Saint-Chinian was founded by monks who, in 825 AD built a monastery here. They then went on to create vineyards that saw the start of the prosperous local economy. It survived unscathed from the Albigensian Crusades and went on to become even wealthier during the industrial revolution. Today, wine continues to be the main industry, and with a population of approximately 2000, the village remains full of life all year-round.
The area surrounding Saint-Chinian, and the nearby Haute Languedoc Natural Park, is a great place for walking and bike rides. Walkers and hikers will find free English language guides in the Tourist Office.
If the heat gets the better of you and you need to cool down, there are a number of options. The town has its own heated open-air public swimming pool (open from June 1st) whilst the long, free, Mediterranean beaches are only 40 minutes away by car. Alternatively, join the locals and swim in the clear water of the River Orb at Roquenbrun or the river Cesse at Bize-Minervois (we prefer the Cesse). The area also offers the chance to try lots of wine tasting, rock-climbing, fishing, painting, golf, horse-riding and canoeing.
You could also rent a Day Boat and spend a leisurely day cruising on the Canal du Midi. This stretch of water provides 54 kms of beautiful cruising without having to deal with locks.
Within a few minutes walk are several restaurants, a pizzeria, and two café bars. The renowned red and rosé AOC Saint-Chinian wines are available from local, friendly producers offering free ‘degustation’ (tasting).
There is a Spar supermarket a two minutes walk, while a larger supermarket is only a very short car ride away.
The local scenery is stunning. Safe beaches, historic chateaux, abbeys, the mountains of the Haut Languedoc Natural Park with its picturesque gorges, natural rock pools, river swimming and canoeing, are all within 40 minutes, or much less, from your front door.
Golf is available in Saint Thomas (35 minutes), Lamalou les Bains (45 minutes) or Carcassonne (one hour).
The Spanish border is about a 90 minutes drive, while in winter inexpensive Pyranées skiing is available in a little over 2 hours drive – making it possible for a day trip.
The tower of Roquebrun is the sole remaining trace of a Carolingian castle built to protect the inhabitants from barbarian invasions in the year 900. The picturesque village, with its local canoe centre, is perched over the banks of the river Orb and has a Mediterranean garden that is well worth a visit. In summer the river beach is used for picnics, swimming as well as trout fishing.
Minerve a miraculous village, almost an island, perched over the meeting of two rivers where they tunnel through deep gorges, and where in 1210 Simon de Montfort massacred the Cathars during the crusades.
Entering Beziers across the river Orb. The long “Allée Paul Riquet” esplanade, with the theatre at one end and the lovely Plateau des Poèts park at the other, is an attractive center to the town. In the middle of the esplanade is a statue of Paul Riquet, the founder of the famous Canal du Midi. Béziers is an excellent town for shopping. It has shops and stores of all sizes, from the Galeries Lafayette department store to small trendy boutiques.
Narbonne is the oldest town in the south-west of France. Founded by the Romans in the second century BC, it was a major port, although it now lies some 20 km from the sea.
Today the centre of Narbonne, bisected by the flower-bordered Canal de la Robine, is an attractive place for shopping and sightseeing. Without a doubt the best place to head for is the 100-year old Halles (covered market) by the bank of the canal. This award-winning market is said to be one of the best in France and the crowds milling around the 80-plus stalls are testimony to this claim. Open from 6 am until 1.00 pm daily, the market is overflowing with local produce: glistening displays of fresh fish and seafood, piles of melons, peppers and tomatoes, and the many varieties of charcuterie (cooked meats). It is cosmopolitan as well though … it’s one of the few places in the area with a good selection of non-local (and even non-French) cheeses.
On Thursdays there is also an open air market stretching along the canal bank near the Halles, with flower and clothes stalls, among others. The canal itself is lined with waterside cafés where you can refresh yourself in the shade of the plane trees.
The old Cité. The mediaeval walled ‘Cité’ lies on the right bank of the River Aude and is featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. It is still home to a population of approximately 120, is now very touristic but well worth a visit to its shops and craftsmen. The ultimate stronghold, built in the 12th century, it was the home of the Trencavels, Vicomtes of Carcassonne. While there, if time, try to see Carcassonne town, a few minutes by car from the Cité. There is a large, pleasant, mostly pedestrian area with the main square lined by restaurants.
At a distance of 800 metres from the Cité, on the commune of Pech Mary, you can see the flight of the world’s largest birds of prey. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A sophisticated city with lots of museums, great restaurants and shopping – and a great tram public transport system. The Fabre Museum is one of the biggest museums in France and holds Flemish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and French collections. For more information visit the Tourist Office in the Place de la Comédie (http://www.ot-montpellier.fr/en/around-montpellier/).
Half Catalan, half French, Perpignan is Languedoc at its most exotic. The last major town in Languedoc before the Spanish border there’s a real mix of cultures in this corner of the region: Catalan, Romany and North African all co-exist in this sunny city of palm-lined squares.
Note: Times stated are approximate and refer to driving times by car.