I Probably Should Keep This Magnificent Part Of The World A Secret, But…
I just can’t. OK, having been born in the south of France makes me a bit prejudice, but Languedoc has to be the most perfect place in the world. Why? Well, let’s start with an amazing landscape, ancient mountainside villages, both bathed in a surreal light that has drawn artists here for centuries. Embedded in the Cevennes mountains in central-southern France, Languedoc is a mixing bowl for cold Atlantic air and warm Mediterranean air creating some interesting weather effects, but most importantly some very dramatic skies.
We entered Languedoc via the city of Toulouse, the 4th largest city in France and the former capital of Languedoc when it was a
province in the Middle Ages. We only spent one night in Toulouse as it’s fairly industrial -AirBus headquarters- and we were yearning for the countryside, as we so often do. So, the only thing I have to say about it is that it is big and it has a Marriott. That afforded us the luxury of burning some of those cherished Marriott points and treating ourselves to their wonderful beds and fluffy pillows. We slept well in Toulouse.
The next morning we were off to the village of Alignan – du – Vent in the heart of Languedoc with a population all of 1,700. Alignan consists of a few boulangeries, a tabac, a small marche, a town square, and of course a wine cooperative. We love those wine coops – bring your empty bottle and leave happy after parting with around $1.50US for a liter of local red, rose, or white. So why this little village? Because it is near the slightly larger village of Pezenas, where we were to make a new friend (more on that later), it’s only 20km from the Mediterranean, and easy driving into and around the wine region. And drive we did.
The first drive took us deeper into the mountains and deeper into the heart of the wine region. The countryside was simply jaw dropping. When we could speak, words like WOW, breathtaking, unbelievable, and, well, you get the picture. And pictures we took; stopping at every turn snapping photo after photo. It reminded me of the feeling I had the first time I saw the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Your brain just cannot process what the eyes are seeing and photos just cannot do it justice. After a nice vinohike lunch we headed back to our Airbnb wondering why we don’t live here.
Our second drive, and nearly as spectacular, was on our way back to Montpellier to return the rental car and prepare for our last 2 weeks in Europe. Again, we meandered through the mountains, at times on single track dirt roads through villages that were home to only a few hardy families. We even found a Buddhist Temple.
But to qualify as a ‘perfect place’, the place cannot be one dimensional and Languedoc certainly isn’t one dimensional.
Next let’s talk food, and let’s start with cheese. Many of you may know that there are French wine regions, or AOPs -Appellation d’Origene Protegee. Well guess what, the French have the same thing for cheese and in order to put the region’s name on the label one must follow certain rules. Almost all vinohike lunches included these magnificent cheeses, together with bread, saucisson, and of course wine.
But, there’s more! Being very near the Med means fresh and abundant seafood. Oyster and mussel farms are found in nearly every coastal village and they are delicious and go down easy with a nice bottle of Picpoul de Pinet.
A New Friend? Perfect!
“Hey, check this out!” Carrie exclaims looking up from her computer. She had been checking out her facebook page and came across an article from International Living about an American couple who had settled down in Pezenas. Since we have some interest in learning more about the cost of living, medical care, lifestyle, etc, in this part of France we decided to try and find Holly, the person featured in the article. After a quick facebook search we located her and she graciously agreed to meet with us in Pezenas. So over cafe we discussed what it was like to live
the ex-pat life in the south of France. “Loving it!” she says. Smiling she continues; “Have no desire to live anywhere else. It’s Perfect”
Indeed. And a perfect week we had ourselves. More photos below.
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time)
P.S. As I finish this post I learned that the author Peter Mayle whose books about Provence are delightful has died at 78. RIP. If you haven’t read ‘A year in Provence’, give it a try. I think you’ll enjoy it.