In January 2016 the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées were merged together to form a new region – Occitanie. Covering a large sprawl of the south of France, including the Mediterrnean coastline and parts of the Pyrénées, Occitanie has what many expats are looking for in spades – good weather, pretty towns and villages, rolling countryside and sandy beaches.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES
Boasting some 43 plus beaux villages, Occitanie is dotted with some of France’s most postcard-pretty places to live. From Lagrasse in Aude, nestled in the Corbières mountains and where medieval houses huddle around the village’s Benedictine abbey and ancient bridge, to the Renaissance elegance of Carennac in Lot that sits on the banks of the Dordogne river, the region’s villages are set in the most spectacular of natural surroundings.
An artisanal ambience characterises many of Occitanie’s villages, such as including Cordes-sur-Ciel in Tarn and Conques in Aveyron, where homes dating from the Middle Ages line the
village’s narrow streets. In Aude, the walled cité of Carcassonne was reputedly the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The town ( main image) is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an enchanting place as any to live.
As well as quaint villages, Occitanie is also home to large, lively cities where cultural attractions and work opportunities are plentiful. The largest city in the region is Toulouse, a vibrant student hub.
Along the Mediterranean coastline, Montpellier is stylish and cosmopolitan, while the episcopal city of Albi and the capital of Aveyron, Rodez, have a laidback lifestyle, as does the historic town of Perpignan that enjoys a decidedly Mediterranean go-with-the flow vibe.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Whether you like to hit the beach, hike up a mountain or cruise the canals, the varied landscape of Occitanie has lots to offer.
The Pyrénées are an unspoilt paradise for walkers, fishermen and skiers. With over 1,600km of walking trails, as well as camping, fishing and climbing facilities, the area is as popular in the summer as it is in the winter season.
Just south of Arles, the Camargue encompasses wetlands, pastures, dunes and salt flats and is home to famous residents including scores of pink flamingos, black bulls and wild white horses. There is also the world-famous Canal du Midi – the 150-mile stretch from Sète to Toulouse is popular with local cyclists and boaters who explore the waterway which is lined with plane trees, vineyards and villages.
FOOD AND DRINK
From the apricot orchards in Rousillon to the sweet peaches found in the Têt valley and the springtime cherries in Céret, this sun-drenched land produces lots of naturally feel-good food.
With 220km of Mediterranean coastline, residents here enjoy lots of fresh fish including the mussels and oysters that thrive in the saltwater lagoons. Many are brought to Sète, while further south, the port of Collioure is famous for anchovies. Locals enjoy seafood in a variety of ways; favourites include the cod dish brandade de morue from Nîmes and stuffed squid.
Further north, the food is heartier, but still rooted in the landscape. In the foothills above the commune of Bargès, mountain-reared mutton is the only AOClisted of its kind in France and around the Cévennes hills, farmers have been making the Pélardon goat’s cheese for generations and no doubt will for years come.
The Canal du Midi