THE LAN­GUAGE OF LANGUEDOC

WITH THE BEAU­TI­FUL PEO­PLE AND FASH­IONS OF FRANCE’S SEC­OND GAYEST CITY MONT­PEL­LIER ONE OF THE MOST BUR­GEON­ING QUEER DES­TI­NA­TIONS IN FRANCE, MARK O’CON­NELL FINDS THAT THE SUR­ROUND­ING LANGUEDOCROUSSILLON RE­GION IS QUI­ETLY BE­COM­ING ONE OF THE LGBT HOL­I­DAY MA

Pride Life Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Languedoc is be­com­ing one of the LGBT hol­i­day hotspots in Europe

As France’s most southerly re­gion with a guar­an­teed sum­mer Mediter­ranean cli­mate and beaches flanked by a vine­yard cul­ture that some­what leaves that of Bordeaux in the grape sil­hou­et­ted dust, the Languedoc-Rous­sil­lon re­gion is often de­scribed as where those French peo­ple in the know go on va­ca­tion. And you know those French rugby play­ers we all Google as the an­them-cam tracks past their bearded jaws be­fore a match? Yes, Languedoc-Rous­sil­lon is also al­legedly the home of French rugby.

Al­though the lib­er­tine no­to­ri­ety and (mostly) gay ac­cep­tances of Cap d’Agde are world fa­mous, it is slightly fur­ther in­land where the real French gems are to be found (and I don’t mean the cu­ri­ously po­si­tioned dia­manté studs of the ladies at d’Agde). As ru­ral Euro­pean re­treats gain mo­men­tum as a con­trast to the fa­mil­iar queerskewed city breaks of Barcelona, Berlin and Stock­holm, a bur­geon­ing net­work of guest­houses are of­fer­ing a step­ping stone map

“A bur­geon­ing net­work of guest­houses are of­fer­ing a step­ping stone map for LGBT trav­ellers in south­ern France”

for LGBT trav­ellers in South­ern France. The Gard ter­ri­tory and the town of Mont­clus have the ru­ral The Lo­tus Tree (th­elo­tus­tree.com) and La Villa Lit­toral in Le Grau d’Agde (vil­lalit­toral. com) of­fers a busier stay for those in a car.

How­ever, nes­tled al­most stealth­ily in the old small south­ern French town of Roujan is the as­tutely de­signed Cinq & Sept (5 & 7 Av­enue Henri Mas, cin­qet­sept.com). A skil­fully con­verted three-hun­dred-year-old guesthouse risen from the spoils of at least one Napoleonic war, Cinq & Sept is marked by the con­ver­sa­tions, hu­mour and air­tight at­ten­tive­ness of its cre­ators Alex Charles, Greg Tay­lor and their new co­man­ager Andy. From some­one who is often fear­ful of let­ting go of the thrust of a city va­ca­tion, Cinq & Sept is a wholly di­vine guesthouse ex­pe­ri­ence where vis­i­tors are more than a guest in a strik­ingly re­alised set­ting that is more than a house. Six (soon to be more) spa­cious stu­dio rooms all with self-ca­ter­ing com­forts, orig­i­nal retro floor tiles aplenty, vin­tage Dior poster art by René Gruau, a tiered gar­den flanked by laven­der, a sum­mer house of­fer­ing care­fully cu­rated wines and crushed ice on tap, Fri­day night din­ners exquisitely steered by the buoy­ant and savvy chef Gilles Chi­rat and a pool straight from a Hock­ney paint­ing, Cinq & Sept’s great­est ad­van­tage may well ac­tu­ally be the ever chang­ing mix of global vis­i­tors and their ba­ton of hol­i­day (and often life) ad­vice you will pass on to other guests.

With the neigh­bour­ing vil­lages of Nef­fiès, Caux and Alig­nan all within a wine bot­tle’s length away (al­most), the ter­ra­cotta-tiled Roujan is per­fectly poised to ex­plore the re­gion’s true ru­ral en­vi­rons and its ca­coph­ony of vine­yards, bou­tique eater­ies and gay-steered beaches. Take some wine, water­melon cubes and cold cuts and bike up to the River Peyne and the drag­on­flies of its cooling, swimmable waters, or drive through the dolomite for­ma­tions lead­ing to­wards the aban­doned lake­side ham­let of Celles and the haunt­ing, yet vivid red rock land­scape of Lake Salagou. In­dulge in a pri­vate skinny dip be­fore re­turn­ing via Nef­fiès and Le Very‘table (6 Rue Saint Al­ban) for Se­bastien and Va­lerie’s proudly touted fish dishes, amuse-bouche charms and cot­ton candy and pineap­ple fon­dant desserts. Like­wise Roujan’s Le Petit Péché (8 Bis Av­enue de Caux, restau­rant­petit­peche.com) and its ma­gret de ca­nard was a re­peat trip for this duck fan when we phoned ahead (ad­vis­able for many of the restau­rants).

And should this din­ing and win­ing lay siege to the va­ca­tion waist­line, then kayaking down the River Orb is one way to jus­tify the next glass of the re­gion’s Chardon­nay or Cinq & Sept’s own Bos­ton Banger cock­tail. Drive to the hill­side vil­lage of Roquebrun and over its ma­jes­tic stone bridge veer­ing right to Ca­noe Roquebrun (ca­noero­que­brun.com). Flecked by a few de­cep­tive rapids (okay, I cap­sized in about four min­utes and ru­ined that vi­sion of my­self as Streep in The River Wild – but ev­ery­one does to re­fresh­ing ef­fect), the Orb is a green banked tun­nel of an oa­sis with scope to pause and have a rosé pit-stop lunch on the banks and es­cape the high tem­per­a­tures of sum­mer.

Or take a bike past the or­nate old work­ers’ huts on the vine­yards to the an­cient, but de­cep­tively artsy town of Pézenas. Fol­low in the foot­steps of comedic prodigy Molière and am­ble the di­verse Satur­day mar­ket (Cours Jean Jau­rès)

for fresh paella, cous­cous, chorizo, mack­erel, apri­cots and any man­ner of olive bread, chanterelles and goat’s cheese. As the mar­ket winds down in the early af­ter­noon the cob­bled din­ing, gela­te­rias and plat du jour colours of Place Gam­betta come alive. Find a table at L’Arcen-Ciel (6 Place Gam­betta) along­side the parked Ves­pas and peo­ple-watch the world and his dog head­ing straight for the foun­tain for a dip of hands and feet. Af­ter a size­able slice of salmon quiche good­ness and an­other lo­cal rosé fol­low the sounds of Air and Moon Sa­fari to Fai Vi­rar (17, Rue des Che­va­liers Saint Jean) - a vin­tage shop of vinyl and retro joy with a side­line in melted vinyl salad bowls. You too can maybe have that Bar­bara Streisand Guilty fruit bowl the kitchen table has been cry­ing out for.

With the Mediter­ranean as per­haps the most prized as­set Languedoc-Rous­sil­lon has in its ge­o­graph­i­cal cel­lar, the gay beaches are amongst the best in France. The beach at L’Espiguette (Le Grau-du-Roi) is marked by a beau­ti­ful, ex­pan­sive shore­line with some of the best sand in Europe. Turn left at the car park and con­tinue un­til the fam­i­lies thin out and the lo­cal French boys and their Or­lebar Brown swim-pants (or lack of them) stand chat­ting around the chatty beach ven­dors and their es­presso shots. The beach at Serig­nan is also known to the LGBT-minded of the area with an equally clean and sandy utopia shelv­ing down to­wards the wa­ter’s edge.

Fi­nally, if you can­not re­sist a burst of city life then Mont­pel­lier is in­deed one of France’s gayest cities. With the guys and gals able to roam the cob­bled backstreets hand-in-hand through the bo­hemian stu­dent quar­ters, oil paint­ing ven­dors and fash­ion­ista pop-up shops, Mont­pel­lier is not quite the French San Fran­cisco it pur­ports to be but is worth the park and tram ride in. The blueeyed cof­fee boys at Café De La Mer (5 Place du Marché aux Fleurs) are savvy to the men and lady watch­ing at play and it is just around the cor­ner from Chez Boris et Leti­cia (20 Rue De L’Auguil­lerie, chez­borisetleti­cia.com) - which has not only the best tuna tartare citrus and duck con­fit around, the lone toi­let in its re­stroom is blessed with its own light dis­play, sound sys­tem and glit­ter-ball.

THE BOU­TIQUE BACK ALLEYS OF MONT­PEL­LIER

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: CINQ & SEPT GUESTHOUSE; THE QUIET STREETS OF ROUJAN; PIT STOP KAYAKING DOWN THE RIVER ORB, ROQUEBRUN; L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE IN MONT­PEL­LIER; CINQ& SEPT GUESTHOUSE, ROUJAN; POST-KAYAKING AT ROQUEBRUN

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: PEZENAS SATUR­DAY MAR­KET; CINQ & SEPT GUESTHOUSE, ROUJAN; SUP­PER AT THE CINQ & SEPT GUESTHOUSE; THE BACKSTREETS OF BO­HEMIAN MONT­PEL­LIER; CINQ & SEPT GUESTHOUSE; THE ABAN­DONED VIL­LAGE OF CELLES, LAKE SALAGOU

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