A VINE ROMANCE; from Barges and Canals to History and Cafes, Cathedral City Beziers Is One of France's Overlooked Wine Capitals.It's Something Else the Romans Did for Us

Article excerpt



Water city

Perched on a hilltop and surrounded by rolling vineyards in the pretty Languedoc–Roussillon region of France, Beziers is a charming little city with an impressive cathedral. Its most famous son is Pierre–Paul Riquet, the genius who created the Canal du Midi which snakes close by with its colourful barges and cruisers.

Plane to see

A statue of the famous engineer stands proudly in the centre of the wide promenade named after him – Allees Paul–Riquet – which is shaded by trees, just like the canal. At one end stands an impressive 18th century theatre, while cafes also line the street.

Find religion

Dominated by the St–Nazaire Cathedral, which dates from the 12th century. Don't miss the panoramic city view from the terrace.

Old news

Beziers is one of the most ancient cities in France, dating back to 575 BC. Its colourful past includes being a Roman settlement, a stronghold of Catharism and a wine capital. In 1209, on the Day of the Butchery (recorded on a plaque opposite the cathedral), 20,000 people were massacred under the orders of Pope Innocent III.

Picture this

The Musee de Biterrois displays Roman, medieval and wine artefacts. Le Musee des Beaux–Arts boasts work by Delacroix, Schaffner and Holbein.

Bobbing along

Don't miss sailing on the Canal du Midi across the aqueduct over the River Orb, up the Fonserannes seven–lock staircase and through the world's oldest canal tunnel at Malpas. The 300–year–old canal, which stretches from Toulouse to Sete is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Well versed

The Plateau des Poetes has busts of Beziers poets lining its paths. This pretty country park is planted with species from all over the world.

Med in France

Buses run from the centre to beaches such as the sandy Serignan and Valras Plage, both backed by dunes.

Feast for the eyes

In mid–August, Beziers hosts the famous Feria, based on bullfighting. This five–day festival of fireworks, music and street entertainment attracts a million visitors. …