In southern France, near Spain, is the warm delightful region Languedoc-Roussillon. This region produces more wine than any other region, and is responsible for a big proportion of France’s table wines and country wines. Throughout this region, grape vines and wineries dot the landscape. The city of Limoux claims that it invented sparkling wines, saying that Dom Perignon stole the idea on his way to Champagne. Limoux’s sparkling wine, called Blanquette, is delightful and well worth trying.
The range of wines produced in Languedoc-Roussillon is staggering, with everything from young wines with berry notes to powerful Old World reds made from Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan grape varieties, among others. More red wines than white wines are made, but the selection of white wines grown from Grenache blanc, Marsanne, and other varieties is quite respectable too.
Carcassonne is a city you’ll want to visit, though it is quite touristy in spots. The fortified Cité de Carcassonne is separated from the lower city. The fortress, thoroughly restored in 1853 by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortified city has two outer walls complete with towers and barbicans. Some walls are Roman, while others are Medieval in origin. You can visit the Musée de la Torture, showing some of the torture devices used by the Catholic Church during the 13th century Inquisition.
Montpellier is another city in Languedoc-Roussillon, and it too has a lengthy history, including a 13th century medical school. Some 60,000 students live in this university town, and here you can find ancient Roman arches and aqueducts. Don’t miss the statue of the Three Graces in the Place de la Comedie, a pedestrian square. Montpellier is also home to France’s oldest botanical garden, the Jardin des plantes de Montpellier. Surrounding the city are a number of châteaux.
Nimes is another popular city, and is of particular interest to those interested in ancient Rome. It boasts a Roman arena and a former temple that is now a museum. Nimes is full of fountains, statues, markets, and squares, with several remains from the Roman Empire still in evidence today, including the elliptical Roman amphitheatre from the first of second century CE, the best-preserved Roman arena in France. The Maison Carée, a temple from 19 BCE, can be visited, as can the Pont du Gard, also built around that time. Later monuments, dating from Medieval times through modern times, also grace Nimes.
Perpignan is the last major Languedoc town before you reach the Spanish border. The town has a Catalan flavor with a rich mix of cultures including Romany and North African. This sunny city with palm-graced squares is a great place to sample local food and wine. And the international airport makes it easy to get into and out of. The fact that Barcelona is so close means that Perpignan’s beauty is a well-kept secret. Be sure to see the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, built from 1324 to 1509, and the 13th century Palace of the Kings of Majorca.
Warmth, wine, and historical influences from ancient Rome to modern Spain and North Africa are all reasons why Longuedoc-Roussillon should be on your travel itinerary.