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Pézenas

A visit to Pézenas is a 'must' on any Languedoc itinerary - the town sees itself as the focal point of a 'Land of Art and History'. A well-preserved and simply stunning medieval town, Pézenas has the added interest of myriad artisanale shops hidden away up narrow, winding alleyways. The town has always been popular; Molière liked Pézenas so much he settled here and based his theatre troupe, L'Illustre Théatre, in the town 400 years ago.

Pézenas has one of the best Saturday morning markets in the region and in the summer, the stalls are crowded with both locals and tourists exclaiming at the variety of local produce available. It is also a good place to head for when shopping for the Christmas turkey or 'chapon' (capon). 

Leading off from the market are small streets which host numerous 'boutique-style' shops. These include anything from clothes to hand-gilded candlesticks or soaps.
 
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After a fortifying lunch accompanied by a refreshingly cold, local rosé (it is acceptable to add a few ice cubes to the glass, making the wine less potent and even more refreshing), consider a gentle road tour. As the guidebooks say, Pézenas is not only interesting in itself but makes a good jumping-off spot for tours in the neighbouring countryside. Start from Adissan and sample the delightful 'Clairette du Languedoc'; this is a great opportunity to begin learning something of the history of local wine-growing. Continue to Aumes to enjoy the varied landscape, gently rolling with villages surrounded by vineyards and more rugged further north. For religious architecture, visit Caux and then take a trip along the river at Cazouls l'Hérault. Montagnac offers an architectural and historical tour of wine-growing estates. Nizas offers glimpses of historic rural construction and St Pons de Mauchiens demonstrates medieval town development. And thence back to Pézenas, whose Golden Age was the time of Molière, in the 17th century.
 
And if, after all that shopping and history you want to do something completely different, visit the beaches of the Mediterranean, which are about 40 minutes away, or the delightful river beaches of Roquebrun or the Gorge d'Héric to cool off.
 

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