The South of France is a region that quickly conjures visions of pristine beaches, colorful villages and cities full of jet setters, all of which is of course true! As with most places, there is more to this area than meets the eye and sometimes digging a little deeper into what’s on offer can bring rich rewards. So what else is there to see in this very diverse part of the world?
Nimes is unusual in that it houses a Roman arena that is the best preserved anywhere in the world. The arena plays host to a famous bull fighting festival every year during the month of May and the fusion of French and Spanish culture is very evident in the dancing and paella. The mix of these cultures and the Roman influence is very evident in the architecture, particularly in the town center. The nearby Fountain Gardens are a spectacular sight too and feature on the French list of remarkable gardens. From this vantage point you can drink in the wonderful view of the town’s red roof tops.
France is home to numerous castles but perhaps the one most worth seeing is the walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region where numerous relics of the Cathars religious sect abound. The castle has been completely renovated and at first may appear a little touristy but the essence of that by-gone age lingers magnificently and makes it well worth a visit. In the same region is the town of Pézenas which at one time was the seat of Languedoc’s governors giving rise to a great many impressive baroque and renaissance buildings. Of these over one hundred have been designated as historic, somewhat remarkable for a town of eight thousand people! Definitely a place worth visiting to capture the authentic feel of the old southern region.
Another town famous for its Roman influences is the UNESCO world heritage site of Arles which boasts Roman theaters, amphitheater, baths and aqueducts. The picturesque streets were also home to Vincent Van Gogh for many years and as a place of eclectic world influences it is hard to beat, claiming a heritage that draws from Celts, Phoenicians and ultimately the Romans.
This is another less obvious tourist destination but one that offers a fascinating glimpse of the religious dominance of the region during the middle ages. Situated on the banks of the river Rhône, the city is home to the Palace of the Popes where Gothic frescoes can still be seen on the walls in the papal apartments. Walking the city is rewarding but a cruise on the river can deliver a different perspective of the amazing architecture. July sees the whole city immersed in the Theatre Festival so something to consider if you plan a visit to this charming area. Without a doubt there is an abundance of historical and cultural delights throughout the entire region of southern France which when combined with the wonderful cuisine that can be savored along the way will surely make your trip memorable.