France – Nimes – May 2017

Nimes is a small city, the capital of the Gard Department within Languedoc Rousillon near to Provence. We arrived by train on May 23rd in glorious sunshine and were immediately impressed as we walked out of the train station onto the Avenue Feucheres, a paved promenade with running water  features, fountains and gardens leading to the Esplanade where a Roman Arena stands. Actually we discovered that Nimes has lots of tree-lined streets and squares with fountains and is a really nice place to visit.

Unlike Montpellier, Nimes does have a Roman history and has some of the best preserved roman architecture anywhere in the world. This includes the arena, the best one in France apparently, being an amphitheatre still in use today for bull fights and other live events and a Corinthian  temple, or at least its facade, which fronts a building used to house a tourist oriented film show and is known as Maison Caree. The latter stands facing an ultra modern  Gallery of Contemporary Art and Library built of steel, glass and concrete! There are various other Roman monuments around the town including the Tour Magne, a substantial tower that formed part of the ancient city’s defences and the remains of a temple in the excellent Jardine de la Fontaine which is a tad more modern but was constructed on top of Roman thermal baths and has a network of “canals”  with ornamental ponds and fountains with statues everywhere. The town is a great place for history buffs but you don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy it.

We stayed in a super rental apartment on the outskirts of town for three nights. We could have stayed longer although this is only a small city and  three days is probably just right for most people.

Quite apart from the historical interests, we enjoyed the central market as always and made the most of the excellent kitchen in the apartment to cook for ourselves – I’m afraid we still are not overly impressed with the standard of food we’ve had in most cafes and restaurants that we have tried and so self catering is our preference and of course, more wallet friendly!

Nimes was definitely another highlight of this trip so far and it remains the case that the more we travel east the more attractive southern France becomes!


Here are the photos



Gare de Nimes – like most stations we visited its traveller friendly and has the central bus station to the back of it. At the front the entrance takes you on to the very pleasant Avenue Feucheres with water features, gardens et al and down to the Esplanade and Arena beyond shown in the next few photos that follow this on



Sainte Perpetue Churc


Maison Carrée , Nimes
The Carree d’art designed by Norman Foster stands across from Maison Carree.



As always, the central market was one of our favourite places…







Jardins de la Fontaine



The Temple of Diana





The Tour Magne watchtower is part of the Roman city wall and stands at the top of a hill in the Garden de la Fontaine giving panoramic views over the city










France – Montpellier – May 2017

We had been looking forward to visiting Montpellier having read a lot about the place in travel guides. We were not disappointed.

This might be the 8th largest city in France but its not that big and its not nearly so old as many without any Roman history. The historic centre goes back to medieval times with a cathedral built in the 1300’s but most of its buildings are from the 16th and 18th centuries and many are from the 19th century. It’s a university town with, according to wiki, almost a third of the population being students. Thus the town has a busy, youthful feel to it and when we visited there seemed to be plenty going on with various markets, art exhibitions and luckily for us, on one day we enjoyed a free concert. We liked it a lot.

There’s a very attractive historical centre with lots of narrow streets and squares filled with nice shopping, bars and restaurants with a main square, Place de Comedie, being the main focal point of the city centre providing a large and grand space with fountains and statues. With lots of activity in the square and plenty of pavement cafes, this is a great place for people watching.

Whilst we had booked an airbnb apartment for our four nights here, we ended up leaving the apartment after two nights when the owner asked us to leave after we had managed to lock ourselves out of the place! Thus we ended up staying in hotels for 2 nights rather than self-catering  but still enjoyed visiting the markets including the main central market, les Halles Castellane, with its fantastic selection of food and nice bars but especially the bi-weekly market, le Marche des Arceaux just outside the city centre under the arches of an old aqueduct, essentially a farmers market with all kinds of home grown, home made produce, bread, cheese, charcuterie and wines on offer.

We stayed only four nights in Montpellier but we thought it a great city to visit, very classy with a great vibe and some nice architecture, promenades and parks. The Promenade de Peyrou is especially grand with its own mini Arch de Triomphe, the  Porte de Peyrou, one of many landmark structures around the city.

Here are some photos, quite a few actually, beginning with the Place de Comedie



Promenade de Peyrou and the Porte de Peyrou


Montpellier’s main central market
and neighbouring street cafes
 We left Montpellier by train for Nimes on May 23rd. Four nights wasn’t enough but hopefully we will get chance to return some day.

France – Sete – May 2017


We arrived in Sete from Pezenas by train on 16th May 2017 for a three night stay. We arrived early afternoon and the Irish owner kindly picked us up at the station and delivered us to his bijou but pleasant apartment in an old but renovated building conveniently adjacent to the town’s Tourism Office.

View from our Sete apartment


Sète, a small town on the French Mediterranean coast is a proper working port with a busy harbour landing serious amounts of fish. It is virtually an island with a hill, Mont St Clair, standing in the middle. The town stands on the sea but there is a big body of  water, the Thai Lagoon, behind it and a network of canals between the two thus its often referred to as the Venice of the Llanguedoc.






We thought it a lovely town. There is water everywhere and boats moving back and forth constantly and so there’s always plenty of activity and opportunities to people watch. Many of the locals apparently have their own boats which they use to get about for shopping and the like as traffic in town can be heavy.




For us Sete was simply another stop over point en our route to Provence and then the Cote D’Azure. We had only 2 days here and wished we had longer but we enjoyed lovely weather walking up and around the Mont St Clair and some nice fishy meals. A highlight for us here as elsewhere in France was the fabulous market hall with its amazing fish and produce stalls and tapas bars and restaurants.


Great views all round from the to of Mont St Clair


Some more photos of the town










This is a serious working port with proper fishing boats !


Sete’s central market hall. A highlight for us as always so plenty of photos…




One of the things we love in french markets – there’s always bars and restaurants selling food made with the local produce and wine.
Nothing beats outdoor eating and drinking!


Next stop Montpellier !



France – Pezenas – May 2017

We had never heard of Pezenas until we started putting together our itinerary for this little trip  from Spain to the Cote D’Azure of France. Actually Pezenas wasn’t on our original itinerary from Beziers to Sete but we became aware of it as we were reading up on the area. Regarded as the most beautiful town in Languedoc if not the whole of the South of France, it seemed worth making a small detour.

We arrived by bus from Beziers on 14th May and stayed for 2 nights in a comfortable studio apartment in the Old Town.

The town is an absolute medieval beauty with a maze of narrow streets and alleys opening onto some lovely squares. There are plenty of one-off shops with some great boulangeries, patisseries and some excellent bars and restaurants. It’s famous for its connection to Moliere (France’s equivalent to Shakespeare) who resided here for a few years in the 1600’s – you’re hardly like to miss this fact as there’s a Moliere Hotel and at least one restaurant bearing his name with lots of other reminders of the fact all over town – including a Moliere Trail for those so inclined.

The town’s history goes back to Roman times given it was on the Roman route East to West but its history peaked in the 17th century when it was the capital of the region. Come the 19th century the developing railways passed by Pezenas and its influence waned. With the size of the town fairly static in terms of its growth since the 19th century, the architecture in the old town is very well preserved – and very attractive.

This is very small town and 2 nights was ideal giving us a full day to see everything and still leave time for a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine or two sat in the early summer sun outside one of the brasseries in Place Gambetta.

A few photos














Following two nights in Pezenas we left for Sete, a Mediterranean port  known as the Venice of Languedoc.








France – Beziers – May 2017

Beziers is a small town in the Herault Department of Languedoc sitting on a hill above the river Orb about 10k from the Mediterranean. It’s one of the oldest towns in France dating back earlier than 500BC and it is famous for its annual bull fighting festival when over one million tourists visit the town over a five day period.

We were in two minds as to whether we should visit Beziers or not. We had read some reviews saying the place was small but certainly worthy of a visit whilst others said that the town was poor and run down with many streets full of empty shops and houses with very little of attraction to tourists. Given we didn’t need to stray much from our route over to Provence, it seemed a natural place to stop for a couple of days and we were glad we did. We stayed in a family owned super modern apartment in a very old building which itself is not yet fully renovated. A very smart and well equipped flat.


Place Gabriel Peri – perhaps the biggest square in the Old Town .Contains the Hotel de Ville , some nice shops ,bars and restaurants in some nice old buildings.


Hotel de Ville in Place Gabriel  Peri


We arrived by train from Narbonne and had to navigate our way to the top of the hill on which the town stands through an area of not too smart artisan dwellings up to the mediaeval town centre, a warren of narrow streets lined with som excellent shops, cafes and restaurants. Contrary to our fears, this is a fairly upmarket town centre with a lot of  money being spent on infrastructure and refurbishment of old buildings. The town’s Halles is in this area as is the Cathedral.




One of the town’s main streets is the impressive Allee Paul Riquet, slightly away from the medievil centre, although connected to it. A tree lined boulevard with a very grand theatre at one end and a nice municipal park at the other.


Beziers Municipal Theatre on Allee Paul Riquet. Stands at the end of a broad tree-lined promenade with a Municipal Park at the other end. There was a market on when we visited. See next picture



Narbonne has a Roman history, of course, but the most significant event in the town’s history was the Massacre  of Beziers. The town was a Cathar stronghold and the first to be attacked in 1209 by Catholic forces intent on destroying the Cathars. 20,000 people were butchered and burned to death and the town badly burned including all those who had taken shelter in the cathedral which itself was burnt to the ground. Restoration of the town began some years later and was finished in the 1500s!


Beziers Cathedral – some great views to be had from here.






We spent only 2 nights in Bezier, essentially one full day. In truth a couple more days would have been good for us but it was enough to get a good feel for the place, visit the cathedral and les Halles and enjoy a couple of nice meals including an excellent Indian, our first for quite some time. Unfortunately it didn’t give us enough time to wander too far from the centre of town and along the river which would have made for a good walk.We were a tad concerned about how we would get to our next destination, Pezenas. We would leave for Pezenas on Sunday but there is no train line to Pezenas and buses are few and far between in rural France on Sundays. The bus station office was closed when we visited on Saturday to get a timetable and the Tourist Information Office was next to useless. Worst case scenario was that we would have to stay another night in Beziers but in the end we put our trust in an out of date on-line timetable that proved to be still relevant and we left Bezier mid morning on 14th May.