Discover this beautiful coastline through its traditions, festivals, museums, tourist sites and cultural events
The Musée Fabre in Montpellier is one of Languedoc’s (and indeed France’s) greatest art galleries, offering some stunning works from the last 600 years. museefabre.montpellier3m.fr
At Sète’s Musée International des Arts Modestes you won’t find any mention of classic art. Here, instead, is art on an everyday scale, with not a single big-name artist in sight. Previous exhibitions include Mexican masks, Elvis Presley memorabilia, pop-up books, and figurines made of sugar. www.miam.org
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned,” wrote Paul Valéry, one
of France’s greatest symbolist poets. You’ll find plenty of his unfinished poems at the Musée Paul Valéry in Sète, the town that was his birthplace. museepaulvalery-sete.fr
Don’t miss Montpellier’s Jardin des Plantes which, dating to 1593, claims to be the oldest botanical gardens in all France, and was certainly the prototype for Paris’s better known version of the same name. Over 2,500 species are rooted here.
Entry is free to Montpellier’s excellent zoological park – it’s more of a safari park, actually, with the residents allowed to roam free around the place in open enclosures. zoo.montpellier.fr
Le Château de Quéribus is an amazing hilltop fort. Perched on a 728-metre outcrop that you can see for miles around, it is lauded as the last stronghold of the Catharist faith. It lies right on Languedoc’s southern border and slightly inland but is worth making a detour for. www.cucugnan.fr
ARTS & CRAFTS
Discover the very best airs on a G string via a tour of Montpellier’s instrument-makers. “Meet artisans in their places of work where they create violins, violas and cellos in the same way it’s been done for centuries.” www.aimm.tv/www/visites-guidees-montpellier-melomane
For a great overview of some of the most original artists in the region (working in wood, metal, plastic, glass, ceramic and jewellery) visit metiersdart.cahm.net
Les Halles in Narbonne, with its frosted glass windows and cast-iron roof is the perfect example of Art Nouveau architecture. The food is rather special too.
Salt and water make for great spas. And there’s plenty of both in the Bassin de Thau on the northern section of the Languedoc coast. In the town of Balaruc-les-Bains you’ll find loads of spa facilities. thermesbalaruclesbains.com www.obalia.fr www.thermaliv.fr
Put on your best dancing shoes for the Festival Montpellier Danse, held over two weeks in mid-summer. www.montpellierdanse.com
Classical music and opera get top billing at the annual Festival Radio France Montpellier, staged in July.
In September and October there’s the Festival Internationales de la Guitare at venues across Montpellier. www.les-ig.com
Not to be outdone, Narbonne stages a jazz festival in July called the Festival Jazz à l’Hospitalet. Norah Jones and George Benson headlined this year.
Béziers stages the annual Feria de Béziers, a five-day celebration in mid-August centred around the bullfights. In October the Fête d’Aigues-Mortes celebrates all things Camargue with concerts, plays and exhibitions.
CANAL DU MIDI
There are many operators hiring out boats for trips up the Canal du Midi. Visit www.canal-du-midi.org initially, for an overview, but do look around to find the best prices and itineraries.
If you fancy being skipper of your own boat (it’s pretty easy to navigate a canal, even with half of bottle of rosé inside you) then opt for Rive de France www.rivedefrance.com or Boating Holidays www.boatingholidays.com
Alternatively you can remain on the canal bank and cycle much of its length.
From France Today magazine