|LANDSCAPE: This is a land full of character and unspoilt beauty, stretched out under almost permanent sunshine with miles of fine sandy beaches, tiny villages clinging to rugged cliffs, and canals flowing through a countryside of olive groves and vineyards. Profoundly influenced by the Mediterranean, Languedoc-Roussillon shares a border with Spain as far as the Rhône delta. Its long beaches alternate with wild lagoons – a paradise for flamingos. Its annual 300 days of sunshine draw large numbers of holidaymakers, who take away unforgettable memories of the beautiful natural surroundings, monuments, villages, and towns with cultural, prehistoric, Roman and Cathar themes such as Montpellier, Nîmes, Carcassonne, Uzès and the Pont du Gard, the last four of which are Unesco World Heritage sites. Inland the charm and authenticity of the region have been extensively preserved. The Haut Languedoc and Cévennes nature reserves and the wooded slopes of Cerdagne are always popular with hikers. This countryside is full of character and also produces fine wines, which every year earn the respect of greater numbers of wine lovers.
PRIME ATTRACTIONS: Visit Carcassonne, 'the largest medieval city in Europe' and one of the region's greatest sights, encircled by towers and battlements. Children especially will love a drive around the African Reserve at Sigean, where over 1,600 wild animals roam freely including lions, giraffes and elephants. Enjoy browsing around the fascinating local markets of Montpellier, Pézenas or Béziers. Anchovies and art are both are associated with the charming fishing village of Collioure. Wander through its narrow streets to the harbour where anchovy fishing is still one of the main industries, and see the Rue des Fauvres with reproductions of paintings by Matisse and Derain are placed at the sites where they were painted.
FOOD & WINE: Enjoy robust dishes with delicious Mediterranean flavours generous in olive oil, garlic and southern herbs. Along the coast you'll find oysters, mussels, anchovies and 'violet' urchins, and steaming plates of fruits de mer. The mountains provide wild boar, cêpes mushrooms, chestnuts and goat and sheep cheeses. Wines include Banyuls, Collioure, St Chinian, Faugères, Minervois and Fitou. Sample the 'Vin de Pays' with some excellent claret-style wines, and the sweet 'muscat' apéritif.
HISTORY: Here, the Romans created Narbonne - their capital of Gaul, and Nimbus, which boasts the best preserved classical arena in Europe. The region's historic capital, Perpignan (once the second city of Catalunya) has a delightfully Spanish feel about it. Even the smallest towns proudly fly the Catalan colours of Sang et Or: Blood and Gold.
ACTIVITIES: The coast has an array of sandy beaches, lagoons and coves. With the Canal du Midi (in the heart of the region), there are opportunities for all forms of watersports - boating, windsurfing and canoeing. This is fine walking country with mountain biking, riding, tennis and golf also well catered for.
CLIMATE: Endless dry, hot and sunny summer days, tempered by occasional cooling breezes. Spring and Autumn are pleasantly mild and the ideal time for walking.
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