A small and in many ways beautiful city, or large town, if you love French cafe culture, Narbonne is hard to beat.
Narbonne has the markets and shopping that could get all those chores done in record time! Les Halles is a permanent covered market with great value bistros (Chez Babelle for a French style steak and chips), unusual cheese stalls, and variety of produce in spades. Served on a piece of slate (ardoise), the ham or cheese sampler with a glass of wine included makes a great light lunch or brunch, right in the middle of the market.
The cathedral is a significant landmark, and a fascinating piece of local historical architecture. Surrounding the Cathedral are many small alleyways and ancient streets (with boutique shops) that are a pleasure to walk around. The canal du midi also passes through the city centre, only a few metres from Les Halles.
Immediate autoroute access Northwest towards Bordeaux, or Southwest to the Pyrenees, and Perpignan and Barcelona less than 2 hours away, Narbonne has an awful lot to offer.
Wine is the lifeblood of this town. With a very good Sunday market, and a smaller one on Thursdays, you can find anything from Army surplus to home made goats cheese. It is a very pretty little town and the drive there is wonderful through the vineyards. As you crest the hill at Fontjun, there is a significant WWII resistance memorial, and a fantastic view for you to pull over and take some photos.
Roquebrun is a gorgeous medieval village and the river is stunning – entering Roquebrun is the bridge over the river Orb. Directly before crossing it, take one of the tracks down to the river, where there is a stony beach and parking. Kids love building dams here in the river and there are areas to swim and try kayaking. Watch out for the current with young kids though, it can sometimes be quite strong.
Look up to Roquebrun from the river and you will see the restaurant Le Petit Nice with its maroon awnings – get a space on the balcony for an evening meal and you will be in heaven with the lovely view and watching the birds and even bats flying around!
All the recent Da Vinci Code style books regarding the ‘Cathars’, make the fortified medieval castle (Ile de la Cite) in Carcassonne a must to see! Take the A 9 to Narbonne and then the A61 to Carcassonne, about an hour’s trip. There is parking outside the castle and then a short walk in. The Citadel and the church are very interesting and the hotel next to the church worth a visit. Lots of lovely restaurants to stop and have a meal or just a drink outside.
There is also a haunted house (which is very scarey!) and a horrible torture museum for those with strong stomachs!
You can take a trip around the ramparts on a horse and cart or just have a guided visit to the citadel.
Horse jousting events are held in the summer from time to time, great fun!
You should also try the O2 Adventure Park just outside Carcassonne great fun for kids and adults.
A tiny village that straddles the canal du Midi, Le Somail boasts a quality restaurant, a couple of good smaller bar/restaurants, boat hire, a hat museum, and one of the most unusual bookshops you will have ever seen. A village that is well worth a few hours. The bookshop closes on Tuesdays.
This village is classified as one of the ‘Prettiest villages in France’ and is worth a trip. It is off to the right on the way to Carcassonne, is a must for those interested in the history of the Cathars.
Not as well known as the likes of Valras and Narbonne, but the tiny village and hill by the sea are very charming. Most restaurants are open only between Easter and the end of September, so plan ahead!
One of the bigger beach resorts, miles of sandy beaches and plenty play equipment for youngsters on the beach. There are loads of quality restaurants and bars along the beach (competition being stiff) and some good shopping. Valras Plage is very busy in summer, but puts on some form of entertainment almost every day or evening. The Tourist Office by the beach can furnish you with a leaflet listing all the events.
If you fancy a ‘city-day’ during your stay at our self-catering accommodation in the south of France, try Montpellier. Montpellier offers excellent shopping and hypermarkets. Enjoy the superb Tram system, alight at the ‘Place de Comedie’ for sightseeing and refreshment.
It is a dynamic city and renowned as much for its heritage as for the great scholars and thinkers who settled here throughout the centuries. There are plenty of attractions on offer for children. There is the Mare Nostrum Aquarium where you can see over 300 species housed in this underground world; the Amazonian
Greenhouse; the Lunaret Zoological Park or the Galileo Planetarium. The monuments and museums are all equally fascinating. The Theatre Square (Place de la Comédie), the town’s central hub, is one of the largest pedestrianised areas in Europe.
But the best way to appreciate the riches of this dynamic and lively town is to let yourself be swept along by its energy, lose yourself in the quaint little alleyways and discover in its streets the history that made the town.
The city has trams to connect the above attractions to the town centre and also a tourist train where for 6 euros you can have a guided tour around the town.
Beziers is a vibrant town bustling with traditional Mediterranean shops and its magnificent Cathedral that looks out from it’s great height over oceans of vineyards. The Canal du Midi cuts through the town, ideal for boat hire, or cycling along the tow path. Each summer the ‘Feria’ Carnival brings tourists from around the world. The main boulevard is in the centre of the town and is lined with platanes trees and lots of restaurants and bars. The old town has plenty of interesting shops along its little cobbled streets in the old town.
Visit the imposing St Nazaire Cathedral which overlooks the river Orb and Biterrois plain, for a voluntary contribution you can climb the 164 steps winding up through the Cathedral to see a magnificent view of the whole area but take care if you have very young children, some of the walls have holes just that bit too large for my comfort with a little child!
The cathedral adjoins Béziers Courthouse, the gardens of which you can visit by passing through the cloister of the cathedral. This historic centre is charming and ideal for a day strolling around, soaking up the culture or doing some shopping. Other sights would be the bull arena, the theatre and the Plateau des Poètes (a stunning English style garden where you can find many species little known in this part of the world). The paths running along the top of the park have fine façades honouring the Allées Paul Riquet, the inventor of the Canal du Midi who was born in the town.
It has perhaps the best flower market in the whole of the south on Friday mornings in the beautiful tree-lined main boulevard.
There is a tourist train which you can take from the St Nazaire Cathedral to the Locks and back through the old town – great fun and the guided tour is delivered in several languages.
Renaissance Pezenas is worth a visit, with its winding cobbled stone streets housing Antique Shops and Art Galleries. There is a large open-air market every Saturday which is well worth a visit. The town boasts that it was once the home of Molière and there are many craft shops, restaurants and beautiful buildings. During July and August the craft shops are open until midnight some nights and you will often find street theatre groups to entertain you !
The architecture and the streets of the village are well worth a detour. The centre has been magnificently maintained and renovated. A destination not to be missed due to its luxurious charm and refined boutiques, Pézenas has a wealth of buildings and hotels in characteristic architecture.
Molière built up his success in Pézenas, which he had chosen as his favourite place to stay. The town is also the birthplace of the singer Boby Lapointe and maintains it’s tradition as a town of street entertainers and artists, with theatricalised guided tours and numerous art galleries and artists’ workshops.
The town also has several unusual museums such as the museum of toys and delights of yesteryear, or the door and wrought iron museum.
Worth a visit on Saturday for the large market. The food market closes at 12 noon but everything else stays open. Wander through the old quarter, the artisan shops are very interesting and are all one off individual stores.
The Camargue is legendary in France, for the scenery, the horses, the wildlife, and the seemingly remote nature of the area. Although just a few kilometres from ‘civilisation’ it has an extraordinarily wild feel to it. Take the A9 towards Montpellier. Turn off at the junction for Montpellier airport.
Carry on the turn off and head for Port Camargue and La Grand Motte, then you can enter the Camargue itself. Aigues Mortes, a medieval walled town where they run the bulls and St. Michele sur Mer take you into the genuine Camargue. Black bulls and white horses!