There are many ways of travelling around France; barge holidays are one of my favourite as they offer a different way of viewing a country many of us know very well. Gently drifting down a calm canal watching the countryside pass you by has its charms, especially when compared with busy public transport and hot cars.
The lovely city of Narbonne can be found along the Canal du Midi via the Canal de la Robine. I want to share with you a few of the historical delights contained within this charming town.
The Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop’s Palace in Narbonne started life as a modest construction built to house the important ecclesiastic community in the city. However, after centuries of additions it is now an impressive structure which dominates the city centre. The palace is actually made up of two palaces, the Romanesque Palais Vieux and the Gothic Palais Neuf. It has three towers which are hundreds of years old. Nowadays, this building is home to the Museum of Art and the Archaeological Museum, as well as Narbonne’s Town Hall. It is a must-see in this town, full of old passages, gorgeous architecture and beautiful courtyards.
Ancient History: Roman Roads
In Roman times, Narbonne was an important location. The city was the capital of the Roman province of Narbo Martius, Gaul’s first Roman colony. Some physical evidence remains of Narbonne’s ancient past, as just outside of the Archbishop’s Palace is a section of Roman road. This was the very first Roman road in Gaul! Though in modern France rail travel, cars and planes all help people get around, in Roman times well-made roads for foot traffic and horse and carts were essential. Called the Via Domitia, this road was constructed in the second century BC to connect western Rome with eastern Cadiz.
The Cathedral of Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur
One of the most impressive, and most intriguing, sites in Narbonne is the huge cathedral. The structure was built in the thirteenth century in classic Gothic style. With its towering stained-glass windows, vaulted choir, and flying buttresses, this cathedral resembles many others in France. There is, however, one important difference: the building was never finished. The transept and knave were never built as, to complete the building, part of the city’s defensive walls would have had to have been destroyed. Defending the city against attack was so important that the cathedral was left as it was.
Don’t leave without visiting the cathedral’s Treasury. The luxurious liturgical objects housed here will give you just a taster of the wealth and influence held by the medieval Archbishops of the city. Particular highlights are a delicately carved ivory plaque from the ninth century, a pyxis from the eleventh century and a wonderful tapestry from the sixteenth century which portrays Creation.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury river cruises and barge holidays throughout Europe. If you're looking for the most exciting way to explore France, barge holidays are an ideal choice. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.