[Les Corbieres]
[St. Guilhem le Desert]
[Pont du Gard]
[Palais Ideal]
[Private photos]
[The phrase book]

The South of France

We have spent our holidays in the South of France almost every summer the last fifteen years. Many will ask, why the South of France is so fascinating, that you go there over and over again? That we can't explain for sure - but mainly the size of the region by itself, makes it impossible to experience and explore it all in just one summer. Secondly the variety of experiences are so overwhelming that you get all what a summer vacation takes in just one place!

Nature and landscapes are very alternating. You meet territories with huge mountains, old volcanic territories, plains, rough landscapes and fertile fields. You meet rivers and lakes - forests and tempting beaches. All over you find wide open wine fields, fields with blue lavender and yellow sun flowers and a lot more.

Lavendelmark fra Provence

You pass through small idyllic villages, where time seems to have stopped and in the greater cities you'll find worth seeing buildings, museums and excellent restaurants.

Our favorite area in the South of France is Languedoc/Roussillon or to be more exact the area around a village named Vias. From there you have only a stone's throw to the Mediterranean and at the same time you are within an operating range to sights of high class.

Les Corbieres

Les Corbieres is a wine producing region but relatively unknown for most people living out of France. The landscape is 1200 square miles of red soil, woods, cliffs, moorlands and 130 square miles with wine fields. The landscape is beautiful and varied. Touring the area you pass through small villages. In Corbieres you also find impressive old castles, vineyards and convents.

Saint Guilhem le Desert

This charming and picturesque roman village is characterized as the most beautiful village in Languedoc.

I the year 768 Charles were crowned. Guilhem was one of his bravest officers and among other things he conquered Aquitaine and took over the power of government. He also conquered Nîmes, Orange and Narbonne and his last victory took place in Barcelona. He was then appointed to Prince of Orange. When he returned from his expeditions of war he found his dearly beloved wife dead. The following years he felt very lonely and consequently he entrusted the power to his eldest son.

After a pilgrimage to Rome, he passed on his way back the area around Lodéve and into the valley of Gellone. He found this deserted place suitable for a sacred refuge, and therefore he built a monastery. In several years, he lived here with other monks. In 806 Guilhem retired and lived in solitude as a monk until 812 - the year he died.

In the 12th and 13th centuries more than one hundred monks lived in the village Gellone, which later took the name Saint-Guilhem-le-désert. Every year people pilgrimage to this place to worship the holy relic and the burial place of St. Guilhem.


The Abbot's church from the 11th century.

The monastery - only the northern and western wing remains.

The village is absolutely worth visiting and today you'll find an idyllic village with narrow alleys and small shops. Also the market place with an old and impressive plane is worth visiting.


Carcassonne is one of the most odd towns in the world and here you'll find the greatest sight in France - a unique well-preserved fortification from the Middle Age.


The town is split into two different parts. La Ville Basse, which is the original Carcassonne were founded by the Holy Ludwig in 1247 and the quarter La Citê founded by the Romans under the leadership of Caesar in 100 BC.

In the 6th century the western Goths fortified La Citê and in the 12th century the Castle were built. In the 13th century the ring walls were extended into the appearance of today. In the 18th century extensive restorations have been done.

The ring wall, which is 3 km long, also has 52 towers.

Pont du Gard

The construction of this Roman aqueduct has presumably started around year 19 BC and the aqueduct has been carrying water approximately 500 years.

The difference in level between the spring at Uzrs and Nîmes is 56 feet over a distance of 31 miles - that means an average slope of 21 inches per mile.

The average slope between the spring and Pont du Gard (10 miles) is 42 inches per mile and between Pont du Gard and Nîmes (21 miles) the average slope is 1 foot per mile. On a few spots only 4,5 inch per mile!

Pont du Gard

The amount of water to be transported used to be 5 - 8 million US gallons every day and night corresponding to 160 - 210 gallons per inhabitant of Nîmes.

The variations of slopes on the aqueduct have a logical explanation. Constructing the aqueduct with a uniform slope of 21 inch per mile consequently should have raised the level of the bridge by 15-16 feet, so that the total height of the bridge would have been 176 feet. The present height of 160 feet represents the highest construction from the Roman era. The aqueduct therefore represents the most outstanding of what technically could be obtained at that time. For the same reason you'll find Pont du Gard over-dimensioned but still harmonic.

Pont du Gard were later used by the local inhabitants to cross the river Gardon and gradually the columns on second floor were demolished to make room for crossing by pack asses. The stability of the bridge became worryingly weak and the missing stones were replaced.

Pont du Gard

In 1743 a decision was made in order to expand Pont du Gard with a road on the one side of the bridge so crossing without risking life became a reality. At the same time it became possible to enjoy the beauty of this great monument.

Pont Du Gard is built in 3 floors and has a total height of 160 feet corresponding to an 18-floor apartment house.

Pont Du Gard is one of the three star sights in France and paying a visit whenever possible is strongly recommended.

Palais Idéal

In the small-unheeded village Hauterives a little north of Valence you'll find a highly eccentric sight - Palais Idéal - a palace built on dreams. Only one man built the palace in between 1872 and 1912 - a French postman named Cheval.

Palais Idéal

The architecture of Palais Idéal is peculiar and characterized as the only example of naive architecture. It reminds you of those palaces made of sand, you find on the beach and it is exclusively built after Cheval's own imagination.

Vias - a Southern French village

Vias is a typical village of the South of France with old houses and paved alleys. The village has no sights of great importance, but in the summertime the village buzzes exotically. The inhabitants sit in a chair on the street and converse with their neighbor at the same time they look at life passing by.

Some of the houses form part of the ring wall around the center of the village. On the square you'll find an old roofed market hall, where you can buy fresh vegetables and "fruits de la mer".

Every Wednesday the main part of the village is turned into a giant market, where people from all over turn up to sell their goods.

The Goth church Saint Jean Baptiste is situated in the middle of the village. The church is built of dark volcanic stones and used to be a part of the ring wall built in 1397. Later the ring wall was demolished.

If you by any chance go to Vias we will strongly recommend a nice, small restaurant - Hostellerie "Le vieux Logis", where both service and the food are superb.

What makes a small village like Vias survive is without any doubt it's excellent placement close to fine Mediterranean beaches on the new Riviera unlike the old Riviera in Provence. It was president de Gaulle, who once started the enormous efforts in transforming swampy areas into beautiful beaches intended for the ordinary French population, who didn't afford going on holidays to the exclusive and expensive Côte d'Azur.

We have several times spent our holiday on a camping ground called Mediterranee Plage situated 5 miles from Vias and close to the Mediterranean. It is a nice and peaceful camping ground for families - with an excellent site and classified with 3 stars.

Private photos

View a slideshow containing a small selection of our private photos - click the buttons!

Copyright Meisner Pedersen

By following the link to the English-French phrase book you'll be able to put indispensable ;-) sentences together in English after which the sentences will be tranlated into French and shown in a small pop-up dialogue box.

Travel links


Opdateret den 21.6.2009