Languedoc Rousillon France - French Holidays
The merger of two historical provinces formed the Languedoc Rousillon region in the 1960s. The region stretches from the Pyrenees, along the coast to Provence, and inland to the Massif Central. There is an ideal mixture of all the good things about France : sea, sunshine, mountains, lowlands, towns, history in abundance, food and wine.
The newly formed region does not fully represent the culture and history of the Languedoc, particularly as Toulouse is not officially part of the region but was cultural and historical capital of the area. The region is called the Languedoc after the old French language langue d'Oc that was spoken in southern France. The langue d'Oïl was spoken in the north and went on to become modern French. 'Oc' and 'oïl' were the different ways of saying 'oui' (yes). Occitan (or Provençal as it is now called) was spoken widely in the south until the treaty of Villers-Cotterêts imposed the langue d'Oïl on the area in 1539. The language petered out after this, only to be revived by a 19th-century poet called Frédéric Mistral. Although it never regained its popularity, Occitan is sometimes heard in the Languedoc area or seen on the occasional road sign, and is a popular language course at university. This is mainly due to its fabulous troubadour tradition in literature.
The Languedoc Rousillon area has seen many settlers, starting in around 450,000 BC and including the Phonecians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths and Moors, before finally being taken over by the Franks in the 8th century. There are vestiges of the Roman Empire all over the area, particularly in the Roman town of Nîmes where you can see the Pont de Gard aqueduct. Nîmes is also home to the textile phenomenon that is denim, having exported the first denim to the US in order to clothe slaves.
Montpellier is an ancient university town, having had a medical school there since the 12th century. In Albi you can see a great collection of Toulouse-Lautrec artwork. Béziers is the centre of the Languedoc wine industry and was very rich in the 19th century. The medieval walled city of Carcassonne appears as a fairytale vision across the plains when you are driving on the motorway. In contrast to this, there are a number of futuristic (and stylistic) visions along the coastline, not least La Grande Motte, a 1960's beach resort with flamboyant architecture. Further inland there are plenty of vineyards and ruined Cathar castles to hold your attention. All in all, the Languedoc is a winning blend of the best aspects of France, and not as expensive as neighbouring Provence and the Côte d'Azur.