Ready For Boarding! - Languedoc - Roussillon The Place to Be
With nearly 300 days of sunshine the Languedoc - Roussillon is such a large and varied department that one can only write about a small part of this beautiful area of France. Ranging from mountains, golf courses, to beaches - the Camargue, Canal du Midi, and cities as varied as Carcassone, Perpignan, Nimes and the capital of the area Montpellier, it is a "must visit" area of France.
No matter whether you are travelling by plane, boat, train, or car pack your bags and golf clubs and head for the Languedoc- Roussillon area of France.
France is such a large country: although, with a population the same as the UK, it is impossible - or very difficult - to get to know every part of this fascinating country. Indeed I heard a well-known French journalist say on the radio that she watched the Tour de France on television to get an idea of areas she had never visited.
Deep in the SW of France the principal city of the Languedoc is Montpellier, a lovely city of some 250,000 inhabitants, full of excellent shops, restaurants, theatres, and top class museums (the Musee Fabre, Montpellier's sleek modernised art museum, offers a cool, comfortable way to explore painting and sculpture through the centuries - including a wing devoted to the modern art of Soulages. A strong student population frequent cafes, bars etc - a lively and interesting city to visit.
The city centre, as the name implies, is built largely on a mount but with a wide open space, with gardens to its west entrance with a direct copy, although somewhat smaller, of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Apart from the more expected shopping of a sophisticated city, Montpellier boasts a charming central area , the Ateliers St Roche, where craft studios, purveyors of spices, wines, chocolatiers, sit alongside original fashion boutiques. An exploration must.
Living in Southwest France myself, and a lover of French wines, I want to make special mention of the wine shop of the Guizard family "Aux Grands Vins de France"
The shop also has an amazing variety of spirits and licquors and M Jean Guizard and his manager were able to produce no less than 7 of the 8 Islay malts in stock - don't miss it and it's right in the main shopping centre of Montpellier.
After our visit to Montpellier we headed for Nimes, a 45 minute drive away: again a very southern city, full of life and colour. It has a beautiful Roman Temple right in the centre called the Maison Carrée built 2000 years ago and now cleaned and restored and looking as though it were built yesterday. Opposite is a modern building of glass and steel, housing the museum of modern art and the city's library , designed by Sir Norman Foster to reflect the Roman Temple.
Interestingly and not that far away are the amazing Roman Pont du Gard and the fairy like design of the very modern Millau Bridge at Clermont Ferand, also designed by Sir Norman Foster.
Nimes has a vibrant shopping centre with an enticing indoor market selling superb local produce evoking the spirit of the South of France - the only place I've seen a stall devoted solely to the potato - a variety for your every need and a stall holder only too keen to impart his advice. When we visited mid-morning everywhere was alive with the hustle and bustle of shoppers.
Nimes also boasts a Roman Arena, now used for concerts, spectacles and even live bull fighting.
An incredible building seating 25,000 and no blocked views of the arena! Well worth a visit, surrounded by an intricate hub of narrow streets and colourful squares full of interesting shops and restaurants.
Two cities that you should find the time to visit, but as this is a golf magazine, how about the golf?. Well, just as the two cities are absolutely worth spending time exploring - so is the golf.
Montpellier has 2 first class courses as well as a 3 rd at La Grand Motte not many kilometres away, near the airport served from the UK by regular Easyjet flights.
The two Montpellier courses are to the West at Juvignac - Golf de Montpellier Juvignac, only 15 minutes from the city - and to the East Golf de Domaine Montpellier Massane , about 25 minutes away. When the tramway construction is finished later this year travelling to the courses from the city will be easy, but at the moment there are a few deviations to be made.
Both are full 18 hole courses and each has an executive 9 hole course. Equally the two courses have first class hotel accommodation on the complex with all facilities, swimming pools, Jacuzzi, health centre and beauty salons.
"The air-conditioned resort at Juvignac comprises a total of 46 rooms and 40 suites, and offers a perfect place to rest, work and play. The undulating fairways of 2 courses, along with good practicing facilities.
Additionally, 2 restaurants and bars, along with a brand-new on-course clubhouse with state-of-the-art décor and terrace offer the perfect après-golf experience, helping guests unwind after their game.
Then, there's always time to take a dip in the brand-new infinity-style pool and relax in the sauna. For those seeking more of a challenge, there is always the option of working out in the custom-built gym. Add to this a wide choice of modern, well-equipped hotel rooms and suites, and you have the perfect golfing destination. Truly personalised service is offered at the hotel reception, with 24-hour check-in and check-out service. Many services, such as room service, laundry service, and 5 conference rooms are on offer, making a visit to this resort unforgettable. The resort also features a TV lounge, restaurant, WLAN access point and a car park to accommodate the guests' needs.
The Golf course and resort has it's own website at http://www.golfhotelmontpellier.com/
and can also be found on the GolfToday website here
The l'Ecureuil 9 hole executive course complements the main well used course and makes an excellent training ground for players to learn the game of golf and the etiquette required in playing the game.
The resort offers excellent cuisine with the Brasserie La Picholine with simple and speedy service either in the clubhouse or on the terrace.
For fine dining the La Lucques Gourmet restaurant offers panoramic views of the golf course and provides a full menu full of the flavours of the South.
In addition the resort has a 32 bedroom hotel in the heart of the golf course - open all year round with well- furnished, quiet and spacious rooms. Additionally there is La Residence Les Jardins de Massane providing 52 apartments with fully equipped facilities making the perfect base for holidays with your family or friends.
As in Montpellier - Nimes offers two first class golf courses. The first close to the city centre is Nimes Vacquerolles - built and opened some 22 years ago, and now part of the Open Golf Club of courses in France. Amongst these are both Hardelot and Le Touquet in northern France, well known to visitors from the UK.
Our host when we visited was Elodie Chave whose father Jacques Chave was the driving force in building the course. Designed and built by Bill Baker and M Chave, it opened in 1989.
The main course measures 6, 185 metres and is a par 72.
Having enjoyed an excellent impromptu lunch of pasta and coquille st Jacques with good local dry white wine - we were driven with some élan by Elodie's young son around the 18 hole course. One was able to appreciate the well maintained and manicured course. It was interestingly laid out with some fine driving holes and well protected greens- but avoid the pines which abound the course. Although I didn't play the course, it looked not only in excellent condition but one that would be fun to play.
There are also good practise facilities with a popular and well used Driving range, Training bunkers, Pitching green and Putting green. And of course there's the added attraction of a restaurant offering good local cuisine.
Full details of Green Fees and availability can be found on the club's own web-site
There are also various schemes for reduced green fees both at Vacquerolles and at Nimes Compagne both from the clubs and from the very helpful French Tourist Board in Nimes, situated close by the Maison Carrée
A review I found about the course reads - "Very nice course , mature oak lined fairways & very well maintained greens. We played from the mid tees (I am a 12 h'cap)........I would expect it to be a real challenge off the back stakes.
Additionally the club offers the opportunity to stay at the Résidence Du Golf right on the course.
T he Résidence du Golf offers 14 studios (23 or 28 m²) ideal to accommodate 2 to 3 people for residential golfing holidays . Each studio features a kitchenette, and a living room looking directly onto the course, plus full facilities.
I also found this review of 2010 which said " If you're looking for a bit of peace and quiet then this residence is the place for you. Clean and modern rooms with basic cooking facilities, and lovely views over the golf course, no swimming-pool , etc.
Now from one side of town to the other - slightly daunting at the moment as Nimes has joined the desire to install a tramway system. Wonderful as in Bordeaux when it's up and running, somewhat frustrating in the making.
However the other course is Nimes Campagne near to the airport. Originally a very private club it is now open not only to members but visitors are welcome. See the club website
or the GolfToday site here.
Nimes Campagne Golf Club is built on a 134 acre undulating, wooded estate. Initially founded by a small group of founder members the course was designed by Leonard Morandi and Douglas Harradine and was opened for play in 1970.
The course measures 6135 metres with a par of 72.
Only 15 minutes from Nimes, a 2000 years old roman town full of history, it is easily accessible via the motorways A9 and A54; it is also close to Nimes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes Airport and less than three hours from Paris by TGV.
Since its creation, this Club, has trained young players in its golf school, who have contributed to its reputation because of their results. Jean Francois Remesy, twice winner of the French Open, is the most famous example.
It is open all year round except Christmas and New Year - 08:00 to 19:00 (18:00 in winter)
Reception is by the main entrance and close by is the Proshop which offers a range of clothing with club logo and all the bits and pieces a golfer needs.
The Restaurant , on the first floor, is open every day from 8h30 to 18h (19h in summer).
For practice there are two Putting Greens and a Pitching Green , allowing you to improve your technique, or simply to warm up before launching your attack on the course. A 6 holes Pitch & Putt completes these facilities.
The Caddy Master will take care of your equipment and provide you with golf trolleys or buggies, a very knowledgeable lady who had been doing the job for 5 years. Her domain is near the Practice ground - she gave us a conducted tour of the course - I had played it some 30 years ago and apart from the trees having grown considerably there were less fundamental changes than I had expected. Maintained to a high standard the course with its tree lined fairways and some water hazards looked in tip top condition.
Apart from offers contained on the club's own website it's worth looking at Pass Golf which you'll find on http://ot-nimes.fr/ - Apart from being the Official Tourist Board site for Nimes it invites you to "Swing between greens, vineyards, and your emotions"!
In Nimes we were expertly looked after by Veronique Allen from the Tourist Board who helped us to negotiate the traffic with great panache and skill, and by Sophie, our city guide, who showed great affection for and knowledge of the city.
Please take time to visit the French Tourist Board office at Montpellier http://www.ot-montpellier.fr/en/
Our whole visit was arranged, again most professionally, by Patricia de Pouzilhac Public Relations Manager at CRT Languedoc-Roussillon.
In Montpellier we stayed at the comfortable 4 Etoiles Chambre d'Hote owned and very efficiently run and owned by Pierre Migayrou http://les4etoiles.com/
In Nimes we stayed at the attractive Royal Hotel, right by the Maison Carree and an underground car park next door. The hotel bedrooms looked out on to a pedestrianised street which partly featured the canal and a view of the famous Nimes gardens, just 5 mins walk away.
The hotel website is http://www.royalhotel-nimes.com/ and I reccomend both the hotel and its restaurant, which features Tapas.
Don't just take my word for it - investigate the area on the web - pack your bags and Golf Clubs and give it your best shot.