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The Gorges du Tarn - Lozère
Roussillon coast, near Banyuls and the Spanish border.
Languedoc resorts have plenty of restaurants and eateries for all tastes.
Trompe-l'oeil mural in old Agde.
Photos © Gitelink.com
Definitions: the areas of the Languedoc Roussillon region:
Languedoc Roussillon is best known in France for two main reasons; firstly as a holiday destination, secondly as France's biggest producer of wine. In terms of image, it is a region associated with sunshine and the seaside, but also with its Mediterranean vegetation of vines, olive trees and thin cypress trees, as in the photo on the right.
Origins - toponymy
The area known as Languedoc today covers just a small part of the much larger area of France that was known in the Middle Ages as the pays de Langue d'oc.
The "Langues d'oc" was a name given to a whole family of French dialects spoken in the southern half of France. In mediaeval times, France was divided linguistically into two main areas, the northern half where people spoke languages that have evolved to produce modern French; and the southern half of the country where they spoke languages somewhere between northern French and Spanish, known as Occitanian French, or langues d'oc. People from the north had difficulty understanding people from the south, and vice versa. The dividing line between the two areas ran from the Charentes in the west to Geneva in the east.
The Languedoc today
Today the word "Occitanie" is often used to refer to the south of France in general (particularly by regionalist and nationalist movements in the south of France). the word Languedoc, once used as the name of a Province stretching from the Rhone to Toulouse, has now been further limited in its territorial meaning, and now just refers to to the modern administrative region.
The large majority of the population of Languedoc-Roussillon is concentrated in the urban areas on the coastal plain, notably around Montpellier, Nimes and Perpignan. These are old cities that have grown up over the ages as major points on the land route round the northern Mediterranean coast, the route between France and Spain and Italy and Spain. Montpellier, the regional capital, is the 8th largest city in France, and has been a major European city for over 1000 years. Its university is arguably the oldest in France - its famous schools of law and medicine dating from the twelfth century. But Montpellier is also a modern city that has tried to develop itself, with a certain degree of success, as a major IT and computing centre. ► More information: Languedoc towns and cities
The coastal plain of Languedoc is France's largest wine-producing area. However the Languedoc wine-producing area has been considerably reduced in size in recent decades following a fall in the consumption of French vin ordinaire and table wines, which used to be the main speciality. To fight back, Languedoc wine producers have reinvented their industry, turning to the production of "Vins de Pays" and more quality wines. On account of the sun and warm climate, and also the varieties used, Languedoc wines tend to be rich and full-bodied, and have an above average alcohol content. This has allowed the area also to specialise in strong aperitif wines, the best known of which are Banyuls, Frontignan and Rivesaltes.
Inland in the Aude department, the area around Limoux is famous for its white sparkling wines. Indeed, Blanquette de Limoux is the oldest sparkling wine in France, and it was from here that the monks of Champagne originally learned the technique that allowed them to convert a poor quality northern white wine into the world's most famous bubbly. ► More information: Wines of France
The Languedoc coast
The coast of Languedoc was, until the twentieth century, relatively sparsely populated, as it was bordered by large expanses of wetlands which bred mosquitos, making the environment relatively inhospitable. Apart from the extreme south of the region, where the Pyrenees come down to the coast, the only coastal town of any importance was Sète, a fishing and trading port beside the only real hill along the central Languedoc coast (photo right). But now the marshes have been drained, and in the 1960s there was massive development of new coastal holiday resorts such as la Grande Motte, Le Grau du Roi, Cap d'Agde or Valreas Plage.
Today, thanks to its long sandy beaches, hotels and campsites, the Languedoc coast, known as the Amethyst coast, is a popular holiday destination.
Inland from the coastal plain, most of the Languedoc is characterised by dry rocky hills. The exception is the department of the Aude, that stretches inland in the direction of Toulouse, and is famous for its vineyards and its agriculture. To the south, the Pyrenees and their foothills rise steeply towards snowy peaks; and along the northern edge of the coastal plain from Narbonne to Nimes, lie the southern uplands of the Massif Central - a very sparsely populated and arid area. The inland department of Lozère, which covers most of "Haut Languedoc", lies at an average altitude of 886 metres, making it one of the highest departments in France. The dry uplands of Haut Languedoc are cut through by impressive deep river valleys, such as the famous Tarn Gorge.
With the exception of the department of Lozère, Languedoc enjoys a mild to warm Mediterranean climate, making the area attractive to holidaymakers for a good part of the year. Perpignan enjoys a warmer average year-round climate than any other city in France, notably due to its very mild winters. The whole of the coastal area enjoys a dry climate for most of the year, punctuated by occasional monsoon-like heavy rainfalls, known as Cevenol storms (Cevennes storms), which can dump large quantities of water in a very short space of time on the southern slopes of the Cévennes, causing major flooding of rivers such as the Gard or the Herault. This happens most often in late summer and early autumn when warm wet air comes in of the Mediterranean.
Main seaside resorts in Languedoc
► More Tourist attractions in Languedoc