Self Catering Gite in Herault, South of France
HIP, HIP, HERAULT!
France might well be Britain's favourite holiday destination but travel agents and tour operators have seldom given the département of the Hérault much of a look-in. Probably for the very simple reason that a good many of them have never heard of it in the first place - or indeed of its bigger brother - the sun-drenched région of the Languedoc-Roussillon. Which has tended to leave le 34 - the department's official index listing, created alphabetically in the best traditions of French bureaucracy - feeling more than a little neglected. At least when compared to the traditional haunts of les Anglais in France where Cannes, Nice and the Côte d'Azur continue to top the tourist charts as they have done for the best part of a century. That was until an unlikely Irishman by the name of Michael Leary threw out a lifeline. Michael who? All right, his name might not flow from the tip of your tongue - but his no-frills airline certainly will. For it is the Managing Director of Ireland's Ryanair who has stepped forward as the unlikely hero of the Hérault having done more for the department than the efforts of dozens of PR firms and local tourist boards combined.For since Brits have come to realise that you can hop back and forwards to Nimes and Carcassonne for less than fifty quid (tax included if you pick up a good deal on the internet) they have been arriving in their tens of thousands. Quelle surprise!
I was lucky enough to have discovered the delights of the Hérault over a decade ago when the likes of other low-cost airline chiefs such as Easy Jet's Stelios Haji-Ioannou were still in short trousers. Together with my wife and two small children we set off for Montpellier by car, as a matter of fact blissfully unaware of the beauty of the area which had chosen as our home. It was our good fortune to have stumbled upon a city (the capital of the Hérault) the merest mention of which causes the person who hears it to come up with another word by way of response. Montpellier?, the French equivalent of the man on the Clapham omnibus will say to you, c'est une ville dynamique. For in less than three decades, the hub of the Hérault has changed more than during the previous three centuries, rising in rank from the 25th to the 8th French city. Each and every opinion poll reveals that it is the place where most French men and women would like to live, work and play. Much of this is attributable to the city's colourful Mayor and MP Georges Fréches, a skilled operator who has somehow managed to move the city along by leaps and bounds without losing sight of its historic roots
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