Places to visit from the Gite
La Grande Motte
The bizarre white ziggurats of this modern beach resort exemplify the development of the Languedoc-Roussillon coast. One of a number of beach cities on the lakes south of Montpellier, there are marinas and facilities for every kind of sport from tennis and gold to watersports, all flanked by golden beaches and pine forests. To the east are Le Grau-du-Roi, once a tiny fishing village, and Port-Camargue, with its big marina.
The best approach to this perfectly preserved walled town is across the salt marshes of the Petite Camargue. Now marooned 5 km (3 miles) from the sea, the imposing defences of this once important port have become a tourist experience, worth visiting more for the effect of the ensemble that the tacky shops within. Aigues-Mortes ('Place of Dead Waters') was established by Louis XI in the 13th century to consolidate his power on the Mediterranean, and built accoridng to a strict grid pattern. By climbing up the Tour de Constance you can walk out onto the rectangular walls, which afford a superb view over the Camargue.
Pont du Gard
No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of the 2,000-year-old Pont du Gard. The Romans considered it the best testimony to the greatness of their Empire, and at 49 m (160 ft) it was the highest bridge they ever built. It is made from blocks of stone, hauled into place with an ingenious system of pulleys and a vast phalanx of slave labour. The huge build-up of calcium in the water channels suggests that the aqueduct was in continuous use for 400-5-- years. A dizzying view can be had by walking along the very top of the aqueduct, which originally carried water to N�mes along a 50-km (31 mile) route from the springs at Uz�s. This charming town has an arcaded marketplace and several fine medieval towers including the lovely 12th-century Tour Fenestrelle.
Tucked away in the Celette mountains, St-Guilhem-le-Désert is no longer as remote as when Guillaume of Aquitaine retired here as a hermit in the 9th century. After a lifetime as a soldier, Guillaume received a fragment of the True Cross from Emperor Charlemagne and established a monastery in this ravine above the river H�rault.
Vestiges of the first 10th-century church have been discovered but most of the building is a superb example of 11th-12th century Romanesque architecture. Its lovely apsidal chapel dominate the heights of the village, behind which the carved doorway opens on to a central square.
Within the church is a sombre barrel-vaulted central aisle leading to the sunlit central apse. Only two galleries of the cloisters remain; the rest are in New York's Cloisters museum, along with carvings from St-Michel-de-Cuz.