- Château in the city
- Old Montpellier’s narrow streets
- Toile de Jouy, tant de joie
- Hidden in Roman Nîmes
- Revamped mansion
- Manicured vineyard
- Urban mansion
- Aristocratic Arles
- Historic-with-heart maison d’hôte
- Provençal poet’s corner
- Vaulted mod-convent
- Pastoral Languedoc
- Boutique bed and breakfast
- Rural Pyrenean foothills
- Shabby-chic boho bonhomie
- Provençal stone hamlet
- Historical hills, Roman relics
- Country life
- Bric-à-brac, strolling and sunshine
Sprawling from the chestnut-dotted Cévennes Mountains to a flamingo-flanked Mediterranean Coast, by way of magnificent ancient cities and rolling winelands, this region has reason to puff out its chest when declaring its geographical and metropolitan offerings.
Not only does Languedoc- Roussillon offer lovely sun-soaked landscape and world-class eating and drinking, but each slice of this neighbour to Provence also has its own distinct flavour. Soak up the vineyards of the Uzège, ogle the awe-inspiring Pont du Gard, and take in superb Roman antiquities in Nîmes. In summer, pleasure is a given wherever you roam, but Uzès and Montpellier yield cultural treasures – ancient and modern – all year round.
Occitania is a label loosely defining the sweep of southerly French areas where the Occitan tongue is still spoken. Closest to Catalan, this Romance language evolved from Latin, and is spoken as far west as the Val d’Aran in Spain, and in Italy’s Piedmont and Liguria to the east. For evidence of it around Montpellier, look out for the city’s Occitan name, Montpelhièr, or scour the tabacs for a copy of weekly Occitan newspaper La Setmana, and read all about it (or it least gaze at its mysterious, heavily accented lexicon).
- You’re unlikely to need a cab in the smaller cities, since the streets were made for strolling; in Montpellier there’s a shiny tramway linking the station, Place de la Comédie and the Eighties-built new town, Antigone. If you do want one, it’s not possible to flag taxis down; you’ll need to call them and, if it’s a late-night-returning-to-the-sticks scenario, book in advance through your hotel.
- Tipping culture
- A 15 per cent service charge is included in French restaurant and café bills by law; it is also usual to round up the bill or leave a few euros. Tip taxis 10 per cent.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Most shops open 9am–12pm and 3pm–7pm, and close on Sundays. Banks share the same morning hours, then open 1.30pm–5.30pm. Lunch service often ends at 1.30pm. People usually go out to eat around 8pm. There are few nightclubs to speak of.
- Packing tips
- Cobble-friendly sandals, proper sunglasses; extra bag for all the cool old pastis bottles, glassware and mid-century lamps you’ll find in the brocantes.
- Recommended reads
- The poems of Sète-born Paul Valéry, sometime Surrealist and namesake of Montpellier’s university of arts and literature; The Incomplete Husband by Ben Faccini.
- Look out for bourride de Sète, a local seafood speciality. Rich, bean-laden cassoulets feature on most menus. The area is also well known for three foods: a zingy goat’s cheese called Pélardon, garlic and olive oil. Expect a combination on most menus, if not most dishes. Wash down with the region’s plentiful supply of syrah and cinsault reds and rosemary-tinged whites.
- Euro (€).
- Time zone
- GMT +1.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for France: 33. Languedoc-Roussillon: (0)4.
- Do go/don't go
- High season (July, August and early September) is the busiest tourist time, but it’s buzzy rather than crowded. Late September is quiet but not too quiet.