The Languedoc-Roussillon is a stunning and diverse region. It’s steeped in history and traditions and spans the 5 departments of; Lozere, Gard, Herault, Aude and Pyrenees Orientales. It boasts, 200km of Mediterranean coastline, snow topped mountains, picturesque villages, chic cities and obviously vineyards galore. The Languedoc also sees on average 300 days of sunshine, with some January days reaching 21 degrees. What the Languedoc has to offer, is in fact so diverse that you could enjoy an al fresco breakfast at a beach bar on the Mediterranean in the morning and by lunchtime be on the ski slopes in the Pyrenees.
The villages of the Languedoc are oozing history, mystic and atmosphere, three of my personal favourites are; Rocquebrun, St Guilliam and Pezenas. Or, if you want France chic then you can visit the larger towns, or cities, with the jewel being Montpellier, which in my view (and that of many others) is the Paris of the south.
Other great towns and cities of this region are; Nimes with its superb Roman remains, Beziers; a great place to pick up the Canal du Midi, Carcassonne, the former Roman provincial capital of Narbonne, and other smaller ancient towns, such as Agde, Marseillan or Sete.
Inland the Languedoc is characterised by vineyards and arid rocky Mediteranean hills with their vegetation of scrub and aromatic bushes. Further inland, the valleys of the Cevennes are more wooded and rural. These give way to the Cevennes hills, the southeastern peaks of the Massif Central. The Pyrenees, forming a natural land barrier between France and Spain, are a beautiful range of high mountains, wooded on their lower slopes, but offering good mountain and hill walking higher up – not to mention the attraction of day trips into Spain. The coastline where they meet the sea is characterised by old coastal villages such as Banyuls and Collioure, rocky cliffs and small coves.
The people too are an interesting cocktail of French and Mediterranean personalities, with a healthy sprinking of Spanish and North African thrown in for good measure. Giving you a laid back bunch, who have every right to be proud of their region and traditions and proud they most certainly are, yet they don’t flaunt it. They just live their lives as their fathers and their fathers fathers lived theirs. They don’t move around much and you’ll see the same family names come up again and again…and why would they move when they have just about one of the most perfect places in the world to live….and I’ve not even mentioned the food or wine yet.
Due to the regions history and that it’s so close to Spain and North Africa, the food very much reflects this. Whilst yes, it’s distinctly French, it tends to be lighter, with a healthy dousing of Olive oil, rather than the cream and butter based dishes more typical of French cuisine. Also, as so much of this region is coastal there’s an abundance of amazing fish dishes, with mussels and oysters being the mainstay of coastal towns and villages. However, go inland just a little bit, especially in the Aude around Castelnaudray and you’ll find rib sticking dishes such as Cassoulet, with their other very popular dish of Confit du Canard being found all over the region.
Obviously I can’t mention the Languedoc without discussing the wine. This after all is the wine growing region of France. However, the best of the wine never makes it onto British supermarket shelves, therefore, to appreciate the best of French wines you need to be in France and go to one of the many privately owned vineyards and sample what they have to offer. As these are small independent growers in the main, they don’t produce enough to export, hence why you don’t see it over here. It’s also why living in the Languedoc is your best option!!
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