Occitane France Travel Guide

Occitane France Travel Guide
A Vagabond Life

Occitane France Travel Guide

Occitane France takes up a large section of southern France stretching from the Mediterranean and along the Spanish border, it is  also one of the most sparsely populated. Occitane France has a diverse landscape from rugged mountains through the rolling pastoral land and is dotted with stone villages and historic towns. The capital of the region is Toulouse.

Occitane France Table of Contents

Occitane France Travel Guide

Top 5 Things To See & Do In Occitane France
Rocamadour

Rocamadour

Rocamadour is delightful town hangs from a cliff above a tributary of the Dordogne River. It has been an important stop for pilgrims for centuries.
Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

Travel on a barge down this UNESCO listed canal. The canal, along with the Canal de Garonne join the Mediterranean with the Atlantic.
Carcassonne:

Carcassonne

The City of Carcassonne is an ancient town with a fairy like Cinderella castle that was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1997.
Tarn Gorge

Tarn Gorge

The Tarn Gorges are among the deepest gorges to be found anywhere in Europe. The gorge is stunningly and a road winds through it with a number of camping spots along the way.
Nimes

Nimes

Nimes is a wonderful historic city with a number of Roman sights the most famous being the Les Arènes the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in existence.
Things To See & Do In Occitane France

Occitane France Travel Guide

Rocamadour Occitance France

Rocamadour is one most visited places in France and is famous both for its stunning setting and its historical monuments and religious significance. The town hangs from a cliff high above the Alzous, a tributary of the Dordogne and still retains some of its castle, ramparts and fortified gates. The sanctuary of the Black Virgin Mary has for centuries drawn pilgrims from every country, among them kings, bishops, and nobles. It remains today an important stop on the pilgrim route. Rocamadour also produces goat’s cheese which comes in small discs and takes the name of the town, it has an AOC status.

Saint-Cirq Lapopie Occitance France

The village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie is perched on a cliff 100 m above the Lot River and is one of the one of the most beautiful villages of the Lot valley. Saint-Cirq Lapopie is a Les Plus Beaux Village de France. In the Middle Ages, Saint-Cirq Lapopie was the main town of one of the four divisions that made up Quercy. The village was dominated by a fortress made up of a number of castles and towers. Below the fortress, the village streets lead down to fortified gates. Many historic houses have stone or half-timbered fronts going back to the 13th-16th centuries have survived the test of time. Beneath the Saint-Cirq Lapopie cliff there are watermills, weirs, harbours, locks and towpath dating back to times when river transport was a key transportation method in the Lot Valley.

Conques Occitance France

Conques is a lovely medieval village located at the meeting point of the Dourdou and Ouche rivers. It designated as one of Frances “Beautiful Villages” Le Plus Beaux de Villages of France. The St. Foy abbey-church was a major stopping point on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route, the main draw for the medieval pilgrims were the remains of St. Foy, a martyred young woman from the fourth century.

Toulouse Occitance France

Toulouse is the regions capital and the centre of the aerospace industry in Europe. The city has two UNESCO World Heritage Site historic sites the Canal Du Midi and the Basilica of St. Sernin which is listed under the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. Also in Toulouse one will find the Galerie du Château d’eau, one of the oldest places dedicated to photography in the world, the Académie des Jeux floraux, the oldest literary society of the Western World and, it is believed, one of places where capitalism was invented. Canal du Midi.

Canal du Midi Occitance France

The Canal du Midi is a 240 km long canal with 65 locks and is considered a major engineering feat.  The Canal du Midi meets the 193 km Canal de Garonne at Toulouse – the two canals together join the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and are called the Canal des Deux Mers or Two Seas Canal. It was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Albi Occitance France

The first human settlement in Albi was in the Bronze Age dating form 3000 to 600 BC.  Later the Gauls settled in the area who then defeated by the Romans in 51 BC who then settled in the area. In 1206 the Pope and King of France joined forces to fight the Cathars resulting in many ‘heratics’ being burnt at the stake and a severe repression of the people. Once annexed by the French Crown and after the Cathars upheaval the town enjoyed a period of commercial prosperity largely due to the cultivation of Isatis Tinctoria, commonly known as woad a natural dyeing agent.

The grand houses built during the Renaissance bear witness to the vast fortunes amassed by the merchants of the time. In Albi you will find Sainte Cécile cathedral which is a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic style and was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The Palais de la Berbie formerly the Bishops’ Palace of Albi is one of the oldest and best-preserved castles in France. This imposing fortress was completed at the end of the 13th century; the castle is now the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. The Pont Vieux or Old Bridge was built in 1035 and is still in use after almost a millennium. Originally built in stone then clad with brick, it sits on eight arches and is 151 m long. In the 14th century, it was fortified and reinforced with a drawbridge and houses were built on the piers.

Cordes sur Ciel Occitance France

The fortified bastide town was built in 1222 by Raimon VII, the Count of Toulouse, who, though not a Cathar himself, tolerated the heresy. It is generally considered to be the first of the bastides of SW France. The town is remarkably well preserved and sits on a hilltop above the Cérou River.

Lourdes Occitance France

Lourdes is one of the world’s most important pilgrimage sites becoming so in 1858 after a young girl saw the Virgin Mary in a series of visions that came to her in a grotto. This was later ratified by the Vatican. The major sites in Lourdes are the Grotte de Massabielle the most scared of all sites in Lourdes, the Byzantine Basilique de Rosaire and the neo-Gothic Basilique Superieure.

Millau

The Millau viaduct spans the Tarn River and it the world’s highest road bridge being 343 metres at its highest point.

The Tarn Gorges Occitance France

The Tarn Gorges are dramatic gorges running from Le Rozierto Quézac, and follow the course of the Tarn River for 50 kilometres. The Tarn Gorges are among the deepest gorges to be found anywhere in Europe. The gorge is stunningly and a road winds through it with a number of camping spots along the way.

Nimes Occitance France

Nimes was once the capital of a Gaulish tribe and was annexed in 121 BC to Rome. The Roman emperor Augustus founded a new city on the site and granted the town privileges that allowed it to prosper. The town became one of the richest in Gaul during its Roman period. The city was plundered by the Vandals in the 5th century and then occupied by the Moors until they were driven out in 737. The town was acquired by the counts of Toulouse in the 10th century and was finally annexed to France 1229. In the Middle Ages wool and silk industries brought wealth to the city. It was here that a type of serge material originated called Serge “De Nîmes”, which eventually found its way to America in 1870 and became known as Denim. During the Reformation Nîmes became largely Protestant. In 1598, the Edict of Nantes conferred upon French Protestants a degree of religious freedom. After the Edict was revoked in 1685 the city suffered once again from persecution.

Highlights of Nime Les Arènes .

  • The amphitheatre is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in existence.
  • La Maison Carrée The famous Maison Carrée is a temple and was built in a Greek style during the 1st century AD
  • The Tour Magne is an octagonal tower dating from circa the 1st century BC and was once part of the Roman fortifications.
Carcassonne

Carcassonne is divided into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse.  Carcassone was founded by the Visigoths in the fifth century, though the Romans had fortified the settlement in earlier times. The Cité de Carcassonne an ancient town with a fairy like ‘Cinderella’ castle that was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 1997.

Wine Occitance France

The Languedoc-Roussillon region, particularly in and around the Aude department, has been an important winemaking centre for several centuries. It has 740,300 acres of vineyards which is three times the combined area of the vineyards in Bordeaux and reputed to being the largest producer of wine in the world. It is believed that grapevines existed in the South of France since before the existence of Homo sapiens with the first vineyards of Gaul developed around the towns of Béziers and Narbonne. The Mediterranean climate and plentiful land with soil ranging from rocky sand to thick clay is very suitable for the production of wine, and it is estimated that one in ten bottles of the world’s wine was produced in this region during the 20th century.

Monpellier

Monpellier was founded around 900 AD and is the capital of the region. Montpellier is one of the few large cities in France without any Roman heritage and also one of the few cities in southern France without a Greek foundation.

Cathar Country

Cathar was a Christian sect that flourished in Western Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries. It was considered heretical and was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathar country is dominated by a collection of mediaeval fortified castles usually high on rocky outcrops guarding over this once turbulent frontier region. Two of the highlights are; Le château de Peyrepertuse Built in the XI century on a huge rocky ridge, the skilled construction of this building makes it the most important and remarkable example of military architecture. Le Château de Quéribus Built on a steep rocky spur, at an altitude of 728 meters, this castle was the last bastion of resistance in the crusade against the Albigensians (Cathars) in 1255. The dungeon offers a superb view of the Mediterranean Sea.

St. Guilhen le Désert

St. Guilhen le Désert is situated in a narrow valley in the in the Hérault department. It is a small village dating from medieval times. It features a Romanesque abbey Abbey of Gellone which is an UNESCO World Hertitage site and the nearby Pont du Diable. The town is a designated French Beautiful Village.

Narbonne

Narbonne was established in Gaul in 118 BC by the Romans. It was located on the Via Domitia, the first Roman road in Gaul, built at the time of the foundation of the colony, and connecting Italy to Spain. The town has some impressive sites including the Narbonne cathedral dating from 1272, The Palais des Archevêques, the Archbishop’s Palace, and its donjon with views over Narbonne, The Roman Horreum, a former grain warehouse, built underground as a cryptoporticus,  and remains of the ancient Roman road the  Via Domitia.

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