On the road
Population: 1 032 000
Sub-prefectures: Beziers, Lodeve
Herault drew its identity from the meting of civilisations. Iberians from the south, Etruscans arriving from the sea, Celts from Rhineland or Ligurians from Italy settled in the area and mixed up before Greeks and Romans imposed their rule. Later, French became the official language in the 15th century. In a land always favouring exchanges thanks to the Canal du Midi or Via Domitia, tourism is a key economic sector with a 1.2 billion euros revenue and 40,000 jobs.
The 100-kms-long coastline is one of the best -preserved in the Mediterranean in spite of several seaside resorts and yachting harbours. Several large natural parks around the seaside lakes like Etang de Thau are protected. Viticulture is another main asset. In Languedoc, wine is a culture that left its mark in the land and in the minds. Faugeres, Saint-Chinian, Minervois, Coteaux du Languedoc, clairette ou Languedoc, Muscat in Frontignan or Mireval reflect the tradition. Demographically, the population has grown by 11,000 per year since 1990, the whole region gaining 57 pc inhabitants. Some 80 pc of the population live in the main towns, Montpellier, Beziers and Sete.
Tarn is the second biggest department in the Midi-Pyrenees region in terms of surface and population (360,000). Its climate combines the relative coolness of the Atlantic with the Mediterranean mildness. The department's economy is mostly based on small businesses with less than 50 employees. Yet some big companies such as the Pierre Fabre laboratories have thrived on its soil. Chemistry, food, glass and building material are the main industrial sectors.
Km 3 : Pignan
Count of Turenne castle
The castle in the Louis XIII style was built in the late 17th century on the site of an older castle. Austere looking, it was refurbished in the course of time to soften his façade and overall appearance. It is now the Pignan town hall. The castle park has been turned into a public garden.
The abbey became Cistercian in the 13th century. Placed under the control of the abbey of Valmagne, it was a wealthy convent with 40 nuns. Abandoned with time, it was sold during the Revolution. From the original abbey, only the church remains. It is a high building in local Gothic style. The inside is impressive with its 15 metres vaults. The church is now used as a venue for exhibitions, conferences and concerts.
The region is very diverse geographically with the Mediterranean to the south, mountains to the north and countryside everywhere else, yet its climate is constantly gorgeous. Sunny weather made its fortune thanks to wine and agriculture. It now attracts tourists and settlers with the most impressive population growth in France
Jersey wearers after the stage 21
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These five riders have won sprint stages of the 100th Tour de France. Of these five, who do you think will win in Paris?
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