Midi-Pyrénées into a new super-region that has taken the name "Occitanie" - a historical reference to the part of France where until the nineteenth century most people spoke varieties of Occitanian French, not the standard French of northern France.
Historically, the area known as "Languedoc", covered a larger part of southernFrance, indeed much of modern Occitanie and Provence. The name itself is a reference to the language(s) (Les langues d'oc - see below) spoken in this part of France in past centuries, ; Roussillon is a much smaller area, being more or less the area covered by the Eastern Pyrenees department. Roussillon, in the past, was the northern part of Catalonia., and people here still speak Catalan as well as French.
The main city of Languedoc-Roussillon is Montpellier, a thriving modern city in the Hérault, with a historic centre; other major cities in the region are Nimes, Narbonne, Sete and Perpignan.
Unlike Provence, Languedoc has a considerable coastal plain, and except in the department of Eastern Pyrenees, much of the coastal area is flat. In the past, the land was swampy and plagued with mosquitoes, which is why tourism did not develop here in the 19th century, as it did on the coast further east. However, the swamps were drained long ago, and the mosquitoes brought under control, leading to the tourist development of this long coastline as from the nineteen-sixties.
Today, the coast of Languedoc is characterised by long sandy beaches, often with plenty of space, and a modern tourist infrastructure, with twentieth-century resorts such as Cap d'Agde, Palavas, or Narbonne Plage. The brash developments of the sixties have had time to mature, parts of the coastline have been recovered for more environmentally sensitive tourism development; and among the quite densely built-up resort areas, there are attractive bits of coastline and hinterland. However, as a general rule, the areas within 20 km of the coast have been extensively developed for tourism in the last forty years.
The fertile coastal plain is given over to agriculture, vineyards and - particularly in Roussillon - fruit and vegetables. Languedoc is one of France's major wine-growing areas.
Autumn lingers in Languedoc. November colours in the vineyards of the Minervois, north of Narbonne, with the garrigue and hills of high Languedoc behind
Those who do not want to spend their holidays being char-grilled on a beach will perhaps prefer to discover the old Languedoc, away from the cities and the immediate coastal strip. Inland Languedoc is a beautiful area, characterised by vineyards and "garrigue", arid rocky Mediteranean hills with their vegetation of scrub, aromatic bushes and occasional fields. North and northeast of Montpellier, the valleys, more wooded and rural, give way to the Cevennes hills, the southeastern peaks of the Massif Central.
The area has a lot of historic cities, such as Nimes with its superb Roman remains, the famous walled city of Carcassonne, the former Roman provincial capital of Narbonne, and other smaller ancient cities, such as Agde .
The Pyrenees, forming a natural land barrier between France and Spain, are a beautiful range of high mountains, wooded on their lower slopes, but offering good mountain and hill walking higher up - not to mention the attraction of day trips into Spain. The coastline where they meet the sea is unlike the rest of the Languedoc coast, and is characterised by old coastal villages such as Banyuls and Collioure, rocky cliffs and small coves. The villages on the Pyrenean coastline can be reached directly by train.
Access to Languedoc : by TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, or from Lille; train from many cities, motorway from Paris, Lille, Strasbourg, Nancy, Lyon, Geneva. There are airports at Béziers, Nimes, Montpellier, Carcassonne and Perpignan, with low-cost flights from the UK, Belgium and Holland..
The Origin of the name "Languedoc":
The "Langue d'oc" was the version of French spoken in the south of the country, and Languedoc referred to the part of France in which the "language of Oc" was spoken. "Oc" (from the Latin ac ) was the word for "yes" in this part of France, at a time when people in the north of France said "oeuil", an old French word that has become modern French "oui". Today, the "langue d'oc" survives in the many patois still spoken by a few people in rural areas of this part of France.
The new regional name Occitanie is another reference to the historic language of "Oc".
Detailed map of Languedoc:
Click here, and drag the map to cover the Languedoc area. then zoom in or out.
The ramparts of Carcassonne ©
The Canal du Midi
The Pont du Gard, near Nimes
Banyuls sur Mer - Pyrénees orientales:
The Petit train jaune scenic railway, near Perpignan
Impressive Aude gorge, in the Pyrenees
Text & photos Copyright © About-France.com 2008 - 2017
except for Pont du Gard - by W Staudt, licence creative commons
Attractions covering more than one department:
department East to West
Languedoc is France's largest wine-producing region
Typical Languedoc landscape,
Cathar castle at Quéribus
Spring comes early to Languedoc : blossom in February, and le Mont Canigou
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