Enjoy the sedate pace of life on offer in the southern France
Fly directly to France's Mediterranean coast and experience the Roman history of Nîmes as well as the unusual fishing methods of Sète. Based in the lesser-known town of Montpellier, relax as you enjoy the sedate pace of life on offer in the southern France.
Meet your Tour manager and the rest of your group at the airport for our direct flight from London to Montpellier. From here we transfer by private coach to our hotel, the 4-Star Hôtel Oceania Le Métropole. After time to settle in, tonight we enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
Get to know your surroundings a little better today as we embark on a guided tour of Montpellier, a city that escaped the Roman gentrification of most other southern French metropolises, not being founded until the 10th century by aristocrats from Toulouse. Louis XIV made Montpellier the administrative capital of the Languedoc region, an area famed for many treasures, from its Mediterranean coast to timeless vineyards, via mysterious citadels and medieval towns, taste Languedoc's southern way of life and fine wines
Our tour allows us to experience the many centuries of development that have taken place here as we wander through 12th century Mikves (Jewish bath houses), disappear down medieval alleyways and stop to soak in the architecture of refurbished 18th and 17th century mansions, known locally as hôtels particuliers. We also see the central Place de la Comedie, colloquially called l'oeuf (the egg) because of its original oval shape. Since Montpellier's humble beginnings, this spot has long been a meeting point for residents and visitors alike and boasts the accolade of being one of the largest pedestrianised areas in Europe.
This morning we make our way to the train station to catch the direct service to Nîmes.
Nestled charmingly amongst the foothills of the Cevennes, Nîmes boasts one of the richest collections of classical buildings in France, each indicative of its long, exciting history. The city grew as an important crossroads in the ancient world, set on the roads between Rome and modern-day Spain. It quickly became one of the most prominent towns in Gaul - which was truly confirmed when Antonius Gaius, born in Nîmes, became Roman Emperor in 138 AD.
In later years, Nîmes became a cornerstone of the textile industry; the blue 'serge de Nîmes', or denim, was soon a huge success. Nowadays, there is much to see in the city. One of the main attractions is the amphitheatre dating from the end of the first century AD. It had space for tens of thousands of spectators, which is not the largest to have survived but is one of the best-preserved ancient arenas in the world. There are a number of other delightful Roman antiquities to be found, along with archaeological collections and the Old Town, crammed with narrow streets and intimate squares.
Our first stop is the Roman Amphitheatre, which looks surprisingly well-preserved, for a guided tour. Originally built at the height of the Roman Empire in 70AD, it was repaired and re-purposed in the 1800s to serve as the city's bullring. We spend some time here, being escorted round as we learn about this 24,000 seater spectacle of ancient times, that was both effortlessly elegant as well as undeniably practical in design.
We continue our tour around Nîmes' historical centre passing by La Maison Carree, an ancient Roman Temple whose facade was inspired by its counterparts in Rome, Apollo and Mars Ultor. Originally constructed somewhere between 12 and 20 BC, the building was the central hub of the city's forum, the administrative focus of any Roman city. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, it wasn't left to fall into disrepair and had many functions across the centuries, including as the house of the consulate and an archive room. For such an old structure, the detail still visible in its Corinthian columns and colonnades are impressive, despite renovations carried out in both the 20th and 21st centuries.
Next we see the idyllic Jardins de la Fontaine, a public park that has a reputation as one of the most impressive of its kind in the whole of Europe. Elaborately decorated with Romanesque style statues and perfectly manicured, they are an oasis of peace in the heart of this popular destination. Following some free time for lunch and for you to continue sightseeing independently, we meet up for the return journey by rail back to Montpellier.
We take a coach to the unpretentious fishing town of Sète this morning. Hugging the Mediterranean coastline, this busy port still sees daily fishing expeditions, which of course means some excellent seafood restaurants. Specialties of the area include turbot, mussels and oysters which thrive offshore in Thau Lagoon, or to call it by its local name, Étang De Thau. On arrival we take a cruise along the clever network of canals, built to connect that centre of town with these seafood farms.
Afterwards your time is free to explore further. Perhaps visit the Étang De Thau Museum to learn about the history of the shell-fishing trade and discover how the farmers and fishermen made their living. You can also sample some of these freshly caught delicacies while savouring the beautiful scenery from a terrace that runs along this unique seascape.
Another option is to make your way up Mont Saint Clair, the lone hill Sète encircles. From the top you'll be treated to stunning panoramic views of this charming town. It's also worth spending time relaxing somewhere along the eight miles of beaches that separate the land from these fish-rich seas, famed as being some of the most impressive in this region of France. Back in Montpellier this evening, we sit down to a delicious four-course, farewell dinner to celebrate our time in France.
Check out of the hotel following a leisurely morning that includes breakfast, and ahead of an excursion to Aigues-Mortes, perhaps one of the most beautiful sites in Provence.
Encased by square medieval walls, this ancient fortified city is symmetrically perfect, white-washed terracotta topped houses contrast charmingly with the surrounding green countryside, in fact Aigues-Mortes is also famous for its nearby salt marshes. Roman Legionnaires stationed nearby were paid a portion of their wage in salt from these very marshes - an intriguing facet of local history. What makes this sight spectacular is the marshes glow a pink colour, due to the microscopic algae in its waters.
Here we tour the city with a local guide, discovering its historic secrets. After time spent sightseeing, your time is at leisure so perhaps make your way to a nearby restaurant where you can enjoy an early dinner before our transfer back to the airport. We fly back to London Heathrow where on arrival, our tour comes to an end
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enjoy the sedate pace of life on offer in the southern France