Sitting here looking out at the rain I can’t believe that just last week we were enjoying a holiday in Narbonne, blue skies and sunshine with temperatures in the 30s, swimming in the Med…..
Blue sea, hot sun and sandy beaches
We had never been very far south, except for taking a flight to Nice one January. We discovered a different land. Leaving behind the bucolic lush paradise of Burgundy we entered a Cézanne-like country of dry scrubland, rocky outcrops and twisted pines.
The journey down was interesting as we had a mystery tour up and down the winding ravines of the Ardèche thanks to Kate the Satnav who didn’t take us where we had planned to go. But once on the A75 motorway we were able to cross the Millau viaduct, opened in 2004 and, with towers of 343m, the tallest bridge in the world. The road deck is 270m above the valley floor which makes it the highest in Europe.
Approaching the Millau Viaduct
You can’t appreciate you are so high as it is difficult to see below. Just as well for the acrophobics amongst us.
Then on to Narbonne, a historical city of many cultures. Narbonne was first developed by Julius Caesar and became an important crossroads in the south of France. It was situated where the Via Domitia, the road from Italy to Spain built in 1189 BC, connected with the Via Aquitania which led towards the Atlantic through Toulouse and Bordeaux.
Part of the Via Domitia unearthed in the city centre
Hence Narbonne became the capital of Gallia Narbonensis, the Roman occupied southern coast of France. Having been used to sunny climes one wonders what the Romans thought of being sent off to fight marauding savages in the bleak north of England.
Narbonne is linked to the nearby Canal du Midi and the Aude River by the Canal de la Robine, built in the 1680s, which runs through the centre of town.
Canal de la Robine with the Archbishops' Palace behind
The Canal du Midi is an artist’s paradise. Sadly the plane trees on the banks of the canal are slowly dying of a disease and won’t be here much longer -
- By the Canal du Midi
In the centre of Narbonne the Archbishop’s Palace, built between 12th and 14th centuries, houses the art gallery and currently the Charles Trenet exhibition. Charles Trenet was a well loved singer whose career spanned from the late 1930s to the 1990s. He wrote all his own songs, La Mer being the most famous. He lived in Narbonne, not far from where we were staying, and his house is now a small museum devoted to his life and work.
The Archbishop's Palace
There is a very impressive cathedral which dates from 1272 and is the third tallest in France. On first sight it looks like part of it has been destroyed but in fact it was never built. Completion would have entailed breaching the 5th century town wall which, at that time, was useful in repelling the invading army of the Black Prince. In addition the plague swept through southern France and decimated the population.
The main attraction for us were the nearby Mediterranean beaches. The best are at Gruisson.
This ancient town is almost an island with its surrounding etangs and visitors can climb up to the ruined fortifications in the centre. Gruisson is also famous for its salt and there is an interesting visitor centre by the salt pans.
The salt pans at Gruisson
Hopefully we will be able to visit Narbonne again, next time for a bit longer so we can also visit Carcassonne and Beziers. There are 300 days of sunshine a year, perfect for a winter holiday.