The museums and galleries you can’t miss from your Languedoc accommodation

For all of the other delights that Languedoc offers in the shape of the finest food and wine, walking opportunities and historic sites, one can’t possibly book Languedoc accommodation and not also take in the region’s various enchanting art galleries and museums. Of all bed and breakfast accommodation in the area, the sensitively restored La Souqueto townhouse may be especially difficult to leave behind, given the presence of an large, bright artist’s studio and even art courses.

However, the rewards for exploring the cultural centres in and around Languedoc are many. What the south of France may lack in terms of quantity of art galleries and museums, it more than makes up for in quality. There may be only one major art gallery in Languedoc, for example, but that Montpellier museum – the Musee Fabre – has a rich collection of paintings dating from the 15th to 20th centuries, its represented artists ranging from Nicolas Poussin, Charles Le Brun and Jacques-Louis David to Gustave Courbet, Eugene Delacroix and Jean Hugo.

The Musee Fabre is also a proud home of ceramics from Greece and the rest of Europe, in addition to the sculpture of such luminaries as Antoine Bourdelle, Rene Iche and Jean-Antoine Houdon. Or if you’d like to find one unlikely place with a rich artistic heritage, make the 30 minute drive from Perpignan to Ceret, the small town close to the border with Spain that is associated with the likes of Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Cubist co-founders Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

It’s also in Ceret, however, where the Museum of Modern Art can be found, with its collections including such major artists as Picasso, Salvador Dali, Juan Gris, Marc Chagall and Joan Miro. Speaking of Dali, those who are tempted to actually cross the border to Spain from their Languedoc accommodation won’t be disappointed by the Dali Museum in the legendary Surrealist’s home town of Figueres. Opened in 1974, with Dali himself involved in its creation, the building has a twisted and bizarre appearance – inside and out – entirely in keeping with the great man’s paintings and sculpture.

Naturally, the Dali Museum also houses the single largest collection of works by the artist, drawn from his personal collection. It all makes for a exceptional museum that is just one more reason to book Languedoc accommodation like La Souqueto if you are a self-respecting culture vulture.


The cultural delights of Languedoc

There are so many sound reasons to booking a holiday in the varied and charming region of Languedoc. For many of those who stay here, it is the local wine-producing heritage that is the biggest draw, and indeed, the 740,300 acres (2,996km2) of vineyards in the Languedoc-Roussillon region is three times the combined area of those in Bordeaux.

However, the area has always had much richer cultural associations than its wine, and you can begin to discover them simply by visiting the art galleries and the intriguing bookshop of ancient books in the picturesque village of La Somail, a 40 minute walk away along the Canal du Midi from La Souqueto in Mirepeisset.

But the region’s cultural associations are very deep, embracing everything from Roman history to Occitan literature and the music of the troubadour composers to some of the world’s greatest art movements. Towns like Ceret, Perpignan and Collioure had key roles in Cubism, Surrealism and Fauvism respectively, with the region’s stunning light and charm having attracted such greats as Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Miro.

Languedoc has also inspired famous writers including Valery, Moliere, Rabelais and Spanish poet Antonio Machado, all of whom are former residents. Today, visitors to the region can see the sustained culture of crafts, from jewellery-making and pottery to textiles and ceramics. Did you know that even denim was invented here?

Indeed, culture is all around us at La Souqueto. We continue to host a range of creative and cultural courses, covering such subjects as yoga, creative writing, wine tasting and the French language. We would welcome approaches from course leaders to host their events. We can accommodate 10 people.

May 2014 saw a week-long landscape painting course taught by artist Patricia Howells. A member of the Society of Botanical Artists, Patricia has been running her successful studio in Monmouthshire for over four decades, and her presence is more than welcome at La Souqueto, with her classes helping to provide an even fuller cultural experience for those booking our holiday accommodation in the south of France.

A closer look at the astonishing history of the Canal du Midi


Quite simply, you cannot pass up the chance to visit the Canal when you are on holiday in this part of Languedoc. It connects the Garonne River with the Etang de Thau on the Mediterranean, combining with the Canal de Garonne to form the Canal des Deux Mers, which joins the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Whether one stands at the Toulouse or Sete ends of the Canal du Midi, no one can deny that it is an astonishing sight. With the structure widely declared a jaw-dropping feat of engineering at the time of its 17th century construction, UNESCO certainly agreed in inscribing it as a World Heritage Site in 1996.

Talk of a possible waterway bringing together the Atlantic and the Mediterranean had been voiced by the Romans as well as Charlemagne, but it was Pierre-Paul Riquet, a tax inspector for Louis XIV, who finally oversaw its construction.  In designing and building this stellar waterway, Riquet was well-served by his in-depth knowledge of the rivers of southwestern France, especially the springs of Montage Noire (Black Mountains).

Construction of the structural and hydraulic engineering masterpiece began in 1667, involved some 12,000 labourers and culminated in its official opening as the Canal Royal de Languedoc on May 15, 1681 – Riquet having passed away just months earlier. The completion of work enabled the Canal du Midi to serve its principal function of the transportation of wheat, wine and textiles from Nimes.

It took another two centuries, however, for the Canal to become a link to the Atlantic as Riquet had dreamed, when the connection was made to the Canal du Garonne. The Revolution saw a switch to its present name, and although a million passengers and 111,000 metric tonnes of cargo were being carried on the Canal each year by 1856, the following year saw the opening of the Bordeaux to Sete railway, which saw a drastic drop in commerce.

British barge tourism powered a resurgence of activity on the Canal in the early 1990s, and that’s no wonder – after all, the sheer beauty of this structure is more than apparent to anyone who pays it a visit from well-appointed Canal du Midi accommodation like La Souqueto.

Events in 2014 to take advantage of during your holiday rental in Languedoc

One might have imagined that there’s more than enough to enjoy all year round in the glorious part of southern France known as Languedoc-Roussillon, without having to look to the periodic events calendar – and of course, that’s true. Those who make the sumptuously restored La Souqueto their choice of holiday rental in Languedoc, for example, are only a few minutes’ walk away from the impressive and iconic Canal du Midi, to say nothing of an assortment of other attractions.

However, this region also hosts an astonishing range of events and entertainment to enthral and stimulate anyone spending just a few days at a holiday rental in Languedoc. From art exhibitions and food festivals to dance festivals and music events, there’s always something going on that gives an exciting insight into just what it means to live in or visit this hugely endearing part of the world.

Events happening in and around the region right now include the Cevennes National Park Nature Festival, which serves up more than 500 events – generally free and accessible to everyone – from March to November. There’s a different theme to the festivities each year, but whenever you go, you can expect guided visits, themed walks and hikes, entertainments, courses, workshops, lectures, films and demonstrations of expertise, all in a setting that has recently been classified as a Mediterranean agro-pastoralist cultural landscape by UNESCO. The festival is happening right now, and continues until 30 November 2014.

Those visiting a little later in the year may wish to take in Cérès Franco Act 1 – The Images of Imagination, an exhibition of Brazilian Naive artists at the Fine Arts Museum in Carcassonne, running on 27 and 28 September 2014. The show is named after the globally renowned gallery owner and art critic Cérès Franco, whose collection will be partly put on show ahead of its permanent housing at the museum.

Nor can those visiting Languedoc-Roussillon during September possibly miss the chance to see behind the scenes at all manner of public and private monuments and venues as part of the European Heritage Days. It all happens on 20 and 21 September, and the events – including dramatised or guided visits, exhibitions, workshops and conferences – are usually free to attend.

What more could you possibly want to charm you while staying in a holiday rental in Languedoc?

Languedoc’s considerable inheritance in food and wine

With its 740,300 acres (2,996km2) of vineyards, the Languedoc-Roussillon region will surely always be associated with some of the world’s finest wines. However, it should come as no surprise that this routinely goes hand in hand with truly great food.

Whether you tuck into a beautifully prepared Fruits de Mer at Grussian or a “bouillabaisse” fish stew or head to one of the local markets to pick up some Mediterranean fish, meat, vegetables and poultry, among a host of other options, you certainly won’t forget your eating and dining experience in this part of the south of France.

There’s always delightful new-season produce on show in the colourful open air markets where you can perhaps best appreciate the locals’ “fresh is best” philosophy towards country cuisine. Olonzac Market on  Tuesday mornings is a must and St Chinian Market is great fun too on Sunday! . This is also a corner of France where goose fat is regularly used, instead of the olive oil favoured in nearby regions.

It won’t take long after you have arrived at your bed and breakfast in Languedoc for you to learn the names of some of the region’s most popular dishes, from cassoulet to l’anchoïade, la morue and langouste à la sétoise to gigot à l’ail, tians de legumes and civet de lapin et lièvre. Rural and coastal specialities are complemented by the finest fruit, honey, cheeses and wines, all helping to make a sample of the Languedoc’s culinary delights one of the best ways to discover the region.

Livestock breeding centres, vineyards and farms all yield the produce that has become so markedly associated with Languedoc-Roussillon. Herbs of the Provencal garrigue (scrubland) like savory, bay, rosemary and thyme are used to flavour all manner of garlic, basil and olive oil based recipes.

Head to the local ports of Agde, Marseillan and Sete on any day, and you’ll probably see the fresh fish being caught. Indeed, it was Mediterranean fishermen who first used what is now known as “bouillabaisse” as a simple soup. Today, this dish is flavoured with some of the region’s most typical condiments, including garlic, leeks, onions, olive oil, tomatoes or herbs.

Plus, of course, don’t forget to visit the numerous vineyards in Mirepeisset and surrounding villages. From red, white and rose varieties to sweet, sparkling and varietals, there’s a little something for everyone in the region’s wine offering – so take your time to revel in it all.