360 Days sun
Beaches and Castles
Rich Medieval history
360 Days sun
Beaches and Castles
Rich Medieval history
In the Languedoc, as with the Roussillon, the geography across the region varies greatly. As does the climate, and anyone looking for property needs to take this into consideration. Are you looking for the hot, buzzy Mediterranean known as Bas-Languedoc, or the peaceful mountain regions of Haut Languedoc with the second largest National Park in France, the Cévennes, which are sparsely populated and heavily wooded with colder winters? Less expensive than neighbouring Provence, this area is becoming increasingly popular with property purchasers.
The Languedoc-Roussillon covers a vast area and five very different departments.
In the Roussillon section we have covered the Aude and the Pyrénées Orientales with its very Spanish influences, now we turn to the Gard, Hérault and Lozère.
In Languedoc, as with the Roussillon, the geography across the region varies greatly, as does the climate, and anyone looking for property needs to take this into consideration. Are you looking for the hot, buzzy Mediterranean known as Bas-Languedoc, or the peaceful mountain regions of Haut Languedoc with the second largest National Park in France, the Cévennes, which are sparsely populated and heavily wooded with colder winters? Less expensive than neighbouring Provence, this area is becoming increasingly popular with property purchasers.
There’s nowhere better to experience the healthy Mediterranean diet of fresh seafood, olive oil, wine and copious vegetables and fruit. Cheese, charcuterie and local specialities make it a joy to go shopping in the local markets.
To get the lie of the land, think of Languedoc in bands running diagonally southwest to northeast. The coast is sand, the coastal plain and foothills vine green, the forests chestnut leaf green interspersed with white limestone Causses.
Languedoc has some of the most beautiful countryside in France. There are mountains and plateaus where the rivers have cut magnificent gorges. In the foothills, you will find olive groves and vineyards under pine-clad hills with these mountains form a magnificent backdrop. The ‘garrigue’ a mixture of scrub such as yellow gorse and wild herbs scent the air. On the coastal plain Montpellier is a thriving university city, voted the most popular place to live in France, and cultural Nîmes, has the world’s best preserved amphitheatre and Roman temple. It’s a good mix, and the choice is yours for the taking.
From the river Rhône and the Camargue marshlands in the east, to the Canal du Midi and the Aude river in the west, Bas-Languedoc is a huge flat coastal plain covered in vines, encompassing the towns of Montpellier, Nîmes, Alès, Adge and Béziers. These towns have interesting historical centres but it is not all a picture postcard, around the edges, they are built up with suburbs, industrial and retail developments.
The coast is marked by long windswept stretches of sand and marshy lagoons. Many mass tourist resorts have sprung up such as Carnon, St Pierre and Canet, but others like Portiragnes and Serignan are secluded and more charming. Espiguette beach on the Camargue is a one-off: long and wild with a backdrop of endless sand dunes. Sète, near Montpellier, has been an important port and remains a good seafood centre. From there, take a look over the Bassin de Thau, the breeding ground for mussels and oysters, and then sit on the terraces and sample the fare.
Montpellier is the capital of the Hérault department. It has been a major trading centre for centuries and today it is an energetic city known for its university and medical school – a quarter of the population are students. Dell and IBM both have headquarters on the outskirts and the town is expanding fast, offering work, good weather and outdoor living with a vibrant café society and beautiful scenery nearby for r+r (rest and relaxation).
The Hérault department has become popular with expats looking for a place in the sun. Béziers is on the up, centre of the region’s wine trade and a low cost airline has now come into the small airport. A short drive inland Roquebrun on the river Orb with its picturesque bridge and old water mill is popular with tourists. The towns of Pézenas and Lodève off the A75/E11 are of interest to home buyers. St Guilhem le Desert, a beautifully restored village by the Gorges d’Hérault is a UNESCO Heritage site and another tourist pull.
Nîmes is the main town in the Gard department. The heritage in and around this sun-baked town is noteworthy: Les Arènes, the 12thC amphitheatre which hosts bullfights and rock concerts; the Maison Carrée, a fine example of a Roman temple; Aigues Mortes, a walled town and the Pont Gard, the 275m long aqueduct 20 km north of Nîmes, one of France’s top five tourist attractions. But it’s not all ancient history, architect Norman Foster designed the contemporary art museum, the Carré d’Art opposite the temple, attracting tourists young and old. Interestingly, the town is also famous for denim. In the 1949 gold rush, a man called Levi Strauss was making trousers for miners in California. He began importing strong blue fabric from Nîmes, now known as denim. Uzès, 25 km in the northeast is one of the tourist attractions of the area favoured by creative people, particularly potters.
The highlands of Languedoc are a world apart from the coastal plain. Deep gorges, plateaus and dense forests are the characteristics here. This southern part of Massif Central includes the mountainous regions of Aubrac, Margeride, Gévaudan and the Cévennes in the Lozère department. Mende is the main town of the Lozère which is France’s least populated region.
The Cévennes straddles the Gard and Lozère departments stretching into neighbouring Ardèche and Haute-Loire. Running diagonally southwest to northeast you will find the second largest National Park in France with undulating rugged mountains and deserted plateaus, scores of valleys and caves carved by ferocious water, huge chestnut and holm oaks forests, beech and olive trees, fruit orchards and vineyards, hill farms with grazing sheep. The geology is granite and shale, limestone and sandstone. In late May, the countryside comes alive with wild flowers and orchids; 2250 plant species have been found and red deer, beavers and vultures are a few of the species which have been successfully reintroduced. Tourism is the principal industry attracting ‘green’ tourism, hiking, canoeing, white water rafting, cycling, riding, fishing and bird watching. In winter cross country skiing is on offer on Mont Aigoual. Mont Lozère (1702m) is the highest peak.
The first impression is a gentle Mediterranean climate but nature here can turn nasty and once the autumn rains arrive, they gush down the riverbeds, sometimes causing flash floods and mayhem. However once the fierce weather departs the beauty of the landscape cannot fail to captivate, and it is this that draws people time and again. ‘This is not a place for people looking for distraction or amusement’, says writer Lucy Wadham. ‘It is, and always has been, a place of exile, a place to run away to’ for the Cévennes has had a turbulent and tragic history.
The Gorges du Tarn which is between 400 and 600 m deep dramatically separates the limestone plateau the Causse de Sauveterre from the Causse Méjean. The gorge starts in the village of Ispagnac, near Florac, winding its way south west for about 50 km ending just north of Millau in the next department, (known for the longest and most beautiful viaduct in the world). En route is the medieval village of Ste. Enimie.