The latest news from the Languedoc - September 2010

Bienvenue !

The summer has been long and hot but we are reminded that Autumn is around the corner as the grape harvest is in full swing. Since the last newsletter we have started a Blog which you can find under ‘Region’ on our website and we invite you to take a look.

This month we have articles on the historical engineering wonders grouped near Montady, Sarkozy’s controversial stand against immigrants and how to beat those high mobile tariffs. As usual we present our featured properties.

experience the difference

The average high temperature during July and August in Montpellier was


with a recorded high of 39°C and nearly 90% days of sunshine

Speed Sight-Seeing

Wanting to do some site-seeing but a bit short of time? Well, there is a place near Montady and Colombiers where, with hardly any effort at all, you can take in four significant tourist attractions in one fell swoop. (1) Oppidum d'Enserune (2) Via Domitia, (3) canal tunnel at Malpas (4) Montady

If you love history, then this area is steeped in it and Oppidum d'Enserune (1) still resounds with the echoes of its past. The prehistoric fortified hilltop settlement is one of the most important pre-Roman sites in Europe. The settlement was occupied without interruption between the 6th Century BC and 1st Century AD - first by the Greeks, then Hannibal then the Romans, who used it as a postal station on the Via Domitia (2). There is not a lot left to see among the ruins, but the 7€ entrance fee allows entry to the museum where some of the finds from the site are displayed.

Back down the hill to the Via Domitia (2) which is the oldest Roman road in Gaul, in fact, one of the oldest Roman roads anywhere, forming part of an immense road network of more than 70,000 miles. It ran the length of Languedoc- Roussillon linking Rome in Italy to Cadiz in Spain. Just next to it archaeologists are carefully uncovering the site of a Roman hostel (built at distances of a day's journey along the Via Domitia where they could get food, shelter and fresh horses). This section is now covered in tarmac but it is possible to find parts of it as it was way back then. One place is in Narbonne in the square in front of the Town Hall (Mairie).

Running alongside all of this is the Canal du Midi, notably the engineering feat of the 17th Century. Started in 1662 and completed in 1681, it is the brainchild of Pierre-Paul Riquet who was a salt tax collector from Béziers. It was constructed using only manpower, about 12,000 workers, who dug out 7,000,000 cubic metres of earth to connect Toulouse and Sète and created 240km (150miles) of canal waterways. It has 328 structures, including not only 103 locks which serve to climb and descend a total of 190 meters, but also bridges, dams and a tunnel 173 metres long. The tunnel at Malpas (3) was excavated in 1679 under the hill d'Ensérune. Measuring 165 metres long, it was the first navigable canal tunnel in Europe and a monument to the determination of Pierre-Paul Riquet. He was told not to dig it due to the danger of collapse, but he went ahead and did it anyway with a local builder in secret and completed it in less than eight days.

Last but not least is the stunning view over Montady (4) - wedge shaped fields separated by irrigation ditches that converge in the centre creating a wheel effect. Originally a brackish marsh of stagnant water, the cause of numerous epidemics, the swamp was drained in the 13th century making the place healthy and releasing 420 hectares of land for use. The ditches allowed water to flow to the centre of the circular depression, from which it was conveyed through underground pipes which are a master-piece of mediaeval craftsmanship. The drainage is still functional and remains in use today.

You will find at the Maison du Malpas Centre Touristique et Culturel very helpful and friendly staff. There is a model that shows the network of tunnels under the centre. On ground level there is the Via Domitia built in 118 BC, then there is the canal passing through the Tunnel du Malpas of the 17th Century, the railway tunnel built in the late 19th Century and finally the drainage tunnels of the 13th Century.

Well surely, all this (2000 years of cutting edge engineering) history in one small area is worth a quick visit?

Tis the season to be careful

One of the attractions of the South of France is the wonderful dry and sunny climate. The Languedoc-Roussillon boasts an outstanding 300 days of sunshine per year making it the sunniest region of France and, after Corsica, the hottest.

As you can imagine, all that lies under the sizzling sun slowly dessicating over the long summer months becomes one big tinder box. Happy tourists lighting campfires, leaving glass bottles lying on the ground or carelessly tossing down their cigarette ends become unsuspecting arsonists.

However, this year the fire brigade have been busy with some of the biggest fires seen in the region and they suspect that four of the five fires that occurred at the beginning of September were deliberately started.

Fanned by the wind, almost 4000 hectares have been affected and the A9 was closed at one point causing a 50km standstill of holiday makers returning home on one of the busiest weekends of the year. Families were evacuated and luckily no-one was hurt but a few homes were burned.

Canadair firefighting planes were brought in to fight the fires, scooping up water from the sea and nearby lakes. The planes have a 5,300 L fluid capacity and can refill their tank in ten seconds making them very effective in tackling the fires around here.

Investigations are underway to ascertain the cause of these fires and hopefully catch the culprits responsible.

Sarkozy criticised for doing what he promised

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would tackle immigrants and crime during his 2007 election campaign and it was this, among other things, that got him elected.

However, now that he is actually doing something about it he and his government are facing severe criticism from within and without.

The UN and the Vatican have condemned the French government and some of Sarkozy’s own ministers have threatened to resign. Others applaud his actions boosting his popularity temporarily. However, opinion polls now suggest that there is some doubt about his policies and voters would like to see one of Sarkozy’s left-wing opponents win the presidency election in 2012.

Opinion will always be polarised on this matter, but Sarkozy‘s recent treatment of the Roma gypsies, closing their encampments across the country and sending them back to Romania, has sent a ripple around the world. Some would say it was about time something was done about the mass of immigrants (often cited as the cause of growing crime rates) that drain the state coffers. Others feel it is blatant racism.

It’s a very hot topic at the moment and one that wont be resolved overnight.

A Ring of Truth?

It is easy to take the mobile telephone system in the UK for granted with the exceptional deals that are available in such a competitive market with each provider vying for your custom.

Unfortunately, when you move to France or spend long periods of time here, you may be somewhat surprised (even aghast) at the costs of mobile telephony.

Buying a ‘pay as you go’ SIM card could be the answer to reducing your costs while you are here and making calls within France. Be aware, however, that these expire within a week, a month or three months depending on how much you purchase taking with it any credit left on the account. Also, if you get a ‘permanent’ French mobile number and a low cost monthly tariff, the number will be taken off you if you do not use the phone within six months – even though you continue to pay your monthly charge.

The three mobile telephone providers in France are Orange, SFR and Bouygues and there is little difference between the contracts on offer. All will tie you into a 12, 18 or 24 month contractual period. You will be offered a brand new mobile that “only” costs 1€ (for example) but in fact the true cost of this phone is incorporated into your monthly payment.

To put this into context, a ‘forfait’ with SFR for one hour of calls and 30 texts per month costs about 30€ per month. 30€ a month will also buy you a ‘pay as you go’ SIM which provides about an hour of calls and/or an equivalent of texts and you have a month to use them.

Another alternative, if you have an unblocked mobile phone, is to take out an account with a provider where you get a SIM card to use in your existing phone. A ‘Liberty SIM’ account with Virgin (using the Orange network) offers several plans ranging from just 6€ a month for 15 minutes of calls and 15 texts to 30€ a month for 5 hours of calls, unlimited texts and unlimited Internet. Furthermore, you are not contractually bound and can leave the service at any time. Be sure to ask about this service, as they can be reluctant to volunteer the information.

It is worth popping into a shop that works with all the providers to get a more neutral opinion and advice on what would be best for your personal circumstances.

À Bientôt

Due to our expansion we are looking for additional people to join our professional team in our offices in Montpellier, Nîmes-Uzès, Narbonne, Béziers, and Carcassonne.

Call us on
+33 (0) 4 67 36 36 80

or by email


With best wishes

Annelise Bosshard
Managing Director
AB Real Estate