«Tourist Guide produced exclusively for guests at La Bastide des Lavandieres Please Do Not Remove from your Apartment Useful Local Services Outside ...»
You'll find water practically everywhere in Languedoc Roussillon, so there's no shortage of canal boating, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, fishing and swimming. Three mountain ranges make skiing, rock climbing and walking great options too. Golf and tennis are also well-catered for with golf courses and tennis centres dotted across the region.
For the slightly more adventurous, there's ballooning (there's nothing like floating over the rivers and vineyards of Languedoc on a summer's day), paragliding and flying (guided flights over the Cathar castles are highly recommended). For equestrians, there's France's most famous horse trail (Le Sentier Cathar), and for ornithologists, the variety of birds in Languedoc, especially in the mountainous and swamp regions, with everything from vultures to pelicans.
Nearby Cities :
NIMES : Smaller than Montpellier and Toulouse, you can easily get round Nîmes in a day and enjoy the car-free centre of town which oozes charm at every turn.
Nîmes’s Top 4:
Maison Carré : Dedicated to Emperor Augustus, this Roman temple dates from the fourth or fifth Century BC and is one of the best preserved anywhere in the Roman world. Used over the centuries as horse stables, a meeting chamber and as an archive, today it houses a small museum and bookshop. Sip a coffee atop the Carré d’Art, adjacent, and admire its simplicity of form.
Les Arènes : Inspired by the Coliseum in Rome with two stories of vaulted arches, this is one of the most intact amphitheatres to be found anywhere in the world today. It has seating capacity for an amazing 20,000 people over 34 tiers and is used for bull fights, pop concerts and sporting fixtures.
Carré d’Art. Nîmes’s museum of contemporary art sits proudly opposite the Maison Carré. Its glass and chrome façade are the work of British architect, Sir Norman Foster, as part of an ambitious plan by local worthies to regenerate the city.
Pont du Gard : No visit to Nîmes would be complete without a trip to the Pont du Gard, just 20km or so northeast of the city. The aqueduct was constructed some time during the first century AD to supply the city with fresh water from the Eure river. Three tiers of arches span a jawdropping 275m across the Gardon river at a height of 49m.
MONTPELLIER : With it's broad tree-lined boulevards & huge car-free central square laid out in the 1700s surrounded by elegant balustraded buildings – you name it, Montpellier’s got it.
Oh, and it’s just minutes away from the beach, too.
Montpellier’s Top 5:
Place de la Comédie : Montpellier’s main square crowned at its southern end by the elegant 19th century opera house. This is the place to sit and sip a coffee in one of the main cafés which line the place.
Saint Peter’s Cathedral : Known for its two rocket-shaped pillars which support a stone canopy above the main door, this bulk of a building dates from the 14th Century. The interior though is sadly lacking anything of interest.
Rue de la Loge : Montpellier’s Oxford Street, stuffed with shops and boutiques selling everything from chewing gum to designer clothes. It runs from the Place de la Comédie to the centre of the old town. Another popular square, particularly for young people, is the Place Jean-Jaurès is roughly half way down the street.
Antigone district : This is Montpellier at its most modern. Get here by walking through the Polygone shopping centre in Place de la Comédie. Using Ancient Greek motifs and designs as inspiration, this ultra-chic suburb of flats, shops and restaurants is certainly eye-catching if a little O.T.T.
Musée Fabre : This is the place to come to get your art fix when you’re in Montpellier. One of the best collections anywhere in France of old masters from Flanders, France and Italy. This truly impressive array of paintings is mainly the work of a local artist and collector who bequeathed them to the city in 1825.
AVIGNON : Avignon is the ultimate destination in the south of France. Stunningly beautiful yet relaxed and chilled at the same, Avignon is a wonderful mix of chic, elegance and perfectly preserved medieval splendour.
Avignon’s Top 5 :
Palais des Papes : Best appreciated from the outside rather than the inside. This is Avignon at its most impressive: battlements, vaults and the odd sluice or two for pouring generous amounts of boiling hot oil over the heads of unwelcome guests.
Place de l’Horloge : Rung with cafés and home to a merry-go-round, this exquisite square is framed by the glamorous Hôtel de Ville and the Opera. Definitely worth pulling up a chair and watching the world go by.
Pont d’Avignon : Made famous through the children’s nursery rhyme, the bridge is actually a bit of a let down. In fact it’s only half a bridge because during the late 1600s, a good part of it collapsed into the river below. Today, just four of the original 22 arches remain.
Rue des Teinturiers : The place to head for when it’s time to eat and drink lined with cheap eateries and drinking holes. Undoubtedly Avignon’s most atmospheric street, this is where the city’s ink printers used to work their cloth in the Sorgue canal which runs the length of the street.
Avignon Festival : Beginning in the second week of July and running for a total of three weeks, the emphasis of the festival is theatre in its different guises – arguably the street theatre which takes over the city during the festival is its most interesting.
Uzès : Capital of the region called l'Uzège, is situated in the center of the Ales-Nimes-Avignon triangle & is famous for it's huge Saturday open air market. (Possibly the biggest in Europe) For a day’s retail therapy, there’s no better spot in the Languedoc region than the lovely town of Uzès. History buffs may wax lyrical about its medieval heritage, but for the shopping it’s a girls paradise First stop is the central Place aux Herbes and the weekly Wednesday & Saturday market (Wednesday is much quieter but for the full-on experience you need to get here early on Saturday morning). This is a must for foodies: stock up on garlicky olives and extra virgin olive oil, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, and small jars of snail and shallot spread (I kid you not – it’s called escargotine). On the far corner of the square in Uzes is gourmet heaven, also known as the Maison de la Truffe. A fascinating shop chock-full of things fungus-related, this is where you’ll find gifts for the man (or woman) who has everything: truffle knives, brushes, shavers, and umpteen fine food items (oil, pasta, polenta, vinegar, wine) incorporating la truffe: you name it, they stock it.
When you’re done with the comestibles, make like a truffle-hound and sniff out the fashions. The pretty, pedestrian-only streets of Uzès’ centre feature beautiful boutiques selling chic womens-wear and luxury goods – perfect if you have the urge to splurge.
Want to work the bobo (as in “bourgeois bohemian”) look? Make a beeline for Sidartha on Place Dampmartin, or on neighbouring rue Pélisserie in Uzes, Les Armoires Vides stocks slightly oddball styles in back-to-nature linen, cotton and wool, along with some highly original footwear.
The side streets leading off from Place aux Herbes hide a multitude of small shops in Uzes (No Gap or Benetton here) selling shoes and clothing for the well-heeled visitor, and wandering through the maze of well-kept streets with their cream-coloured stone buildings and grey-green paintwork is all part of the pleasure.
For luxury gifts and homewares in Uzes, be sure to hunt down Design by C, on rue du Docteur Blanchard. This recentlyopened treasure trove stocks gorgeous, contemporary items for the home: think giant-size lavender sachets in luscious, modern fabrics, possum-fur (yes really) throws, wraps and cushions and other highly desirable bits and bobs, designed and created by ex-London luxury retail consultant Celia Lindsell.
On a more traditional interiors tip, try Atzana, on the corner of rue Jacques d’Uzès and boulevard Gambetta (opposite the tourist office). On Place aux Herbes, there’s Metre et Carré (fancy French trimmings for the home) and Question de Charme (tasteful furniture, fabrics, table- and bed linen with that je ne sais quoi), or on nearby rue du 4 Septembre, Brocantine has a great selection of quintessentially French second-hand bric-a-brac (perfect for Pernod water jugs, Ricard ashtrays and the like).
For fragrant luxury, the very best address in Uzes has to be Le Petit Bain, on rue Jacques d’Uzès. Run by a charming Belgian husband and wife team, this tiny gem of a store stocks exquisite, exclusive perfumes and beauty products, including smart brands like Ren, Miller Harris, Abhana, and Romano Ricci.
Budget won’t quite stretch to designer fragrance? Step across the street to In Fine and create your personal perfume blend from a bank of mini-testers, before calling in at neighbouring Passion Coco for savon de Marseille and lavender water at very accessible prices.
When you’re feeling all shopped-out, it’s time for Terroirs. One of Uzès’ premium lunch spots, this upmarket but friendly restaurant serves flavourful, inventive cuisine made with Languedoc and Provençal produce. Check out their fine foods shop-within-a-restaurant and treat yourself to a foodie souvenir – because hey, you’re worth it.
Uzès: gourmet produce, luxury toiletries, chic homewares, funky fashions and food to die for. What more could a girl want?
Arles : Famous for it's Roman arena as well as being the home of Van Gogh Arles is also well known for it's big Saturday market. Arles is a major town on the tourist circuit, its fame sealed by the extraordinarily well-preserved Roman arena, Les Arènes, at the city's heart, and backed by an impressive variety of other stones and monuments, both Roman and medieval. It was the key city of the region in Roman times, then, with Aix, main base of the counts of Provence before unification with France. For centuries it was Marseille's only rival, profiting from the inland trade route up the Rhône whenever the enemies of France were blocking Marseille's port.
Arles declined when the railway put an end to this advantage, and it was an inward-looking depressed town that Van Gogh came to in the late nineteenth century. Today it's a staid and conservative place, but comes to life for the Saturday market, which brings in throngs of farmers from the surrounding countryside, and during the various festivals of tauromachie between Easter and All Saints, when the town's frenzy for bulls rivals that of neighbouring Nîmes.
The centre of Arles fits into a neat triangle between boulevard E.-Combes to the east, boulevards Clemenceau and des Lices to the south, and the Rhône to the west. The Musée de l'Arles Antiques is south of the expressway by the river, not far from the end of boulevard Clemenceau;
Les Alyscamps is down across the train lines to the southeast. But these apart, all the Roman and medieval monuments are within easy walking distance in this very compact city centre.
At the back of the Réattu museum, lanterns line the river wall where Van Gogh used to wander, wearing candles on his hat, watching the night-time light: The Starry Night is the Rhône at Arles.
Much of the riverfront and its bars and bistros were destroyed during World War II. Another casualty of the bombing was the "Yellow House" on place Lamartine, where the artist lived before entering the hospital at St-Rémy. However, the café painted in Café de Nuit still stands in place du Forum. Van Gogh had arrived by train in February 1888 to be greeted by snow and a bitter mistral wind. But he started painting straight away, and in this period produced such celebrated canvases as The Sunflowers, Van Gogh's Chair, The Red Vines and The Sower. Van Gogh found few kindred souls in Arles and finally managed to persuade Gauguin to join him in mid-autumn.
Although the two were to influence each other substantially in the following weeks, their relationship quickly soured as the increasingly bad November weather forced them to spend more time together indoors. According to Gauguin, Van Gogh, feeling threatened by his friend's possible departure, finally succumbed to a fit of psychosis and attacked first Gauguin and then himself. He was packed off to the Hôtel-Dieu hospital on rue du Président-Wilson down from the Musée Arlaten, now the Espace Van Gogh, an academic and cultural centre with arty shops in its arcades and courtyard flowerbeds recreated according to Van Gogh's painting and descriptions of the hospital garden.
Arles has none of the artist's works but the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh (June–Sept daily 9am–7pm; rest of year Tues–Sun 9am–noon & 2–6.30pm; €5), facing the Arènes at 26 RondPoint des Arènes, exhibits works by contemporary artists inspired by Van Gogh, including Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, Hockney and Lichtenstein.
Sete : The Venice of Languedoc - Sete is the largest French fishing port on the Mediterranean.
With it's combination of the canal, the sea, the streets & the restaurants Sete is well worth a visit.
At first glance on a grey day, Sète can seem like a rather gritty working port, but trust me, it has a lot going for it. Most visitors come in August to see the joutes aquatiques (jousting) on the main canal, but come in winter and you get a more realistic impression. Sure, Sète has its grotty parts and the restaurants nearest the centre on the canal-side are a little touristy, but dive into the back streets and you can unearth hidden treasure: for example, The Marcel (04 67 74 20 89) is an oddly named but fabulous restaurant on rue Lazare Carnot, where lunch will set you back an average €20 per person in an art deco-inspired setting that’s perfect for a romantic dejeuner à deux (it’s on a street just off the rive gauche of the main canal, as you look out to sea). Or stick to the rive droite and just keep on walking to the very end, where the fishing boats drape their nets along the quayside and things start to look a little rough, and you’ll come to Au Bord Du Canal (9, quai Maximin Licciardi, tel. 04 67 51 98 39). Step inside and the décor is reassuringly smart and clean (ditto the toilets – always a good sign), while the seafood is stunning – and practically straight off the boat.