THE AREATurn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you
Le Mas du Figuier
Vézénobres is a beautiful, cobbled and walled medieval town (population c2000) in the department of Gard, in the South of France. It sits a few miles to the west of Provence, in the administrative region of Occitanie (formerly Languedoc-Roussillon).
The house sits just 50 metres below the medieval city walls. Within the stunning small town are three fantastic restaurants, a welcoming bar that also serves lunch and snacks, a delicious creperie, an ice-cream parlour, and some quaint shops. Nearby, there is a large supermarket with petrol station, cash machine and coffee shop, a convenience store, a spa, a beauty salon, a tapas restaurant and a pizzeria with bar. It is easily possible not to get in the car for an entire week if you so choose.
Vézénobres has been invited / applied to join the list of The Most Beautiful Villages in France. It is expected that it will be accepted to join in 2019. There are currently 156 villages accepted onto this prestigious list (from an estimated 32,000 villages in France), and only 4 others in the Gard region. It is normally associated with an increase in tourism to the village of 10-50%, and therefore strongly supportive of local house prices (notably those that could be used for tourism purposes like Le Mas du Figuier).
Alès (formerly Alais, population c40,000) is 10 minutes from Vézénobres, and sits at the foot of the Cévennes, near the Cévennes National Park. Historically, it was one of the most important markets for raw silk and cocoons, with the River Gardon powering the surrounding mills (Louis Pasteur researched silkworms here!). It has a lovely town centre, with characterful tree-lined streets full of restaurants, cafes and bars.
Uzès (population c8000) is less than 30 minutes away, originally a small Gallo-Roman oppidum, famed for the Pont du Gard aqueduct, now a World Heritage site. The city itself is stunning, retaining a trace of its walls as a circuit of boulevards, interspersed with monuments and feudal towers. Exquisite shops in beautiful streets, complemented well by its famous Saturday market. Definitely worth a long lunch and stroll round.
Nîmes (population c150,000) is the capital of the Gard department, with a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire (hence often called the French Rome): retired legions were given land here by Julius Caesar. The amphitheatre, Maison Carrée, Jardins de la Fontaine and the nearby Pont du Gard are all worth visiting, alongside some outstanding modern architecture nestled amongst the tree-shaded boulevards. Conveniently, it has a small, but perfectly formed, international airport which is only 30 minutes to the house, as well as a TGV station (trains direct from Kings Cross!).
Arles (population c50,000) is less than an hour away from Vezenobres, and its Roman heritage, notably the numerous Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles (theatre, amphitheatre, necropolis, Barbegal aqueduct mill et al) are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Van Gogh produced over 300 paintings and drawings whilst living here, with the annual international photography festival continuing the city’s artistic tradition.
Camargue Natural Regional Parc is also less than an hour away from the house, with its beautiful and distinctive landscape, its variety of outdoor pursuits, as well as the annual gypsy pilgrimage. It includes a large UNESCO designated biosphere reserve, with the wetlands a major staging point for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds (famously the thousands of pink flamingos), but it is the Camargue’s white horses that most come to see (and ride).
Montpellier (population c275,000) is the capital of the Herald department, and is the 8th largest city in France, as well as being the fastest growing. One-third of its population are students, so it is consequently culturally progressive, vibrant and lively. It lies on the south coast, with numerous Mediterranean beaches to explore in its vicinity. It has an international airport which is 60 minutes from the house.
Avignon (population c90,000), on the left bank of the Rhone river, has its ancient town enclosed by medieval ramparts, once home to seven successive Popes. The beautiful historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stunning. It is also only 60 minutes from the house, and possesses not only an international airport, but also a TGV (train) station that connects directly to Kings Cross.
More culture: it is an hour to the famous Chauvet Cave: the best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world (another local landmark with UNESCO World Heritage Status!), over 30,000 years old.
Slightly further afield, albeit still only 90 minutes away, is Marseille (population c850,000), which is the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, France’s second largest city. With its beaches, history, architecture and culture (24 museums, 42 theatres), it is one of the most visited cities in France (>4 million visitors per year). The waterfront of the Old Port, guarded by its two massive forts, is the place for lunch and to watch the world go by.
The beautiful university town of Aix-en-Provence (population c142,000) is also only 90 minutes away, albeit this time to the east.
Nîmes international airport is the easiest and quickest way (30 minutes) to the house: it is a small, quick and very convenient airport, with daily cheap, direct Ryanair flights to/from Luton, Stansted, and Liverpool. Nîmes also has frequent direct train links (Eurostar TGV) from Kings Cross, with a journey time of less than 6 hours: a very pleasant and relaxing alternative to air travel.
Montpellier international airport is a bit further away (60 minutes), but again a very straightforward journey. EasyJet, Ryanair and BA fly direct to / from most UK airports (inc London, Leeds, Cardiff, Edinburgh etc).
Avignon is a third option, also about an hour away from the house. Not only has it an international airport (CityJet and Flyby) that fly direct to / from a variety of UK airports (inc London, Southampton, Birmingham), but it also has train links to the UK (as per Nîmes).
Marseille is another great option. Although it is a bit further – about 90 minutes – away from the house, numerous airlines service it from numerous UK airports. Worth considering to give you many more flight options.
Examples of your choices on a Friday in August direct from London (numerous other UK cities available) are shown below. These assume:
- 20 mins from landing for Nîmes airport to pick-up, 30 mins for other airports; 15 mins for Eurostar
- 30 mins drive from Nîmes airport, 60 mins from Montpellier and Avignon, 90 mins from Marseille
BONUS OPTION: Alès-Deaux private airport is 2 miles from the house. Private aircraft can land here.