What makes Languedoc-Roussillon special
Languedoc Roussillon is the heart of French Catalonia. This huge region of Southern France has a vast and diverse terrain extending from the Mediterranean Sea on the east, bordering Spain and taking in part of the mountainous Pyrenees on the south, reaching west to the Midi-Pyrenees and north to the Rhone.
The region has a complex and fascinating history of shifting boundaries and power struggles – and this, combined with its close proximity to Spain, is reflected with a vibrant mix of languages and culinary influences represented throughout the region. The name Languedoc, originates from the term ‘Langue d’oc’, which technically translated means ‘the language of yes’, but actually refers to the traditional language of Occitan, a Romantic dialect still spoken in some parts of southern France.
The Languedoc-Roussillon region is split into five administrative areas or ‘departments’ as they are known in France. These are Aude, Gard, Lozère, Hérault and the Pyrénées-Orientales departments. The administrative centre or prefecture of Aude is the historic city of Carcassonne which is centred on its majestic hilltop walled medieval town. Gard is capitalled by the city of Nimes, known for its grand Roman architecture. Lozère has the pretty country town of Mende as its prefecture and the dynamic city of Montpellier capitals Hérault. Lastly, the Pyrénées-Orientales has the colourful city of Perpignan as its capital.
Languedoc-Roussillon has plenty to offer visitors. There are long sandy beaches, charming rural towns, countryside walks, quaint harbour villages, bustling cities and exceptional food and wine, all served in a warm and sunny climate.
Things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon
1. The beaches
The south of France attracts sun seekers from around the world thanks to its warm climate and sandy beaches. And where better to chill out and relax after a morning shopping than by lying on one the region’s golden beaches. They really are the perfect place to go, whatever your age. Whether you want to sit and read a book or fancy some aquatic fun, the Mediterranean has it all, so don’t forget to pack your swimming costumes.
2. The cheese caves
For cheese lovers, the Roquefort Cheese Caves are not to be missed. You can enjoy cheese production in full flow and, thanks to the availability of English guidance notes, will be able to understand how it all works, a great bonus for those whose French is a bit rusty. Tastings are available at the end of the tour. Make sure to take a sweater with you as the caves are a little chilly.
3. The scenic route
Jump aboard the wonderful Little Yellow Train and journey through the dramatic scenery of the French Pyrenees. Running from Villefranche de Conflent, 31 miles from Perpignan, to Latour de Carol, close to the Spanish town of Puigcerda, it offers the best seat in the house. The route takes the train through world heritage sites, stunning mountains and lovely low lying landscapes. It is, without a doubt, one the world’s great train journeys. Open top carriages are available for those who want to top up their tan en route.
4. Historical sites
The medieval city of Carcassonne is a world heritage site that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie. The castle and its ramparts are stunning and it’s the key historical site in the region. This place is a haven for history enthusiasts and is well worth a visit if you are in the south of France. The other cities in the region also boast fine examples of castles and ramparts, and Languedoc displays its history with pride.
5. Family activities
There are a number of zoos, parks and aquariums in the region, which provide great outlets for families travelling around the area. The aquarium in Montpellier is one of the most popular.
6. Food and drink of the region
Languedoc-Roussillon sits on the border with Spain and the food reflects the eclectic nature of its cultural history. Catalan, French and Arabic influences permeate through the gastronomic delights and you will find traditional Spanish tapas served throughout the area as well as the more traditional French-styled cuisine.
The area has a rich soil which is perfect for raising its wild boar, hares, rabbit and pigeon which you will find plentiful throughout the region. The meat is often served as a stew or cassoulet and you will find traditional cooking methods still used today in dishes such as confit of duck or other feathered game. You’ll also find a wonderful range of patés and salamis produced in the area. The expensive and rare black truffles are also foraged in this region.
Garlic is a staple here and is often mashed through potatoes as a hearty side dish or used in aioli to be served with fish stews. The region is renowned for its fresh asparagus, tomatoes and onions in particular. The famous Perlardon goats’ cheese – one of the oldest cheese types in Europe – is produced in the Languedoc region, as well as some quality blue cheeses such as particularly pungent Roquefort.
Its location next to the Mediterranean sea provides a wealth of fresh seafood and you will find extra-special oysters in Bouzigues, as well as the famous anchovies produced in the pretty harbour village of Collioure. Another tasty local fish dish is Morue Catalane which is cod with tomatoes and peppers.
For the sweet toothed, you must try the local Crème Catalane, which is a mouth-watering dessert of cream with lemon, vanilla and fennel seeds. This is also a huge wine producing region with the largest vineyard area in the world in the Languedoc region (almost 300 000 hectares of vineyards). Every type and colour of wine can be found here and many of the vineyards welcome visitors to enjoy a taste.
Mention the south of France to someone and it will naturally conjure up thoughts in their mind of sunny days relaxing on beautiful sandy beaches. As it should, there is no better place to be than on the Mediterranean coastline if you are looking to top up that tan. Languedoc is the second hottest region in France after Corsica, enjoying 300 days of sunshine a year. Typically during the summer temperatures soar into the eighties, over 30 degrees Celsius.
If you are looking to cool off during the summer season though, then jump in the car and take a drive into the spectacular mountains of Languedoc. The Pyrénées, Cevennes and Black Mountains – areas which are a few degrees lower at this time – provide the perfect scenic retreat, where you can enjoy jaw-droppingly gorgeous views, in temperatures that are bit less intense than those experienced along the coast.
This region of France is huge and has a climate which is slightly more diverse than you might think. Along with endless days of coastal sunshine the foothills of the mountainous areas also have hundreds of microclimates, so it is best to ask the locals what the weather is traditionally like in specific parts.
Unsurprisingly, due to its size and diverse landscape, Languedoc has a wonderful variety of properties available, which makes the region appealing to any would-be investor.
Whether you’re looking for a home close to the region’s Mediterranean coast, a pied-à-terre in one of Languedoc’s cities or a country house in the foothills, this is the place to look. There are also renovation projects and plots of land available for those looking to stamp their own creativity on a new property.
From luxury houses boasting olive trees and fruit trees to budget apartments costing under €80, 000, Languedoc has properties that will suit any budget.
And with the pound continuing to fair reasonably well against the euro there are some decent bargains to be had for those dealing in Sterling.