Sunday, 17 May 2009

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5 Great Days Out in the South of France By Brian R Stephens

One of the most gorgeous locations for a holiday is the South of France and an area that is hard to beat is the Languedoc Roussillon region. It pretty much has everything a tourist could want, wonderful scenery including the Mediterranean coastline, La Montagne Noire, the Pyrenees plus numerous inland lakes and fast flowing rivers.



There is some fantastic architecture both Medieval and modern, examples of which are La Cite in Carcassonne and the Millau Viaduct near to Montpellier not to mention the famous Canal du Midi.

Add to that the available sporting opportunities, such as skiing, snowboarding, horse riding, cycling, walking and white water rafting, to name but a few, and an area steeped in history that includes the Cathar fortresses, the abbeys and the historic sites of the Albigensian crusade such as Minerve and Montsegur. Then throw in one of the largest wine producing regions in the world, certainly in France anyway, why would you want to go anywhere else

So if you are visiting the South of France in this region make sure you don't miss out on some wonderful opportunities for a day out. Here are a few suggestions to get you started, 5 to be precise.

Number 1 on the list has to be the fabulous city of Carcassonne with it's live and working Medieval fortress 'La Cite' a Unesco world heritage site since 1997. La Cite played a big part in the Albigensian crusades after Simon de Montfort forced the inhabitants of the city to surrender and then used it as his own fortified retreat. Today La Cite along with the lower city (Ville Basse) is a thriving tourist attraction seeing over 3 million visitors a year. There is certainly plenty for the tourist to do on a day out in Carcassonne, with amazing architecture to see, theaters, music to listen to, restaurants, bars, shops and the Canal du Midi, another world heritage site, to visit.

Number 2 is a visit to the Corbieres wine region, the capital of Cobieres is Lagrasse which is a small but beautiful medieval town that sits in the heart of Corbieres country half way between Carcassonne and Narbonne. There is a small river that runs through the town over which you will find some stone built bridges from which you can get a great view of the Abbey of St Mary. Driving through the country lanes to get to Lagrasse you will pass lots of 'degustations' where you can stop for a little wine tasting and perhaps buy a bottle or two to take home or to help lunch go down and Lagrasse is definitely a lovely backdrop for a lazy lunch in the sunshine.

Number 3 is a visit to the Mediterranean coastline via Narbonne, going north to south there is Gruissan, La Franqui and even further south, Collioure. You could spend a whole day in any one of these locations without too much trouble just enjoying the Mediterranean Sea and it's changeling scenery. Gruissan plage is a wide expanse of golden sand while Collioure has a small shingle beach being more of a fishing port. Many a fine artist has resided in Collioure utilising the amazing clarity of light of this region to influence their paintings, this would be your chance to experience why they thought it was so special.

Number 4 is Rennes le Chateau, high on a mountain top going out of Couiza at the start of the Pyrenees, never mind the history of the Knights Templar just take in the views and enjoy the magnificent scenery. When you have had your fill there you could perhaps take a drive down through the Gorge de Galamus and along the river towards Chateau de Peyrepertuse and Chateau de Queribus, both as impressive as Rennes le Chateau in their own way, as is the 600m deep gorge you drive through to get there.

Number 5 is back to wine country but this time through the Minervois to its capital Minerve, another wonderful medieval city that sits on the river that runs through Gorge de Cesse and has the dubious honour of being the first of the Cathar strongholds to fall to Simon de Montfort in the Albigensian crusade at the start of what was to be a 34 year long quest to eradicate the Cathars from the region. The parfaits who refused to renounce their faith were burnt at the stake for their troubles but these days the only burning of the steak that is likely to happen is on a grill at one of the very nice restaurants overlooking the river or in one of Minerve's very quaint little streets.

There are so many other places in the region to write about and I am sure in time I will, but for now I hope that this has given you a flavor of what there is available to visit in this lovely part of France.

You can visit French Holidays Aude for information on our gite in the south of France, where we offer self catering accommodation, and to gain access to some useful travel advice for France and Europe generally plus a travel shop where you can purchase accessories for your travels on line.

To find further details on some of the locations I have written about you can visit my profile on HubPages for a list of places to visit in France.

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