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Further afield

Heading North

Heading directly North on the A9 takes you past Montpellier and into the Gard region of France. Here you will find the marvel of ancient engineering and UNESCO World Heritage site, the Pont Du Gard (see http://www.pontdugard.fr). A 3-tier aquaduct, it was built by the Romans in ca. 19 B.C. to take water to the city of Nîmes. A slight diversion off the A9 takes you to Aigues Mort, a fortified city founded in 1 B.C. This is also the starting point for many boat trips into the Petit Camargue with it's Flamingoes, white Camaguais horses and bull ranching.

Taking the A75

The Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc can be reached in about 1 hour either by a scenic, but slow, drive along the N112 to St-Pons-de-Thomieres passing through the vineyards of St Chinan on the way or to Clermont l'Hérault along the much faster A75. The Parc offers a wide range of activities and is a beautiful area to be savoured.

Visit the lakes of La Salvetat-sur-Agoût or Lac de La Raviège, walk in the Gorge d'Héric or Gorge de l'Hérault, or visit the old towns such as St Guilhem le Désert, see http://www.saintguilhem-valleeherault.fr/en/ (in English), descend the caves of Grottes de Clamouse or walk up to the three windmills at the wine town of Faugeres.

For the more energetic, other activities available throughout the region include canoeing on one of the many rivers. In both centres (St-Pons-de-Thomieres and Clermont l'Hérault) you'll find the tourist office able to advise on walks and the other activities within the Parc. See http://www.parc-haut-languedoc.fr (French and English) for further information on the region.

A man-made lake created by the damming of the river Salagou in 1969, the Lac Du Salagou is situated in a picturesque spot in the hills, popular for lakeside picnics. Motor boats are banned but a range of windsurfers and boats are available for hire during the season near the Clermont l'Hérault end of the lake. The lake also plays host to a wide range of activities including off-road cycling (VTT), horse riding and fishing. Fine views of it can be seen from around Liausson which also is a great place to start for a hike around the Cirque de Mourèze with its rock formations (Dolomites).

Going South on the A9

Covering an area of 300 hectares the Réserve Africaine de Sigean hosts about 3800 animals including big game animals from Africa. Many of the game animals are free to roam around large enclosures and viewing is done from the safety of your own car. However, there is also a zoo type area where animals are housed in pens/cages. The reserve prides itself on the conservational and educational aspects of wildlife management. Situated on the coast, it is also a great place to view birdlife such as Flamingos. To do it justice plan to spend a whole day visiting the reserve and either take a picnic or eat in the restaurant. For further information including entry times and costs (in French and English) see http://www.reserveafricainesigean.fr

For those rainy days, in Narbonne there is the leisure complex with 3 swimming pools (one 50m outdoor) and the ice rink.

Just 15 km south west of Narbonne is the Abbaye de Fontfroide. Founded in 1093 as Benedictine monastery it joined the Cistercians when Saint Bernard came to the Languedoc in 1145. With its 20m high pointed barrel vault and stunning cloisters, it is an impressive example of Cistercian architecture. See http://www.fontfroide.com for hours and charges.

Further south of Narbonne you enter the Corbières region. Following the Route du Vin takes you through the spectacular scenary of the A.O.C. (Appellation d'Origin Contrôlée) wine regions which include Fitou and of course Corbières itself. This is also the main region of the Cathars. They were a religious sect who established themselves in the Languedoc in the 11th Century. The Medieval Inquisition set up by Pope Innocent III and carried out by Simon de Montfort persecuted them and drove them almost to extinction with mass suicides and massacres. The cities of Carcassonne and Beziers were original Cathar strongholds but perhaps more striking are the fortified villages they built in order to protect themselves, many situated on inaccessible rock pinnacles, such as Peyrepertuse, Quéribus and Montsegùr. Further north in the Haut Languedoc you will find other examples such as Minerve. See http://www.payscathare.org of a comprehensive listing of attractions to visit (in English).

The gateway to the Pyrenees is the City of Perpignan, about 1 hours drive south on the A9. The Pyrenees mountains afford outdoor enthusiasts opportunity for activities such as climbing, hiking, canyoning and caving. Most easily reached is the Canigou massif with the 2784m Pic du Canigou where you can visit the medieval town of Villefranche le Conflent and the Train Jeune (yellow train), or slightly further west nearer Andorra the Carlit Massif with the 2921m Pic Carlit. Here you'll find many fine walks and well marked trails including some of the classic GRs.

About 1 hrs drive on the A61 péage is the Cité de Carcassone. Although it is now a modern industrial hub (with one of the main airports for the region) it is also the site of the much visited Cité - the old walled town. With a long and varied hsitory dating back to the Romans it is probably best known as a Cather stronghold during the 14th Century Albigesian Crusade. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ramparts and towers were extensively restored in the late 19th Century and it has been used as the setting for many classic Hollywood movies such as the 1991 Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Inside the walls, you'll find small curio shops as well as restaurants. See http://www.carcassonne.culture.fr for details of costs and opening times.