Nîmes is renowned for its magnificent Roman arena. A panoramic view over the town’s roof tops from the Tour Magne shows the history of Nîmes at a glance. The 12th century St Pastor cathedral dominates the narrow streets of the old town and still bears witness to their medieval past. The boulevards which encircle the town show the site of the medieval defences and the ancient city limits.
Carcassonne on the eastern edge of the Pyrénées region is a wonderful medieval walled city and one of the most amazing sights in France. Seen from a distance it looks almost like a model, dreamlike with its turrets and crenellations. The oldest parts date from the Roman period and the Cité is defended by 52 sturdy towers and huge heavily fortified entrance gates. In the 13th century it was a stronghold for the Cathars. Inside the walls there are houses, shops, restaurants and cafés which spill out on the square, giving the town a fabulous bohemian atmosphere. There are many “bastides” towns to visit near Carcassonne including Mirepoix and Montségur.
La Côte Vermeille stretching from Argelès to Sète has steep, rugged cliffs tumbling to the sea. It offers miles of sandy beaches and provides glorious cruising grounds and coves to explore. It is a haven for marine wildlife and thus a very popular destination for divers. This coastline has been home to many famous painters such as Dali and Picasso who were drawn there by the exceptionally bright and clear light. This region also known as French Catalonia, has a fascinating cultural and gastronomic mix of French and Spanish.
Argelès a gateway to Spain, is situated in the southernmost part of the region at the foot of the Pyrénées. There are 7km of beaches and 3km of creeks. There are supervised beaches from June till September, children’s clubs, sailing schools, windsurfing, bobskiing, deep-sea diving, boat hiring, sea-trips, sea-kayak, waterskiing, pedalos and balneotherapy.
Collioure is the jewel of the coast. This Catalan fishing village has for centuries impressed travellers and traders, artists and invaders with its simple beauty. The little harbour is protected by sea walls and a fortified village church on one side and a 12th century castle on the other. Beside the church with its curious round lighthouse there are small secluded beaches. Behind the waterfront is a delightful maze of narrow streets lined with artists’ shops, restaurants and cafes.
Céret about 25 km inland from Collioure was also a favourite spot with many great modern artists including Picasso and Braque. In the 1910’s Céret was regarded as the ‘Capitol of Cubism’. There is a surprising Museum of Modern Art with several cubist paintings, a Picasso collection and works by Chall, Dali, Miro, Matisse and Juan Gris as well as the Catalan sculptor Manolo. There is regular open-air Sardana dancing and bullfighting here.
Perpignan the largest city in the region stands on the river Tet, but the much smaller river Basse which flows through the centre has pretty gardens along its banks. The main streets are lined with palms and mimosa and there is also the cathedral to visit and lots of intricate narrow shopping streets to explore.
Canet-en-Roussillon has a huge stretch of sandy beach and crystal-blue seawater. The resort offers a wide range of sporting activities, including 4 small activity parks with children’s play areas, sports grounds and tennis courts.
Sérignan, a delightful old town about 4km from one of the most beautiful beaches in the area offers a network of small alleys and winding streets, where you can see the remnants of ramparts, Renaissance doors and old wells. The collegiate church of the Notre Dame-de-Grâce, built in stages from the 12th to 15th century dominates the town.
Le Cap d’Agde benefits from an exceptional natural environment. Its basalt sea beds, unique on this coast, are a true marvel. A wealth of sub-marine life can also be seen at the aquarium, an authentic underwater world of 30 pools teeming with Mediterranean and tropical fish, sharks and coral.
Sète cannot be accessed without crossing one of its 14 bridges, bridges made of stone, of iron, rigid ones, swing ones, bascule bridges, they cross the canals and docking bays and lead you right into the centre of the town. Sète was founded three centuries ago around the port, which was constructed by royal decree to open the Languedoc onto the Mediterranean. Despite the number of cargo ships, trawlers and sailing boats, the port is only small and is still at the heart of the town.
The Camargue is a major world heritage wetland and is host to a diversity of habitats and many fragile ecosystems. Ponds and marshes cover a large proportion of the river delta and are habitats of choice for both migratory and sedentary birds. Egrets, night herons, bitterns, mallards and wagtails are common visitors. Pink flamingos are now the emblem of the Camargue. It is one of the few spots around the Mediterranean where they nest. The flamingo population here can reach 20,000 couples grouped into flocks.
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the largest village in the Camargue. Located on the western tip of the delta on a thin strip of sandy ground still exposed to the unpredictable assaults of the Mediterranean, it is a well-known seaside resort, with a fortified church, built in the 12th century. The statue of the Egyptian servant, Sara, patron saint of the Gypsies is preserved in the crypt. It is covered with a huge pile of dresses and coats. During the last week of May 8,000 gypsies come to the village for an annual festival to worship their patron saint.
Aigues-Mortes St Louis left for the crusades from this impressive walled town. Rising out of the marshes and lakes, its 13th century fortifications have been perfectly preserved.
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