The greatest pleasure in Pézenas is strolling around the tangle of streets in the old town, where centuries collide in the richness of its architectural history. You never quite know when you're about to peer through an open doorway and see a Renaissance stone staircase swooping under vaulted ceilings. It was a substantial center of trade during the Middle Ages, when the reputation of the town's craftspeople was known all over the region. That tradition carries on, with today's generation of skilled artisans creating beautiful objects out of glass, wood, ceramics, and other materials. You can see their ateliers (workshops) as you wander through the narrow streets, and on warm days some will take their work outside. Street names hark back to the days when you could tell instantly what was being sold there: Impasse Fromagerie Vieille (Old Cheese Shop), for example, and rue Triperie Vieille (Old Tripe Shop) won't leave you in suspense for long.

The work of 17th-century playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, is celebrated in the cultural complex set up in the Hôtel Peyrat (which also houses the tourist office). Scénovision (tel. 04-67-98-35-39;; admission 7€) evokes life in the 17th century through 3D films and multimedia displays, giving a glimpse into the sights -- and even the smells -- of the time.

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