695km (432 miles) SW of Paris; 98km (61 miles) SW of Alès; 63km (39 miles) N of Béziers; 60km (37 miles) S of Millau

Drive north of Pézenas for less than half an hour and you soon feel that you've left the heat of the Languedoc behind. Forested hills and gorges start to appear, telling you that you're very close to the dramatic landscapes of the Parc Régional du Haut Languedoc. Lodève is at the confluence of two rivers, the Lergue and the Soulondre. It has a history that stretches back to Roman days when Nero used to mint his coins here. Its next shot at prosperity came during the Middle Ages when it was a center for the woolen cloth industry. Nowadays Lodève benefits from its proximity to Lac du Salagou, an enormous man-made lake 10km (6 miles) south that is the watersports and outdoor-pursuits playground of this part of the Languedoc. Hiking and cycling trails abound throughout the vivid ocher landscape, and the aquatics center on the lake is the place to rent small boats and windsurfing boards.