largues is L'Un des Plus Beaux Villages de France, one of France's most beautiful villages. This accolade, which is shared by only two other villages in the Hérault département and by just 150 in all France, is awarded only if certain stringent conditions are met.

These include the beauty of the natural setting, which you can judge very easily from your vantage point on the Fleurs d'Olargues terrace. But that's not all: to be selected a village has to have a busy cultural and recreational life, in which the local inhabitants participate actively and wholeheartedly.

During your stay at Fleurs d'Olargues, you should allow time to explore the old village. It's not hard: all you have to do is to cross the Pont du Diable and lose yourself in the maze of lanes, alleys, courts and stairways that make up the old village. If you keep going upwards you will end up by the famous bell tower, the only part still standing of the 12th century château or castle which once dominated the valley.An annual archaeological dig is gradually exposing the extent of the castle complex, although much of the stone has been removed over the centuries for building houses further down the slope.

There are guided tours of the village, and full details of these and of the village history and village life are available from the excellent Office de Tourisme in the main street.

For many visitors the major attraction is the extent and variety of the magnificent walks and rambles in the hills and countryside around the village. These are well signposted and very rewarding for all levels of walkers, and it has been calculated that there are enough signposted walks based on Olargues to fill a fortnight and more. The Office de Tourisme has full information, including maps and books detailing walks.
 
Must-sees in the village are:

* La tour clocher, the bell tower
* Le Pont du Diable, a gracefully vaulted and legend-haunted 12th century bridge
* L'Escalier de la Commanderie, the 6-flight vaulted stairway - a public thoroughfare - leading from the Chapelle de St Etienne up to the church.
* Le musée, the museum, run and staffed by volunteers; a fascinating glimpse of village life through the ages. Here there is a replica of the extraordinary peyro escrito, a stone inscribed with largely unexplained prehistoric signs and symbols.
* The Centre Cébenna, an environmental centre with a wealth of resources and activities relating to the local area.


 

The local area

Few areas of France are as richly diverse as this area of the Haut Languedoc. Several excellent books have been written about it, and there's far more to see and do than can be concentrated in a single web-page.

As a starter here's Fleurs d'Olargues Top Ten half-day outings, not in any particular order:

1. Archetypal French country life in the Wednesday morning market in St Pons de Thomières, 18km west. The Musée de Préhistoire is fascinating, too

2.  The walk up the Gorges d'Héric, a jagged cleft in the flank of Mt Caroux, among the crags, pinnacles, tumbling streams and rockpools with mountain-fresh water to swim in

3. The beautiful 9th century Prieuré de St Julien, a haven of rest and spiritual recovery. Chamber concerts are given here in summer: programme available from the Office de Tourisme

4. The piste verte, the green track, the old valley railway line now converted into a path for walkers, riders and cyclists, running from Mons la Trivalle east of Olargues to Lacabarède, in the Tarn département 40km to the west

5. La Grotte de la Devèze at Courniou, a fascinating network of spectacular limestone caves. Wrap up warmly!

6. The panoramic views, taking in the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, from the Pic de Naudech (you can drive almost to the top) and from Mt Caroux (drive to Douch: 45 minute walk thereafter)

7. The bell foundry at Hérépian, the only one in France, managed by father and son

8. The wonderful scenery in the middle valley of the Orb, from Tarassac to Roquebrun, best appreciated by canoe. (It might be best to allow a whole day for this)

9. The drive up to the Col de Fontfroide, a spectacular mountain road leading up 1000m to the rolling table land north of the valley and the sub-Alpine village of Fraïsse sur Agout

10. Les Thermes at Lamalou les Bains, hot springs from three different natural sources, highly beneficial for various rheumatological and neurological disorders. A half-day treatment will leave you feeling a new person!


 

    Pont du Diable - D908 - 34390 Olargues - Tel.+33 04 67 97 27 04 - joan@fleurs-de-olargues.com