The Travellers' Club - Holidays for discerning travellers Halnaker Park Cottage, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QH
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NIMES, LANGUEDOC & THE CEVENNES The real south of France

16-23 June 2012

with Anthony Earl

To book this tour, click here

PROVISIONAL COST: Eurostar & TGV to Nimes, rail return via Paris; 7 nights Bed &  Breakfast in twin rooms at central hotels in Nimes (3 nights) and Florac (4 nights); 5 dinners; transfers and touring by coach, local buses and trains; guided visits:  £1365
EXTRAS: Insurance; Single Room £295 (but very few single rooms); additional meals; entrance fees [some free or reduced for those over 65].

 Chateau of Lozere-Florac and Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct near Nimes

At predictable time throughout the day, the large pool in the center of the Jardin de la Fontaine in Nimes suddenly froths and bubbles. This startling sight is the result of a natural siphon, produced by underground water gushing from the avens in the Cevennes. The Romans placed a temple of Diana nearby and a nymphaeum, and by constructing a piped water system and establishing a weaving industry, they mixed business with pleasure. Round the pool are extensive eighteenth century gardens belonging to the town - for the bourgeois of that period made their fortune out of the same weaving industry and produced what was later known as toile de nimes - or denim. Before that period, Nimes had already achieved status as the French Geneva, for it was the intellectual and educational centre for the Huguenots of southern France during the Reformation period, and indeed still maintains a strong connection with the Protestant church.  The result of its claims on history is a multi-layered town: major Roman monuments include the Arēnes, now brilliantly presented according to the best museum standards,  the Maison Carrėe, which bids fair to be the best preserved Roman temple in Europe; the textiles industry is represented by a special museum; there are as many Protestant temples, as Catholic churches;  the Library is one of a series of adventurous modern buildings and contains precious records of the sixteenth century as well as an excellent café. Nimes is a typical French county town, with squares crowded with lively restaurants, tree-lined boulevards, smart shopping and inviting narrow alleys. Train and bus services make of it an excellent centre to see the Rhone area and the eastern parts of Languedoc and the Cevennes.  Gastronomy is, unsurprisingly, a feature of this town.

Our second destination, Florac, is the headquarters of the Cevennes National Park, in green mountainous country which may be the wildest in France. We plan to make arrangements for half board for our full stay, so adding to our mood of relaxation. In addition to the tranquil delights of the French rural scene, we shall foray into the mountains to view from the coach – but with suitable stops – the famous sites of the Gorges du Tarn, Mont Aigoual (possibly from its summit which is accessible to road traffic) and the Causses, all of which have inspired literature and excited audacious travellers, including our own R L Stevenson.  The Gorges are reckoned  to  be the longest and deepest in Europe, and a drive along them is absorbing. The Cevennes were the place of refuge of the Camisards and the Huguenots under persecution, and we shall see how they survived proscription for a century before toleration was granted in the Revolution. To the west lies Rodez  the small but handsome cathedral city, where charming narrow streets and renaissance facades have been carefully restored.

Travel to and from this region  will be  by supremely comfortable high speed train, Florac being near enough to the line for the return journey via Paris.

 

PROVISIONAL ITINERARY

Saturday 16th June   Eurostar and TGV to Nimes: Hotel le Cheval Blanc or Audrans Terminus; dinner in hotel for this evening

Sunday 17th June:   a gentle walking tour through the heart of  Nimes under the Romans: the Arenes.,La Maison Carrée; the temples protestants . Dinner at your choice in one of many little restaurants.

Monday 18th June: Nimes in the Sixteenth Century: the Library and its treasures (we shall attempt to make special arrangements). The Jardins de  la Fontaine and the Tour Magne a Roman watchtower. There is an excellent provincial art gallery.Dinner at your choice

Tuesday 19th June: by coach via  the Roman aqueduct,  the Pont du Gard, to Florac, through the Cevennes of the Camisards and the Huguenots. Grand Hotel du Parc, half board for rest of stay.

Wednesday 20th June; morning in Florac; half day coach tour of the Pays Cévénol, through huge valleys, rough stone villages, forests of chestnut and holm-oak and dramatic views of monts Lozere and Aigoual, and  echoes of the Wars of Religion of the 18th century.

Thursday 21st June: coach tour of Les Gorges du Tarn, perhaps southern Europe’s greatest wilderness, where the canyon is up to 600 metres deep, and sparse populations have eked out a primitive existence.

Friday 22nd June: coach tour including Millau, historic town and home of glove-making, and Rodez, one of France’s most attractive small cathedral cities.

Saturday 23rd June; coach transfer to railhead for TGV to Paris and connections to London.

 

The Cevennes with the Gorges du Tarn