch the Gascon chicken, famous for having been the favourite dish of Henri IV as chicken casserole! As many products which allow the ambassadors of taste that are the numerous chefs and cooks of talent, to fly high the flag of a region.
The oyster of Bouzigues Classified as a “Site Remarquable du Goût” [remarkable site of taste], the town of Bouzigues is the centre of oyster farming on the Thau lagoon. Since the beginning of the 20th century, several generations of oyster farmers have managed their shellfish farms by combining family tradition and technical precision. The absence of a tide has made necessary the technique of rearing the oysters suspended. Today 2,500 shellfish tables emerge above the étang. You can also find oysters on the Leucate lagoon and on that of Gruissan.
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Emblem La tielle de Sète (Octopus Pie)
A little round pie made out of bread dough and with fluted edges and garnished with octopus cut and mixed with a spicy tomato sauce the tielle has become one of the icons of Sète. Nevertheless this dish, which can be eaten warm as well as cold, is only the pure and simple rehash of a dish from the South of Italy! Intimately linked to the history of Sète this dish was imported in 1937 by the wife of an Italian fisherman, Adrienne Virduci, who first made it popular. To such a point that Sète got hold of it and most of those who make tielles in Sète are descendants of Adrienne!
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The chasselas de Moissac
Olive and olive oil A symbol of the Mediterranean the olive tree is a common heritage which has been cultivated for slightly in excess of 2,500 years. A variety which is quite at home in Gard, la Picholine obtained an AOC “Olive of Nîmes”. In Aude, the Lucques, also protected from now on, is recognizable from its light green colour and its lunar crescent shape. The Olivière is for its part one of the principal varieties of the PyrénéesOrientales. It is a variety that the department shares with Hérault where the Lucques variety is also to be found. Eaten whole or in oil, the olive – green or black – is a renowned and tasty antioxidant which is celebrated on numerous feast days between April and December.
The chasselas de Moissac, the first fruit to have obtained an AOP in 1971 and celebrated on the 17th and 18th of September, is no longer just an exceptional table grape. Its golden seeds are made today into jams, fruit juice and alcoholic drinks like the Quercy des îles in which their nectar is combined with rum, vanilla and Espelette pepper. Other delights of this fruitbearing department are the plum, notably the Red Label reine-claude variety, the cherry, Quercy melon, the apple, the kiwi fruit, but also hazelnuts and chestnuts.
Recipe Brandade of cod of Nîmes Serves 4. 4 filets of cod or salted cod - 1 kilo of pureed potatoes - 1/2 litre milk - 20 centilitres of single cream Olive oil - Salt and pepper. Cook the potatoes in salty water Peel them and mash them in the cooking pot. In the shallow casserole put some milk and poach the fish. Drip it onto a plate and check that there aren’t any bones in it. Crumble it and add it to the potatoes, mash everything and beat the olive oil and the single cream till stiff. Serve.
The green bean of Tarbes and of Pamiers
It is in the Aubrac, on the border of Lozère and Aveyron, that this rustic dish made of potatoes and fresh tomme cheese was born. This substantial dish, whose origins go back to the 12th century, was served by the monks of Aubrac to the pilgrims who crossed these mountains to go to Santiago de Compostela by the Via Podensis. All the difficulty of making it is in the manual skill needed to knead and stretch the aligot which has to come out in long scarves.
Having come to Europe via Spain to which Christopher Columbus had brought it back, the green bean reached the valleys of the Pyrenees in the 18th century. As Bigorre had been a territory to welcome it, the green bean quickly became a speciality of Tarbes. It distinguishes itself by its flavour and the fineness of its skin. From henceforth it is protected by a Red Label and an IGP. Green beans are also found in Lauragais, the famous lingots which serve to prepare cassoulet and the “coco de Pamiers”, a small round bean typical of the valley and a basic ingredient of mounjetado, the Ariège version of cassoulet.
Duck Confit Parmentier Serves 4 4 pieces of fresh duck thighs - 1 litre of duck fat 300 g potatoes - 60 g of butter - 6 cl of milk Chives (as many as you like) - ½ clove garlic Thyme - Pepper (as much as you like) Salt (as much as you like), rock salt Put the duck thighs in rock salt for 24 hours. Wash the salt off. Pickle the thighs (useful to know : they are cooked when a straw penetrates them easily). Prepare a potato puree. Crumble the thighs and mix them with the puree. Add the chives. For presentation purposes, dispose in a circle and put on top the tops of the thighs and around them garlic pickle.
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Gastronomy ART OF LIVING
The lamb of Lozère or Cathar lamb
In receipt of an IGP since 2008 the lamb of Lozère (half way between suckling lamb and lamb out at grass) is breast fed with its mother’s milk until it is weaned, then with herbs and cereals coming from the wide-open spaces of Aubrac, Margeride, the Cévennes or the Causses. All of which gives to its meat a remarkable flavour and smoothness. As for the Cathar country lamb from the areas of the Black Mountain, the Corbières and the High Valley of the Aude, it is reared for 120 days so that its meat can taste really good. A part of the production benefits from Red Label endorsement.
Collioure anchovy This blue fish is an icon for Collioure which became a “Site remarquable du gout” [remarkable site of taste] in 1994. Since 2004 Collioure anchovy has also been classified as an IGP. Fished for centuries its production nevertheless became rare and today there are only two salting shops left in this small port of the Côte Vermeille: those held by the Desclaux and Roque families. The season for anchovy lasts from May to October, a period during which they are caught with a net. It is in salt, after having been placed to mature in barrels, that the anchovy takes on its distinctive colour, taste and smell.
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Apricot of Roussillon Under this denomination is concealed in fact four varieties (Rouge du Roussillon, Héléna du Roussillon, Royal Roussillon and Gâterie) of red apricots from Roussillon, reputed for their particular sense-orientated characteristics. Of average size, orange coloured with bright red bits, the apricot of Roussillon, cultivated in the plains of Roussillon, has intense aromas and a melt-in-the-mouth and juicy texture. It is since 2014 the only apricot in France to have earned an AOC.
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The Pélardon of the Cévennes
The pink garlic of Lautrec Consecrated by a Red Label in 1996 the pink garlic of Lautrec is appreciated for its flavoursome taste, its subtlety and its sweet and sugary aspect and is eaten cooked or raw, even in soup! In addition it is celebrated each year during the first weekend of August in Lautrec for two days. But the region that produces half of the garlic in France is also renowned for the white garlic of Beaumont-deLomagne and the purple violet of Cadours which has just obtained its AOC.
Provided with an AOC since the year 2000 the pélardon is with the sweet onion and the chestnut one of the icons of the Cévennes in Gard and Lozère. Known since Gallo-Roman times, this small round cheese made from goat’s milk, goats who live outside for two thirds of the year, with a dry and piquant taste, is manufactured from clotted milk, then dried before being refined. Produced between May and September the pélardon of the Cévennes is eaten runny or dry, even coated with breadcrumbs, but sees its flavours exalted when it is marinated in olive oil.
The Black pig of Bigorre A lively and alert animal, endowed with good feet and which browses in meadows and undergrowth, the black pig of Bigorre that is found in the Piedmont of the central Pyrenees has come back from the verge of extinction. Today recognized for the quality of its meat it would have disappeared without the inflexible will of certain rearers who saved it in 1981. The black ham of Bigorre, recently recognized with an AOC, dried and refined for 18 to 24 months, gives off strong aromas and melts in the mouth.
Famous for ages, notably for having carried off the first AOC in 1925, we have Roquefort. Made from untreated ewe’s milk, its singularity resides in its method of maturation, which can only be done in the cellars of the village of Roquefort, or more accurately, at the foot of the rock of Combalou. Cellars have been set up in this cliff where the hygrometry is ensured naturally. It is during this period in the cellar that the penicillium roqueforti develops which gives to Roquefort its taste and its texture.
Recipe Casserole chicken 1 chicken - 8 carrots - 4 turnips - 1 rutabaga 200 g long-grain rice - 1 sprig of celery 1 onion - 2 ground cloves - 25 g of butter 25 g of flour T55 - 1 egg 2 tablespoons of fresh cream - Rock salt Salt + pepper - 1 bunch of mixed herbs 4 leaves of leeks Place the chicken in a big stewpot and cover it with cold water. Bring it to the boil and remove the scum. Peel, wash and cut the vegetables into chunks. When the chicken broth is quite clear, put in the carrots, the turnips, the swede, the celery, the onion larded with cloves and the bunch of mixed herbs. Salt lightly with rock salt. Allow to cook for 30 to 35 minutes and add the strung together leaves of the leeks. Allow to cook for 1 hour. Pour a part of the chicken broth into a casserole, bring it to the boil, cook the rice in it for 20 minutes. Prepare the white sauce by melting the butter, add the flour. Mix and cook on a low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually thin down with 50 cl of chicken broth until the sauce is homogenized. Bring to the boil. Mix the yolk of an egg with fresh cream. Take off the heat and pour the mixture into the hot sauce, whip energetically. Put to one side. Cut up the chicken, serve it with the vegetables, coat with white sauce. Serve with the rice.
Catalan cream 1 litre of milk - 8 eggs - Powdered sugar - Flour 1 grated lemon peel - 1 stick of cinnamon - Salt Infuse the stick of cinnamon into the milk and bring it to the boil. Grate the lemon rind into a saucepan, add the sugar (4 tablespoons), flour and egg yolks, beat them with a small beater until you obtain a foamy, white mix. Slowly pour in the milk and mix well. Put the saucepan on the heat, cook slowly while stirring, then stop cooking when the cream has thickened. Pour the cream into a small mould, let cool. Sprinkle the sugar (3 tablespoons) over the surface of the cream and burn it with a red-hot poker.
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Gastronomy ART OF LIVING
Whether it be from Toulouse, from Castelnaudary or from Carcassonne, cassoulet is an unmissable regional dish. More than a dish, it’s a symbol. Legend has it that the dish was invented during the Hundred Year’ War by the starving villagers of Castelnaudary who, in order to have a last meal before the attack, are said to have mixed up all they had left… In Castelnaudary it is made on the basis of broad beans, goose conserve and pork shank or shoulder. In Toulouse it contains duck, Toulouse sausage and is sometimes covered with dried breadcrumbs. In Carcassonne red partridge and a piece of mutton enter into its make-up. The original recipe demands a slow cook in a saucepan on the spot so that the beans are melting.
Foie gras is the signature of Gers known the world over. Made on a base of goose or duck, foie gras is a speciality which is eaten raw, semi-cooked or cooked and is part of the cultural and gastronomic heritage of France. In Gers it is henceforth possible to meet producers, discover traditional occupations, approach breeding grounds, without forgetting to root out the best products, thanks to the programme concocted by the IGP professionals who have created a Route for foie gras. Other departments in the region also produce foie gras: Lot and Aude in the main.
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In the southeast of Tarn, the mountains of Lacaune are the preserve of the “maseliers” (killers of pigs in Occitan) and thus butchers, pork butchers and salters. Among their specialities: melsat, a sort of white pudding made up of meat, eggs and bread cooked in a frying pan. The bougnette, a doughnut of the same composition whose stuffing is wrapped in a pork caul is also a real treat. The saucisse de couenne (pork rind sausage) is, for its part, made up of meat and bacon rind secured in entrails. It is generally cooked with pulses, cassoulet, lentils…
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The sea-bream in Mediterranean Sea The fishing of it is a quasi-pilgrimage for many amateurs on the coast of Hérault or in the port of Sète. The keenest go as far as to take a few days off during the most propitious periods in the months of April to May and September to bait it and tempt it while waiting for its discreet and repeated tugs. A bulging forehead topped with yellow, cheeks as if made up in pink, the daurade royale [gilthead bream] has, here, in sandy depths a livery of silver. To taste it is a rare pleasure. Simply daubed with olive oil and cooked in the oven, it’s a treat.
Recipe Tapenade of green olives 400 g of stoned green olives 100 g of filleted anchovy 1 sprig of thyme 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic 1 teaspoon of parsley and basil 20 to 30 g capers 1 lemon Pepper - Olive oil - Tabasco sauce
Black diamond Truffe
From December to March men accompanied by dogs and pigs with a remarkable sense of smell go out looking for the famous mushroom that grows under oak trees in certain areas. Whether it be in Lot on the Quercy Blanc where the market of Lalbenque is the first of the season, in Villeneuve-Minervois in Aude, in Saint-Gély-duFesc in Hérault or in Uzès in Gard, each year the tuber melanosporum is celebrated at markets with truffles quite high in colour, with each time a meal of truffles naturally!
A dish which is typically Catalan, the cargolade is grilled snails in their shells. Placed on the side where their shell is the snails are prepared with salt, pepper and lard and herbs are placed on the embers of a wood fire and filled throughout the cooking with melted pork fat. When the snails no longer foam, the dish is cooked. The dish is eaten with aioli and washed down with a regional wine. Each year in Bompas in July a festival of the snail is the opportunity to make a huge cargolade of 160,000 snails.
Gascon Beef Gascon beef, Label Rouge since 1997, is a source of pride to its rearers, committed to the quality process of the appellation Bœuf gascon, pure race, pur goût [Gascon Beef, pure breed, pure taste]. With its squat silhouette the gascon ox that you find in Ariège towards Saint-Girons, Saint-Gaudens and Luchon, is perfectly adapted to the physical relief and pastures of the Pyrenees. Fed on hay and cereals in winter the Gascon ox gives a meat which is tender and tasty.
Wring out the olives. Put them in a mixer, then reduce them to bits. Be careful not to make a pulp of them. Add olive oil progressively according to the desired consistency. The more oil there is, the more doughy it is. Add salt, pepper and a bit of Tabasco sauce.
Shoulder of milk lamb of Aveyron 1 shoulder of milk lamb Red Label 5 tablespoons of olive oil 2 teaspoons of Espelette pepper 3 teaspoons of granulated wild fennel 1 teaspoon of powdered cumin 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients. Smear the lamb shoulder and let it marinate for 24 hours covered up in the refrigerator, turning it 2 or 3 times. Pre-heat the oven to 120oC and put in the shoulder to cook for 3 hours on a grill, above a dish designed to catch the juice. Turn after 2 hours. Add salt at the end of the cooking process.
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Market place ART OF LIVING
The beating heart of gastronomy
In a destination where agriculture and viticulture are pillars of economic activity, food halls and markets play a more than symbolic role. Today if open-air markets continue to prosper and give pleasure to locals and tourists, the indoor market halls dedicated to food and concentrating on regional produce, are the reflection of local gastronomic culture.
The belly of the town Since the 1st of January 1901, a few metres from the Canal de la Robine, the food market halls in the style of Baltard sweat the fiery temperament of the Narbonnais: a coarse frame and an exuberant passion. Famous throughout the great South, they contain more than 70 food businesses (butchers, sellers of roast meat, fishmongers, tripe butchers, greengrocers, etc.) open 7 days a week in the vast majority of cases. A popular place where people mix socially, the market halls are also renowned for the numerous restaurants (6) they have and to which one can come to have cooked and to taste the meat bought at the neighbouring butcher’s shop.
Market halls and restaurants
The fourth town in France has 3 covered markets both old and modern but above all colourful, strong-smelling, representative of the diversity of local produce. The most impressive is the marché Victor Hugo, right in the middle of the town and full of life. Providing space for 80 stallholders, it is the biggest in the town. Butchers, pork butchers, fishmongers, bakers, grocers… all occupations are represented – and, last but not least, wine boutiques... For 50 years the external galleries of the upper floor have contained five restaurants that open at midday, in which family cooking of good repute is served. Around the square itself other restaurants affirm the gourmet vocation of the premises! Toulouse 74 I ART OF LIVING I Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées
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The southern marketplace
For more than 130 years the food markets of Nîmes have been the beating heart of the town. With its 75 stallholders the halls generate a huge amount of activity in which we find cheeses – including, of course, the Pélardon of the Cévennes – Larzac beef or bull meat of the Camargue, but also rustic bread, chickens from the Cévennes, daurades (seabreams) from the Mediterranean, shell clams from Grau-du-Roi. Lucques or Picholines olives (a Nîmes variety), fine grocery produce with notably the Brandade (creamy cod purée with olive oil and milk) from Nîmes, small pâtés and, of course, bars and restaurants. Two hundred people work in the colourful and renowned food halls open from Tuesday to Sunday.
Running the gamut of Aveyron A stone’s throw from the medieval Belfry of the town, the airy and spacious halls of Millau – in the style of Baltard and renovated in 2007 – contain more than ten providers of food. As you would expect in Aveyron, pork butchers, butchers and purveyors of cheese are wellrepresented in this gourmet cavern of the south of Aveyron to offer milk-fed lamb, pork, Aubrac beef, Roquefort, etc. But one can also find there fish and early vegetables, not to mention the indispensable café. To the four customary days (from Wednesday to Saturday) summer adds Sunday to the market’s opening hours.
A hall, some halls
A sought-after conviviality
In the county town of the prefecture of Lot, the regulars and the tourists can do their shopping in the morning but, more rarely, in the afternoon too, in the food halls with their magnificent architecture. Though they are relatively modest – only about fifteen stalls – the food halls of Cahors offer a fine diversity of products. Cheeses, including the unmissable Rocamadour, bread, fruit and vegetables, wines (300 labels of which many from Cahors itself), fish… And delicatessen retailers, specializing in duck like Marlas, which offers this biped in all its shapes and sizes: duck breasts, sausages, foie gras and even duck ham! The halls are open from Tuesday to Sunday and on Wednesdays and Saturdays a superb external market surrounds the building.
If the capital of Languedoc has several covered market halls at its disposal, the most central one is the Castellane market hall, renovated in 2001. Twenty-six stallholders offer a fine selection of regional products: meats from Lozère and Aveyron, cheeses from the Cévennes, wine from the sandstone hills of Montpellier or Pic Saint-Loup, oysters and mussels from the Thau lagoon, fish from the auctions of Sète… There is a concentration of Mediterranean-ness in these food halls on the ground floor of a brick-built building. On fine days the little inside counter of Joseph’s cafe is transformed into a fine terrace in front of the halls, which are packed out on Saturday and on Sunday morning!
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ART OF LIVING
Rugby-playing areas Here rugby is played with 15 players or with… 13!
Toulouse, Narbonne, Quillan, Lourdes, Tarbes, Béziers, Castres as well and Perpignan, Carmaux… All of these teams have won the French Championship and brought home the Brennus Shield. There are undisputed stars who, for more than a century, have been writing the finest pages of rugby in France and internationally. But these legendary clubs only form a very small part of this famous rugby-playing area. More than 45,000 licensed individuals are shared out among the 260 clubs counted in the region Midi Pyrénées Languedoc Roussillon. Not a village, not a weekend without a rugby match between the Rhône and the Garonne. The ‘young ‘uns’ have their schools. Girls from Toulouse, Montpellier or Perpignan
regularly shine in the firmament of the Top 8. The rugby leaguers, less numerous than those who play by Union rules, whether they be from Carcassonne, Albi or Lézignan, count among the best teams in France. Rugby, you were told, is a local passion. Shared by thousands of families who regulate their lives, their hobbies, their free time around the tries, scrums and studs of their local team. Rugby school… It too is like them and many have spent months there, even years. It has sometimes battered them a bit, but they have learnt that the adversary is not the enemy and that the third half is often the best.
Jousting The battle of the giants
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In Sète, on 25 August, the feastday of Saint-Louis, there is the high point of a seaside and Languedocian passion, the jousts. Applauded, supported and admired by thousands of spectators, carried away by the peña bands beating time for the bouts, the jousters dressed in white face one another from the top of their tintaine, the platform overhanging their boat. A veritable battle of giants armed with a shield and a lance. May the best man win and the other fall in the water. It’s a struggle, led by ten rowers and guided by two coxswains / helmsmen, to be wondered at all summer long in Balaruc, Agde, Mèze, Sète, Frontignan, Palavas, Marseillan or in Grau-du-Roi.
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ART OF LIVING
The cobla beats out the rhythm of the sardane
The same choreography animates every summer both sides of the Pyrenees. Standing in a circle, men and women hold hands with one another and alternate series of short steps and long steps in perfect harmony. Kept time to by the “cobla”, a small orchestra composed of traditional wind instruments, the sardane with a tempo that stands out is the iconic dance of Catalonia. In the month of July Céret dedicates a festival to it.
Lands of biòu The bouvine? A custom and a tradition of the Petite Camargue where the biòu, the black bull of Camargue, is king. Squat and lively he is the star of the abrivados when he is released into the streets, surrounded by gardians mounted on horseback. Adrenalin guaranteed. A role that the heroes of the “courses camarguaises”, the razeteurs, take from him. Dressed all in white some often very young men try to get off by means of a hook a rosette situated between the horns of a young bull. A good, clean, agile fight, suppleness and liveliness allow them to win in this dangerous combat. The best of the razeteurs is crowned every year in Nîmes at the end of the season. More to the west, the passion of the Gascons for the courses landaises offers in arenas veritable bull ballets in which “écorteurs” and “sauteurs” courageously face the horns of young cows to the sound of cheerful brass ensembles.
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ART OF LIVING
Arts/Museums Albi Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
The episcopal Palace of Albi (13th century) harbours today the musée Toulouse-Lautrec, or the most important public collection in the world dedicated to the celebrated son of Albi – which makes it one of the most visited provincial museums in France. Thanks to the generous donation of the parents of the painter, you will discover here the singular personality of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Pictures painted in his youth, the shady world of Parisian nights at the end of the 19th century or famous posters offer the visitor a rich and varied visit which can be completed by visiting the château de Bosc in Naucelle where the grand-niece of Toulouse-Lautrec tells us about the life of her famous forebear. • Place Sainte-Cécile. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 49 48 70 museetoulouselautrec.net
Toulouse Musée des Augustins
Ten centuries of art in the pink town . Classified as a Historical Monument the old Augustinian monastery is first and foremost a fine example of southern Gothic architecture (14th and 15th centuries), situated right in the heart of the Ville Rose. Afterwards it became the musée des Toulousains, created a very short time after that of the Louvre. From the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century its collections cover ten centuries of painting and sculpture, or more than four thousand works that constitute an exceptional collection. • 21, rue de Metz. Tel. 33 (0)5 61 22 21 82 augustins.org
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Montpellier Musée Fabre
From classical art to Soulages. The main art gallery of Montpellier, the musée Fabre, was created in 1825 thanks to the generosity of the Montpellier painter François-Xavier Fabre, added to later thanks to the donations of local artists like Frédéric Bazille and Pierre Soulages who has a whole room dedicated to him. The gallery contains 800 works presented chronologically from the Renaissance to nowadays – among them some by Delacroix, Corot, Géricault and Courbet. It is to be noted that a wide area is devoted to the Soulages collection (600 m²). As for the pre-Impressionist Frédéric Bazille, an international exhibition pays tribute to him this summer (from 25 June to 16 October), in collaboration with the musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Gallery of Art in Washington. • 39, boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 14 83 00 museefabre.montpellier3m.fr
Rodez Musée Soulages
Lodève Musée Fleury
Special mention. Even though currently under construction (due to reopen in November), the musée de Lodève merits a special mention for the dynamism and the prestige of its programming which make of it one of the cultural high points in Languedoc and even in the Mediterranean and have done for many years. Summer exhibitions take place outside the walls during the Hôtel de Fleury’s period of closure. • Square Georges-Auric. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 88 86 10 museedelodeve.fr
In the landscape around Rodez. Not to be missed in Rodez, the musée Pierre Soulages with its ultra-modern architecture. This museum has seen the light of day thanks to an exceptional donation from Pierre Soulages, born in the region, and from his spouse Colette. No fewer than 250 works and 250 documents are visible in this way over 1,700 square metres of exhibition space, retracing the first thirty years of the career of the eulogist of “black light” notably through his paintings on paper, a selection of works on canvas, of cartoon for the stained glass windows of Conques as well as the totality of his printed work (lithographs, silk screen prints…). Faithful to the wish of Pierre Soulages a contemporary exhibition room with an area of 500 square metres is dedicated to other contemporary artists. Picasso is the guest for summer 2016 until 25 September. • Jardin public. Tel. 33 (0)5 65 73 82 44 musee-soulages.rodezagglo.fr
Céret Musée d’art moderne
The Mecca of Cubism. Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, Matisse, Miró, Chagall, Soutine… the greatest artists of the 20th century have stayed in the capital of Vallespir, rightly named “The Mecca of Cubism”. The Musée d’Art Moderne of Céret, created in 1950, was able to advance this vocation both across borders and internationally with exhibitions of international importance. An obligatory stoppingoff point for every visitor to Catalan country. • Boulevard du Maréchal-Joffre. Tel. 33 (0)4 68 87 27 76 musee-ceret.com
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Arts/Museums Nîmes Carré d’Art Jean Bousquet
Installed on the last floor of the very elegant building designed by Norman Foster, the collection of the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Nîmes is built around an exhibition space which goes from 1960 to our own day. The artists of New Realism, Free Figuration, Support-Surfaces are well represented as well as the holders of the Arte Povera. Nor should we forget American artists (Richard Artschwager, Allan Kaprow…) and German ones (Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Albert Oehlen…) or creative talents like Sophie Calle and Annette Messager. • Place de la Maison-Carré. Tel. 33 (0)4 66 76 35 70 carreartmusee.com
Toulouse The Abattoirs
A place of living culture. Situated in the magnificent brick buildings of the former abattoirs, in the suburb of Saint-Cyprien, the musée des Abattoirs came out of the fusion of the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Toulouse and the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain in the region. Its collection of some 400 works shows off works of artists like Hantaï, Soulages, Tàpies, Dubuffet, Baquié and even Picasso – we can admire there in the basement the very fine stage curtain for the Hide of the Minotaur dressed as Harlequin. Apart from the temporary exhibitions, Les Abattoirs are developing a multi-disciplinary programming (concerts, performances, projections…) which give it a central role in living culture in the area of metropolitan Toulouse, also endowed with a multimedia library, a centre for documentation, a restaurant, a bookshop and an auditorium. • 76, allées Charles-de-Fitte Tel. 33 (0)5 62 48 58 00 lesabattoirs.org
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Montauban Musée Ingres
The quintessence of the neoclassical. A former 17th century episcopal palace, the Musée Ingres harbours the collections of two illustrious sons of Montauban, the painter Jean-AugusteDominique Ingres and the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. Six rooms on the first floor are devoted to the celebrated neo-classical painter and notably to his drawings. • 19, rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 22 12 91 museeingres.montauban.com
Playful and popular art. Miam – Musée international des arts modestes [International Museum of Modest Arts] This strange museum, set up in a former wine cellar, harbours a few thousand iconic objects of modest art: toys, figurines or gadgets, pure products of primitive art, naïve art or popular art. An unusual place, immensely popular with children and adults! • 23, quai du Maréchal-de-Lattrede-Tassigny. Tel. 33 (0)4 99 04 76 44 - miam.org
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A rain of festivals Music, lively shows, cinema, plastic arts, theatre for a young audience, literature, Occitane culture… each year more than 400 festivals animate the thirteen departments of the region Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées. And there are things, of course, to suit all tastes. But there exists a strong common factor between the prestigious manifestations which call on great names of the repertory and those that are more modest or intimate. In both cases it’s a question of sharing and showing and hearing moments of grace and beauty. For that the most iconoclastic places are brought in: the prestigious concert halls with superb natural areas that the region offers, like those of the cirque de Gavarnie or of the maritime theatre in Sète with its view over the Mediterranean. But beyond the celebration, these manifestations are also a privileged moment to discover or rediscover the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées destination and to combine culture and tourism. By way of introduction a taster of some festivals that will light up your stays. monnouvelhorizon.com
Festivals Montpellier Danse
A festival of contemporary dance with an international reputation, Montpellier Danse assembles more than 300 dance companies from all over the world. Among the great names of the international scene, Jacopo Godani, Cullbergbaletten & Deborah Hay… • Montpellier (Hérault). From June 23 to July 9. Tel. 33 (0) 800 600 740 montpellierdanse.com
This singular manifestation takes place from now on in Paris and in Berlin too. For 4 days, the Electronic Siestas offer in Toulouse a series of concerts according to a programming both laid-back and ambitious around music of today. • Toulouse (Haute-Garonne). From June 23 to 26. les-siestes-electroniques.com
Montauban en scènes
For its opening concert, Montauban en Scène has invited to attend this summer Pascal Obispo and his symphony orchestra. Thirty rendezvous are expected on open-air stages. The stage in the Jardin des Plantes will welcome Pony Pony Run Run, Frero Delavega, Faada Freddy… • Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne). From July 1 to 17. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 21 02 40 montauban-en-scenes.fr
Pause guitare Albi
Twenty years this year for this festival which has as its backdrop the superb city of Albi. Seven stages, of which three are free are installed in the town, the biggest on the banks of the Tarn, the most prestigious at the foot of the cathedral of Sainte Cécile. The notes of folk, rock, pop and song are sung this year by Elton John, John Baez, The Avener, Louise Attaque, Kendji Girac…
• Albi (Tarn). From the 4th to the 10th of July. Tel. 33 (0)5 63 60 55 90 pauseguitare.net
Les déferlantes d’Argelès
A dream setting, the Château de Valmy park with a view over the sea, a family atmosphere and an all-out programme of entertainment are the keys to the success of this festival which, for its tenth outing, has as its headline acts The Offspring, Nekfeu, Les Insus, Chemical Brothers, Tryo, Selah Sue… • Argelès-sur-Mer (Pyrénées-Orientales). From July 7 to 10. festival-lesdeferlantes.com
Festival de Radio France
The Festival de Radio France de Montpellier-Languedoc Roussillon
Midi Pyrénées has built a unique place for itself in the musical landscape based on a programme of classical, jazz and world music. New locations, the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes and the Abbey of Conques, are lined up for this 31st outing which invites you with 143 concerts and 170 manifestations to a fabulous Journey to the East. • Montpellier (Hérault). From July 11 to 26. festivalradiofrancemontpellier.com
Festival de Nîmes From 1997 onwards the Festival of Nîmes has set up shop in the month of July in the sumptuous framework of the Nîmes Arena for a current musical get-together. A programme without an exclusive style taking in this year Jean-Michel Jarre, Kendji Girac, David Gilmour, Muse and many others. The high point of the summer in a unique setting. • Nîmes (Gard). Tel. 33 (0)4 67 92 23 53. From July 12 to 24. festivaldenimes.com
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Festival de Saint-Céré Castelnau-Bretenoux as well as in numerous communes in the department. • Saint-Céré (Lot). From July 30 to August 14. festival-saint-cere.com
Visa pour l’image
For its first outing, this festival is inviting local and regional groups and rockabilly partisans: Crazy Cavan and the Rythm Rockers, The Restless and many others in a 60s atmosphere with a vintage market… • Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées). From the 31st of August to the 3rd of September rockabilly-tarbes.com
Festivals Jazz à Sète
The 21st outing for this festival with a superb maritime theatre. From Christian Scott, the oracle for the new wave of trumpeters from New Orleans to the bassist Kyle Eastwood (the son of Clint), the 2016 vintage promises to be good, with Diana Krall as the closing act. • Sète (Hérault). From July 13 to 19. Tel. 33 (0)4 67 59 84 20. jazzasete.com
Jazz in Marciac
During the first fortnight in August Marciac lives through the jazz age. This little Gascon town has forged for itself an international reputation by welcoming for thirty-nine years now the greatest jazz performers. The festival has retained the festive and convivial atmosphere of its first years and the exigency of a programme associating the tried and tested with pleasant surprises. Ex-
pected this year are: Yaron Herman & Matthieu Chedid, Ibrahim Maalouf, John McLaughlin… • Marciac (Gers). From July 27 to August 15. Tel. 33 (0) 892 690 277 jazzinmarciac.com
Tempo Latino in Vic
The first European festival of Latin music and salsa, the celebrated festival of Vic-Fezensac offers four nights and eight concerts in arenas. • Vic-Fezensac (Gers). From July 28 to 31. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 06 56 66. tempo-latino.com
Inaugurated by Olivier Desbordes, this festival mixes opera, classical music and operetta in the sumptuous framework of Saint-Céré and
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Jazz in Marciac
Visa pour l’image
For more than 20 years now Visa pour l’Image has been waking up consciences and has become the Mecca of photojournalism by exhibiting the work of the greatest reporter-photographers who take risks to testify to the world’s hard reality. • Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales). From August 27 to September 11. www.visapourlimage.com
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OUTDOOR Between continental areas and its coast, the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées benefits from a rare diversity which makes it the ideal spot for active but also restful holidays. From kitesurfing to spa there is nothing but pleasure.
When the wind blows Slow tourism by bike Destination wellness A custom-made stay
Benefitting from territories which have for the most part remained far away from the great industrial upheavals, the region has the privilege of having at its disposal huge swathes of land which have stayed unspoilt. This splendid heritage makes of it a region where tourism is at one with adventure, whether it be towards the coast for kitesurfing or sailing, or inland for rambling in the Cévennes, in the Pyrenees or on the Causses. Sport to relax or extreme sport, here, all is a source of enchantment. But it is also a destination for unwinding of the first order since with 30 resorts the region Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées figures on the podium of thermal spas in France.
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Kitesurf When the wind blows… Invented between Palavas and La Grande-Motte in the 90s, kitesurfing has conquered the world. And, from Port-Camargue to Canet, the two hundred and twenty kilometres of Mediterranean coast visited by the mistral and the tramontane offer waves as high as the desires of its adepts. Besides half the kiters in our region practise this sport. Nineteen spots to kitesurf are referenced by the Fédération Française du Vol Libre. Each spot has its own specificity, from the more accessible ones for beginners to the more challenging ones for experts and adrenalin junkies. Thanks to the tramontane the Audoise coast is also a paradise for lovers of windsurfing and funboarding. Opposite the wild cliffs of Port Leucate the beach of Conssoules at La Franqui counts among the best spots in Europe welcoming both experts
and beginners. And the instructors of these seven schools of Kiting are snowed under during the summer season! Here it is that the best international riders in the world assemble, the Mondial du Vent. Gruissan, ideal for freestyle, slalom or speed, is set aside for professional adrenalin junkies and welcomes each spring the Wind Challenge. Saint-Pierre-surMer, where the junior European Cup in Kitesurfing takes place is developing numerous activities for young sportspeople. In Gard the beach Sud du Grau-du-Roi - Port-Camargue is also an ideal spot to ride the first waves. La Taramanière in Agde will delight lovers of freestyle. If the wind is agreeable, long distance riders will prefer Villeneuve-lèsMaguelonne where in May for four days Festikite is celebrated.
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Useful to know A guide to the spots The KLR association has been publishing for several years a guide-taking note of the 70 practice zones of Kitesurf on the region’s Mediterranean coast. Apart from a reminder of the rules of good conduct each spot has detailed information on access, winds, etc. Free download.
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Paddle In paddle mode Easy, convivial for sailing, more sporting for surfing, the course or practice run in white water, the Stand-Up Paddle has the advantage of not needing wind… A course in paddle school remains the best way of learning good gestures and good posture. Some spots organize initiation and improvement courses and rambling. The vision that the upright position on the board makes possible, makes the paddle ideal for nautical pursuits. Some
trails have already passed into legend: the boucle du Ponant in the Camargue, the canals of Palavasles-Flots, the Canal du Midi, the creeks of Cap Béar or the mountain lake of Génos-Loudenvielle and, much more agitated, les Raspes du Tarn or the river Axat. Stand Up Paddle is a sport integrated in the Fédération Française du Surf. Fédération Française de Surf. Tel. 33 (0)5 58 43 60 57 surfingfrance.com
The ancestor of modern surfing and originating in Polynesia, stand-up paddle or SUP, has become one of the most practised nautical pursuits in France.
Sailing remains the most practised water sport in the region which counts twenty sailing schools welcoming more than twenty-seven thousand trainees during the summer period. Courses for sailing in a group or on your own, sea garden, cabin boy sailing for the youngest, stage 100 % sailing for a first approach or improvers, stage for catamaran, for sailing dinghy or sailing for pleasure, the possibilities are endless. Sailing is also practised in seaside lakes: Thau, Barcarès, Sigean and inland: lac de la Gimone (Haute-Garonne and Gers), lac de Villefort (Lozère). Several nautical bases, Sigean, Thau, Peyriac-de-Mer, offer training or outings for handicapped people.
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Underwater adventure Encounter with seahorses or the wrecks of old sailboats
Initiation to diving, exploration, there’s something for everyone in the Mediterranean on this “Mare Nostrum”. And you can also go diving in the lagoons.
Renowned for its crystal-clear creeks and its fauna and flora, the Côte Vermeille boasts the most beautiful seabeds. However the unusual underwater landscapes of Cap d’Agde and the cliffs and rocky plateaus of Palavas are on the list of divers’ favourite sites. Amateur explorers of wrecks will venture to the waters off Espiguette or Port-la-Nouvelle to look for a tugboat or a Japanese steamer… while the Thau Lagoon promises an original encounter with seahorses.
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Whitewater From waterfalls to rivers, the big thrill
Waterfalls, tumultuous rivers and mountain torrents offer all the ingredients for a dose of adrenalin in whitewater sports. Jump into the crystal-clear ponds of the Llech canyon, one of the most beautiful of the Pyrenees or follow the Agly River through the great gorges of Galamus, go down the waterslides of Chassezac, nicknamed “the Pearl of Cévennes”, at the bottom of a gorge 300-meters deep, try out unbeatable extreme sports in the torrents of the Gouffre d’Enfer sinkhole in Haute-Garonne, multiply water games and rappelling in the Vallée des Gaves, discover the wild setting and the excitement of the Vialais Canyon, in the Massif du Caroux, these are some of the pleasures to share… Tel. 33 (0)4 67 22 98 09 - www.destinationsuddefrance.com - Tel. 33 (0)5 61 13 55 55 - www.tourisme-midi-pyrenees.com
Rock-climbing Always higher The many cliffs along the coast, the gorges along the rivers and the walls of mountain slopes are great for rock-climbing. With over 70 kilometres of routes, Ariège is ranked first among the departments of the Pyrenees in terms of equipment as well as climbing schools. From rock faces for learning the basics of rockclimbing, to the Dent d’Orlu, with its compact slabs and rope-lengths on a narrow ridge, there is something for everyone.
However, the variety and beauty of the different landscapes attract climbers to the summit: the Targasonne boulder field near Font-Romeu, the Pic de Maupas where you need ice picks and crampons to cross the glacier, the limestone cliffs of the Gorges of the River Tarn and the River Jonte that are close to the vultures and their majestic flights, the cliffs of the Clape with a view of the sea or the Roc d’Anglars site which overlooks the village of Saint-
Antonin-Noble-Val and the Valley of the Aveyron. Lands of adventure at dizzying heights, the diversity of the sites in the region will suit beginners as well as experienced climbers for all types of climbing - slabs, cracks, vertical walls and cambers. Comité régional de la montagne et de l’escalade. Tel. 33 (0)5 62 27 07 66 crmp-ffme.fr Tel. 33 (0)4 68 04 80 89 crlr-ffme.fr
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Green routes Bike tours on dedicated roads enable you to discover the region
Green Routes are reserved for non-motorised transport and were developed with concern for integrated enhancements that favour the environment. They are often constructed on old railway tracks (as in Hérault near Bédarieux), towpaths, cultural itineraries, etc.
They go from beach to beach (Lido Green Route), cross entire departments (Traversée de l’Aude), hug the towns (Toulouse-Blagnac), run along river banks (Lez Green Route) stretch for more than 400 kilometres along the Canal des Deux Mers and follow old railway tracks (Gaves Green Route). The network of Green Routes is still expanding. The Green Route of HautLanguedoc, the “Passa Païs”, forms part of the Regional Nature Park of HautLanguedoc, while that of the Espiguette snakes around ponds and swamps to the sea.
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The bike, another way to discover the region
An invitation to wander, the bike occupies a choice place in the region. Ecological, it enables you to cover kilometres while taking in the landscapes you cross at a few contemplative stops or stages in the villages. Many loop bike tours criss-cross the territory for a ride of a few hours or a whole day, while others cut across the countryside for an adventure lasting several days. Certain itineraries follow legendary routes, such as the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim’s Way, while others follow along the banks like that of the Canal des Deux Mers which links Sète to Valence d’Agen. Along the banks of the River Lot branching off near the Cahors vineyard, the Cycle Route through the Valley of the River Lot leads to the discovery of the famous medieval villages known as the bastides.
Mountain Bikes Full throttle, from Tourmalet to Larzac In this region, the mountainbike will find perfect opportunities to express all its potential, including diverse landscapes, a range of distances and slopes… The great crossing of the Ariège Pyrenees (223 kilometres in twelve stages of around twenty kilometres each) follows historic routes: the Chemin des Bonshommes and the Chemin de Saint-Jacques in the Pyrenean Piemont by way of the Green Route in the Cathar
Pyrenees. Sixty kilometres long with a rise of 2,500 meters, the loop up to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre by the Lac Bleu is a beautiful climb up the Col du Tourmalet road with a superb view at the summit and a breath-taking descent. The circuits which are marked and ranked according to four levels of difficulty by the Fédération Française de Cyclisme can be completed in a few days or in sections. The Larzac Mediterranean
Crossing, from Agde to Caylar by way of Lake Salagou, the Great Hérault Crossing which cuts across the Regional Nature Park of Haut-Languedoc, the trail from Mont Aigoual to Mont Lozère which follows the dizzying trails of the Gorges du Tarn - all these cycle routes combine the spirit of adventure with landscapes to… take your breath away. Comités de Cyclisme. ffclr.fr and comitempy-ffc.com Destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées I OUTDOOR I 89
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42,000 kilometres of marked trails and thousands of playgrounds Around forty-two thousand kilometres of marked trails enable you to discover, by stages of several weeks or several days, in loops that take from one hour to one day, the wide open spaces, the prettiest villages and the exceptional heritage of the Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées. Forest roads, coastal trails on steep cliffs or on the edge of the sea and lagoons, the coastal road, crossings of the limestone causses and the high plateaus are some of the many opportunities for an authentic encounter with nature, the landscapes, the flora and the fauna. The “Grande Randonnées” (GR) are hiking trails that are marked throughout the region with red and white stripes. The GR 10 crosses the Pyrenees, alternating between sumptuous landscapes at high altitudes and in the valleys, the GR 65 follows one of the itineraries of Santiago de Compostela, including six sections between Nasbinals and Condom inscribed on the UNESCO
World Heritage list, while the GR 70 follows the Stevenson road, with or without a donkey, across the Cévennes. The GR 36 crosses Aude from the Montagne Noire to the Corbières, while the GR 107 follows the Chemin des Bonhommes in the footsteps of the Cathars. The GR 68 goes around Mont Lozère, the GR 6 crosses the Rhône at Beaucaire, transits by Cévennes, goes up Mont Aigoual, passes through the causses in Sauveterre and Aubrac and reaches the Valley of the River Lot at Conques and also at Figeac. The “Petites Randonnées” (PR - marked in yellow), are short hiking trails that take a maximum of one day to complete and usually lead to a cultural or natural heritage site. The “GR de Pays” are long-distance hiking trails usually designed in loops that enable you to explore a whole territory. Added to these are the discovery tours and botanical or thematic trails usually improved by the National or Regional Parks Services.
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goodtoknow Thrills and chills on the Via Ferrata Between climbing and hiking, the Via Ferrata is a good way to experience spine-tingling sensations. On the edge of a cliff, overlooking the rivers, crossing canyons with suspended bridges, several circuits adapted for people with different skill-levels, for beginners to experienced, which will enable them to discover the region from a different angle.
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Free flight If I had wings… Baptism by air in a two-seater, an initiation training course, many sites allow you to experiment with the sensations of free flight and, for those who are more experienced, to fly with their own wings. The site of the Louron Valley is considered to be the “Mecca” for free flight by paraglider in the Pyrenees, whereas Luchon-Superbagnères is the highest in the region. Other paraglider paradises are the ledges of Larzac at Millau, where all types of flying are
authorised above the limestone plateaus of the Grands Causses. Dominating the Hérault Valley, La Serrane, the flagship site between the sea and Cévennes, opens out onto the meanders of the River Hérault and the Pic Saint Loup. A flight from Ispagnac will give you an unusual view of the Gorges du Tarn. At Cerbère, paragliders take off from the Pic Joan cliff facing the sea… F.F. de Vol Libre federation.ffvl.fr
Vast wildernesses, plunging valleys… free flight is for experienced amateurs as well as novices of this sport which provides completely new sensations.
… Walking six to eight kilometres, striding across the fairways, in an enchanting setting and under pleasant skies definitely makes a difference. The diverse golf courses, from beside the sea to the landscapes of Lozère or the high altitudes of the Pyrenees, every year attract more fans from France as well as from abroad. A small course of six to nine holes, a landscaped course of 18 holes… sixty golf courses have been listed in the region. One of the best: the golf course of Carcassonne, located at the foot of the medieval city, offers a superb panoramic view of the Pyrenees and the Montagne Noire and has a hole that is considered to be one of the most original in Europe. The Albi golf course, bordered by the River Tarn and dominated by the cathedral, is the most beautiful in the region. As for the Falgos golf course in the Eastern Pyrenees, it offers astounding landscapes with a difficult but pleasant course. liguegolflanguedocroussillon.org golf-midi-pyrenees.com
Golf courses made for you
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Well-Beingdestination Present throughout the region, the thermal resorts have succeeded in bringing about their transformation From Lozère to Aude, from Gard to Gers, by way of Aveyron, from the Eastern Pyrenees to the High Pyrenees, every year 30 resorts welcome hundreds of thousands of guests seeking treatments in buildings that have not changed since the era of the Second Empire in the 19th century. Napoleon III and the industrial and cultural elite of the era lent an incomparable renown to all these villages which have in their areas an inexhaustible resource: their hot springs. Whether they were sulphur or salt, whether they treated rheumatism, ENT or skin problems, they stimulated the tastes of the wealthy who came to heal (a bit), to show off (a lot) and to have parties (crazy). The two wars put an end to these eccentricities. However, the often luxurious thermal baths remained standing with water still flowing from
the vents. Everywhere, the thermal resorts have now become popular, offering ultra-modern medical infrastructures. Their geographic locations made it possible for them to open up to a new type of client by offering balneotherapy activities in an environment that promotes leisure, skiing (in the resorts of the Pyrenees and Lozère), hiking and even gastronomy. In adapting to this new demand for well-being, they have succeeded in their gamble of transforming an outdated practise into a young, dynamic activity. Barèges, Balaruc-les-Bains, Lamalou-les-Bains, Cauterets, Luchon, Ax-les-Thermes, Avène, La Chaldette, Bagnèresde-Bigorre or Lectoure are now associated with recognised medical treatments and a new way of “taking the waters”. eaux-essentielles.com
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goodtoknow From the spa to thermal recreation
Whether they are in Amélie, Molitg-les-Bains, Prats-de-Mollo, Lectoure, Barbotan-les-Thermes, Cransac-les-Thermes, Argelès-Gazost or Lamalou-les-Bains, many centres include the thermal spa in their services. It is now known as thermal recreation, which meets the demand for well-being and pleasure being developed at places like Ax-les-Thermes, Cauterets, Saint-Thomas-les-Bains, Llo etc.
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Baths Baths from around the world The setting is superb. At the foot of the Massif de l’Hourgade and its summits at altitudes of around 3,000 meters, Balnéa is the leading balneotherapy centre in the Pyrenees. In the Louron Valley, at the foot of the ski resorts of Peyragudes and Val Louron and on the edge of the Lac de Génos-Loudenvielle, it offers a variety of baths inspired by the cultures of the world
and open to the public. For couples, friends and families with children 9 months and up, Japanese, Roman, Tibetan, Incan and Amerindian baths offer both indoor and outdoor pools. They are filled with water that has been heated naturally, rich in micronutrients, surging up at 30°C from a depth of 600 meters. Guaranteed purity. balnea.fr
Balaruc-les-Bains offers to guests seeking treatment its climate and its typically Mediterranean environment. O’Balia, the biggest balneotherapy centre on the Mediterranean shores, is set up on the edge of the Thau Lagoon and its salt waters. In the High Pyrenees, Cieléo, the spa at the Barèges thermal baths, offers baths at night under an immense cupola open to the starry sky. Sensoria Rio, at Saint-Lary, is an invitation to the pleasures of canyoning in thermal waters at 32°C. Aquensis, at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, features baths in donkeys’ milk, for a Cleopatra-style pause, followed by a massage with essential oils from Pyrenean plants. The Couloubret baths at Ax-les-Thermes welcome you in an imaginative decor inspired by old Roman baths. Each resort has its own programme!
Good waters Recreational and unusual thermal spas
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made to measure Stays
Quality accommodation for an exceptional holiday Classic or high-range, the accommodation in Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées features unusual refinement. A vast, divers territory, including the coastline of the Golfe du Lion, two mountain ranges, limestone causses and a back-country that stretches to the Valley of Dordogne, the region offers splendid settings that are typical of the local art of living. Here, wellbeing and living well are important points of view. In hotels, campsites, holiday villages, guest rooms or rented facilities, no matter what the package or range of services, the emphasis is always placed on services, events, sharing and fun, with respect for the environment and access to vacations for all. Thus, a holiday in a hostel will delight visitors seeking a family atmosphere in an old traditional building,
decorated with care by its owners. If visitors prefer an exotic setting, cabins or yurts in the woods are also offered in several departments. Mountain lovers will find warm stages during their Pyrenean hike or on the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrims’ Route. On the edge of the sea, the campsites, holiday villages or hotels with every comfort are the ideal solution to enjoy the beach as well as modern services such as the swimming pool, spa, gym, etc. Guaranteed by different labels, including the label “Qualité Sud de France”, these facilities let you put down your suitcases in Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrenees with total peace of mind. In addition, over fifty tourist facilities chosen for their exceptional features form the Prestige
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Circle, initiated by “Sud de France Développement” for exceptional tourism. Run by wine producers and professionals of wine tourism, the Club Œnotourisme (wine tourism club) offers ideas for many original holidays in the middle of the grapevines. Cahors, Gaillac, Armagnac, in all the vineyards of the region, wine producers who are devoted and passionate, enable the visitor to appreciate the landscapes and the diversity of the tours. There are many destinations: a green getaway in an authentic bastide, a mystic night in a Benedictine monastery, an evening under the stars in a Catalan golf restaurant, an epicurean wine-tasting in a vineyard estate... Quintessential refinement to satisfy every whim for discovery and infinite emotions.
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Quality label “Tourisme Sud de France”, the guarantee of an attentive welcome Developed since 2008 in the southern departments of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées and recognised nationally by “Qualité Tourisme”, this label guarantees a warm, professional welcome. It indicates high standards of quality and comfort in 1135 tourist facilities and sites. Whether they are restaurants, wine-tasting cellars on the new Sud de France wine tourism routes, sales outlets for local products, tourist and cultural sites, accommodation such as local inns, hotels and, very recently, guest rooms which are now eligible for this label, all are engaged in a rigorous approach to quality and are subject to external audits before the label is awarded, renewable every 3 years. These facilities offer at a minimum bilingual French-English services and welcome people with reduced mobility, not to mention a firm commitment to inform guests clearly and effectively on all the cultural and entertainment events available in the region. destinationsuddefrance.com/qualité
A label created to guarantee the quality of service and awarded for 3 years to facilities that meet the criteria.
Marketing power Trademarks for a territory that stands out Whereas “Sud de France” is celebrating its tenth birthday, “Sud Ouest France” is only beginning its fourth year. Created before the new Greater Region of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées, both of these territorial trademarks were built on the basis of quality and regional identity to promote the products of the South of France. An umbrella trademark for wines, agro-food products, cosmetics and tourism, “Sud de
France” has been successful in promoting the products and the destination internationally and for mass markets. Created on the basis of product segments under the sign of quality that already uses the “Sud Ouest” name in order to federate industries (PGI foie gras duck from the South-West and wines from the South-West in particular), the trademark “Sud Ouest France” has established its credentials under the sign
of quality for the promotion of products from an area that is known to be eminently gourmet. From now on united together to protect and promote products from a large region in the South of France, these two trademarks will continue to complement each other in the 13 departments of the region as well as abroad, in order to work towards the discovery and identity of the exceptional products it offers.
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How do you
get here? Located in the South of France on the Mediterranean Arc, the destination Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées is 3.5 hours away from Paris by high-speed train through the Rhône Valley and 4 hours away by the Atlantic high-speed train. Regular flights from Paris for Toulouse and Montpellier are very busy. London is a 1.5 hour flight away and Barcelona is just 2 hours away by the highway. The Greater Region has 9 airports within its territory, hosting commercial flights from all of France and most European countries and the Mediterranean basin – either with the major airlines, or with the low-cost companies.
Visit the websites of these airports: • BÉZIERS beziers.aeroport.fr • BRIVE VALLÉE DORDOGNE aeroport-brive-valleedordogne.com • CARCASSONNE aeroport-carcassonne.com • CASTRES MAZAMET castres-mazamet.aeroport.fr • GIRONA (SPAIN) barcelona-girona-airport.com • MONTPELLIER MÉDITERRANÉE montpellier.aeroport.fr • NÎMES nimes-aeroport.fr • PERPIGNAN aeroport-perpignan.com
To prepare your journey • Tourisme Sud de France destinationsuddefrance.com
• Agence de Développement Touristique de l’Hérault hérault-tourisme.com
• Comité Régional du Tourisme Midi-Pyrénées tourisme-midi-pyrenees.com
• Agence de Développement Touristique du Lot tourisme-lot.com
• Agence de Développement Touristique d’Ariège ariegepyrenees.com
• Comité Départemental du Tourisme de Lozère lozere-tourisme.com
• Agence de Développement Touristique de l’Aude audetourisme.com
• Tourisme Environnement Hautes-Pyrénées www.tourisme-hautes-pyrenees.com
• Comité Départemental du Tourisme de l’Aveyron tourisme-aveyron.com
• Agence de Développement Touristique des Pyrénées Orientales tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com
• RODEZ aeroport-rodez.fr
• Agence de Développement Touristique du Gard tourismegard.com
• TOULOUSE BLAGNAC toulouse.aeroport.fr
• Comité Départemental du Tourisme du Gers tourisme-gers.com
• TARBES LOURDES PYRÉNÉES tlp.aeroport.fr
• Comité Départemental du Tourisme de la Haute-Garonne tourisme.haute-garonne.fr
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• Comité Départemental du Tourisme du Tarn tourisme-tarn.com • Agence de Développement Touristique du Tarn-et-Garonne tourisme-tarnetgaronne.fr
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summer winter alike
From the Canal du Midi to the Episcopal City of Albi, from Camargue to the Pyrenees, destination of Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées is this land where the unique is within reach.
Book your next holidays on www.monnouvelhorizon.com
Studio IDM - Photo Mikael Anisset ©
Languedoc Roussillon Midi Pyrénées