Cities

Cities to explore throughout the south of France

Valence – Gateway to the South of France

 

If you are driving from the UK to the South East of France then the chances are you will be driving through the Rhone Valley south of Lyon.

As you drive the climate becomes noticeably warmer and the countryside noticeably Mediterranean in appearance as you approach the southern city of Valence.

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Angouleme – from comics to cars

 

Angouleme is not a city on the normal tourist agenda but none-the-less does have an interesting historic centre and a couple of unusual events that take place each year.

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Montpellier, a city to discover

 

A recent visit to Montpellier has me wondering why I have never visited before and how soon I can return. It is a beautiful city made all the more attractive by its young and vibrant atmosphere – definitely one of our top 5 cities to visit in the South of France.

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Marseille attractions

 

Marseille is a city with an ancient seafaring vocation, so an essential route to see the attractions of Marseille should depart from the ‘old port’ of the city. Built in an area protected by the hills of Saint Lorent, Moulins and Carmes and two fortress (Saint Jean and Saint Nicolas) it is also a characterful place with its wharves dating back to the seventeenth century, and the sight of colourful fishing boats at anchor, the fish market and a great number of bistros.

Marseille museums

Nearby you can visit the Musée des Docks, which contains examples of goods dating back to the first century B.C. and the Musée du Vieux Marseille, where you see a model which reproduces the city as it was in Roman times. Also dedicated to local history is ‘Musée d’Histoire de Marseille‘, which also contains the remains of an old boat (3rd century BC) discovered in the Old Port area.

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Carcassonne Cité

 

Carcassonne is situated in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. It is one of the most interesting towns in the region, indeed in the whole of France. The history of the town dates back to the medieval Cathar Wars, in which the town played a very important role.

Located 90 km to the south-east of Toulouse, Carcassonne is in the ‘gap’ between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, at the crossroads of two major traffic routes in use since Antiquity: the route that leads from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and the route from the Massif Central to Spain that avoids the Pyreneean mountains.

Carcassonne is divided into two parts: the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the larger lower city, known as ‘the ville basse’. The fortress was inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997, and is also a listed National Monument of France.

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Visit Bordeaux, city of the south

 

Bordeaux is a vibrant city and one of the most beautiful in the South of France. Half of the city, more than 1800 hectares has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of its historic buildings. The dominant architecture is classical and neo-classical and has remained virtually unchanged for 2 centuries and so it is incredibly unspoilt.

Bordeaux used not to have a great reputation but in 1996 Alain Juppé began an urban regeneration project which included a major cleaning of the facades of the buildings revealing their beautiful golden colour. A tram system has been introduced, reducing the traffic and making movement throughout the city incredibly easy.

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Toulouse, an unmissable treat

 

One of my favourite cities in the south of France is Toulouse. The city centre is small enough and calm enough to be manageable, but big enough to always have something new to discover.

It always seems to be a modern active city, while keeping one eye carefully on the past and the important architectural heritage it contains.

Many of the buildings in Toulouse are constructed from the local bricks – small red bricks, left ‘on show’ (ie not covered over with mortar). Very attractive it is too, and distinctive to Toulouse and a few other towns in the region.

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Nimes or Arles – which to visit

 

I recently had the opportunity to explore the Camargue region of south-western Provence and two important towns that fall just outside its eastern boundary – Nimes and Arles.

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