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Narbonne and the Coast

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Narbonne and the Coast
Fact Box
The sea port without a sea…
Hosts of the 2008 Tour de France

Historic Sites
Narbonne’s unfinished Cathedral
Canal de la Robine
The Via Domitia
La Halles covered market
Fontfroide abbey

Museums and Art Galleries
Musée Archéologique
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
Musée Lapidaire
La Poudrerie wine museum

Leisure pursuits
Boating on the Canal de la Robine
Swim, sail and windsurf in calm seas.

Vast, Sandy beaches
Narbonne Plage
Gruissan
Leucate

Summer Music Festivals
Rock
Folk
Jazz

Fine Wines
Click here to read about Minervois wines produced in this area

Founded by the Romans in the second century BC, Narbonne became a wealthy port and the capital of Southern Gaul, its power stretching from Toulouse to Geneva before the Visigoth invasion of AD410. In AD719 it was the turn of the Arabs to take Narbonne after entering Spain and advancing over the Pyrenees and by AD759 the city had found new rule under the Frankish kingdom of Pépin the Short (the father of Charlemagne).

Narbonne’s greatest landmark is the dominant Gothic cathedral. Started in 1272 work continued until 1347 when the city council refused permission to demolish part of the city wall to make way for the nave. The decision proved correct as the city’s ramparts were again put to the test during the 100 years' war. The unfinished cathedral is the third tallest Gothic structure in France. Climbing the steps of the north tower visitors are presented with exceptional views over the rooftops of Narbonne to the Canigou massif in the Pyrenees.

Severe flooding in 1320 caused the harbour to silt up, the river Aude changed its course and Narbonne became no more than a backwater. It maintains its prosperity through wine and tourism. Narbonne centre, bisected by the flower-bordered Canal de la Robine lined with waterside cafés, is an attractive place for shopping and sightseeing. La Halles, the century old covered market, is said to be one of the best in France overflowing with fresh fish, melons, peppers, tomatoes and an abundance of cooked meats (charcuterie). A weekly open air market compliments every Thursday stretching along the canal bank near La Halles.

The Musée Archéologique, housed in the Archbishop's Palace holds an impressive collection of Roman artefacts and in the main square, part of the old Roman road, the Via Domitia, has been uncovered and open to view. Next door you can visit the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire housing a gallery of Dutch, Flemish and Italian paintings and 18th century French ceramics. Further museums include the smaller Musée Lapidaire with more Roman fragments and La Poudrerie, a 17th-century powder house converted into a wine museum and nearby the magnificent abbey at Fontfroide.

To see the surrounding countryside take a cruise on the Canal de la Robine, Narbonne’s link to the great Canal du Midi. Head to the coast at Port-la-Nouvelle, or inland to Le Somail on the Canal du Midi. You can join a boat from the Pont des Marchands or hire your own on the Quai d'Alsace.

With an idyllic climate of low rainfall and over 300 days of sunshine each year, the surrounding coastline and vast sandy beaches at Narbonne, Gruissan and Leucate are the perfect place to relax, swim, sail or windsurf on the calm seas. The picturesque fishing port of Gruissan is synonymous with French culture as the setting for Jacques Beineix's cult film classic "Betty Blue". The early beach scenes were filmed amongst the 1300 stilted wooden beach chalets here. During the summer months there are many outdoor festivities from rock to folk and jazz concerts.

On 17th July 2008 after 168km the riders of the Tour de France will arrive in Narbonne after setting off from Lavelanet on the 12th stage of the tour. The 13th Stage is also starting from Narbonne on Friday 18th July to make its way to Nimes on a 182km journey.
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