Oc­c­i­tanie

Living France - - Where To Live -

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

Toulouse’s river­side

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