Occitanie is like a mysterious lady with a southern temperament and a pride of brave antecedents circulating in her veins. It comprises the former region of Languedoc Roussillon, region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees. This land is full of traditions, medieval heritage and fabulous wines. There you will uncover places where history puts its footprints, but also other sites where nature remains untouched.
In Occitanie, you will find a brilliant combination of all the beauties that France can offer. Let yourself be carried away by the atmosphere of a colorful cuisine, rich cultural traditions influenced by Catalan culture, as well as sunny vineyards. Explore the beauty of Toulouse, known as a “pink city”, with seemingly endless restaurants, wine and tapas bars serving exceptional cuisine. The city is literally a rose-colored gem. In Toulouse, you will be caressed by the pink color of the bricks and the warm atmosphere. Discover the secrets of the Cathar land in the footsteps of ancient medieval castles and the former Cathar main town, Carcassonne.
An array of picturesque villages with their ancient churches and peaceful charm are settled in the valleys or on the hills, often surrounded by medieval ramparts. Occitania is a land of wine-growing jewels, a region rich in wine-growing traditions slowly built up over the centuries. The soils very often determine the deep identity of the region, based on very diverse natural and climatic environments.
Go back in time to the Cathar land, one of the most impressive areas to explore in the south of France. Cathar country hides a significant historical heritage full of castles, abbeys and medieval fortresses related to the Cathars and Catharism.
Catharism had a simple and demanding philosophy, which urged a return to the Gospel’s purity and denounced the extravagant luxury of the medieval Church. The Catholic Church saw Catharism as a fundamental danger and even considered it as the most dangerous heresy. The Catharism flourished especially in the Languedoc Region – between the 12th and the 14th centuries. A number of medieval castles in the Cathar country were affected by the Crusades. In addition to the renowned Carcassonne, discover the mysterious atmosphere of the Château de Peyrepertuse, the Château de Quéribus or the château de Montségur.
Follow the footsteps of the unresolved mysteries of Rennes-Le-Château, located in the heart of Cathar land. This inscrutable place has become a center of many conspiracy theories related to the Holy Grail. Movies like Indiana Jones or Da Vinci Code were inspired by the mysterious Holy Grail that has always been a source of inspiration and contributed to various legends. According to the legend, the Holy Grail was entrusted to Cathars. On the eve of the attack on the château de Montségur, Cathar knights left with the Grail to deposit it inside one of the many caves in Montségur. And the Holy Grail thus remains a mystery.
Typical medieval villages will take you to the past. The region boasts the most beautiful villages in France. The architecture of Sainte-Enimie is like a real leap through time where we come across typical houses and restored squares. The village is also a very good starting point for hikes or canoeing down the Gorge du Tarn. In a landscape of vineyards and Corbières hills, we find a picturesque village called Lagrasse. With the taste of its Corbières wine, Lagrasse is also a village of know-how that craftsmen will be happy to help you explore.
In Occitanie, you can be caressed by the sun more than 300 days a year, as it is the sunniest region in France. Moreover, the region boasts with the immense variety of landscapes that allows you to discover many breathtaking panoramas. Do not hesitate to go for at least one activity in the heart of nature! You have all aces up your sleeve for an unforgettable experience: hiking, canyoning, climbing or even snowshoeing and skiing in the winter. What about to start your journey while exploring the wild gorges as Gorge de l’Aveyron, Gorge du Tarn or Gorge de l’Hérault, perfect gateways for your nature adventure.
Having ambitions to conquer the French peaks? Climbing the mythical peaks such as the Peak of Canigou or the Peak of Puigmal is the right step forward. Not to mention the Peak of Carlit with its view on the mountain lake Camporells, and Bouillouses- one of the largest lakes in the French Pyrenees. Eager to follow footsteps of history? Cathar trail is the right choice for you. The Cathar trail allows you to follow a route embellished with magnificent landscapes, complemented by remarkable castles, such as: Quéribus, Peyrepertuse or Montségur. Collieure-Cadaques is considered to be the very first hike in France, and is a must-see during “sea and mountain” stays. Picasso, Matisse, Dali, and other painters and sculptors would find great inpiration wandering here.
The region is the cradle of modern art and famous painters such as Matisse and André Derain, who invented the intensely colored, free-form landscape painting school known as Fauvism here in the seaside village of Collioure, close to the Spanish border. In Banyuls-sur-mer, even closer to Spain, famous sculptor Aristide Maillol was born. Pyrenees’ city Céret has become the “Mecca of Cubism”, after welcoming Pablo Picasso between 1911 and 1913.
In Occitanie, you will be charmed by traces of Catalan culture, especially on the border with Spain in the Pyrénées-Orientales. Catalonia is a land that is deeply attached to its culture and traditions. Feel the temperament of Catalans, proud people, with their own language, an approximate mixture of French and Spanish. Tune in to the rhythm of Catalan music in the form of “coblas”, traditional orchestra that accompanies Catalan folk dance called Sardana, danced in a circle.
Experience the magic of local crafts with its long-standing tradition. In the north of Aveyron, we find the legendary . Pottery of Madelaine and many craftsmen fashion the highly sought-after Anduze vases. Anduze has been recognized since the Middle Ages as an important center of pottery production. When visiting Occitanie, try on the famous boots from “La Botte Gardiane”,a boutique that produces handcrafted boots, shoes and sandals, all 100 % made in France. In Millau, the French capital of leather, dress your fingers in the most beautiful gloves from the Causse Gantier manufacture or the Atelier du Gantier.
Read On: Artistic Exploration of France
Between the sea and the land, typical Occitan cuisine offers a mix of Provencal and Catalan culinary specialties. Traditional recipes change when travelling through this fragrant region. Taste Catalan culinary arts in the Roussillon area such as “canard aux pêches”, one of the keywords of Catalan cuisine. Let yourself to be tempted by “boles de Picolat” (famous Catalan meatballs) or “Ollada”, pork and vegetable stew. For dessert, choose the famous “crème catalane”. The Languedoc area is proud of its treasure called “Cassoulet”, a hearty, slowly cooked dish of white beans and meat, which was said to have originated during the Hundred Years’ War, when everything available was put in the pot. Take pleasure in the summer season full of anchovy dishes.
Typical aperitif is composed of fish crushed with garlic, onion, basil and oil, which creates a renowned spread of anchovy paste. In Languedoc, the dishes smell of garrigue herbes and red vegetables. Be delighted in traditional dish called “Aligot” with a long-time history, a meal similar to mashed potatoes with local Tomme de Laguiole cheese, butter, cream and garlic. Have a taste of the king of all cheeses – the famous Roquefort, which has its roots in this region. Along the seaside, the gourmets will discover “tielle”, octopus and spicy tomato pie, or “bourride”, a culinary specialty based on seafood and vegetables. The Mediterranean village of Leucate and its alleys invite you to stroll and explore the magic of seafood in the form of delicious oysters.
The wine in Occitania is like a well-hidden beauty, which hides a long history of local vineyards and a promising future as the first wine-growing region in France in terms of surface area. For over two thousand years Languedoc grapes ripen under the Mediterranean sun in a variety of conditions which differ in altitude, proximity to the sea and inland. This creates unique terroir contrasts for you to taste- between the hardness of the Pyrenees’ foothills and the sweetness of Mediterranean coast. Let yourself be caressed by the aroma and savour of the most famous brands of wine (appellations) such as Corbières, an immense vineyard running from Narbonne to Carcassonne that mainly produces the red wines having in common a warm and often robust side. The famous red wines from this area can be found under brands such as Coteaux du Languedoc or Faugères. Appellation Limoux offers mainly sparkling white wines.
In Roussillon area, be enchanted by the variety of local wines influenced by Catalan culture. Prepare your taste buds for superb natural sweet wines and dry wines. The area offers the vines an environment of drought, heat and exceptional grounds. Less known than the Château Quéribus, a vineyard producing Maury is famous for dry red wines and Vins Doux Naturels. These wines are defined as heady and colorful. Another Vins Doux Naturels appellation to note is Rivesaltes, which is produced near the town of Rivesaltes, over a large part of the Eastern Pyrenees. Banyuls-Sur-Mer and Collioure are also seaside resorts but above all famous vineyards. The production area of these two appellations is the same, it is bounded by the four municipalities that make up the Côte Vermeille: Collioure, Port-Vente, Banyuls-sur-Mer, and Cerbère.
In Toulouse, let yourself be seduced by architectural masterpieces such as Capitole, the iconic symbol of Rose City’s square Place du Capitole. Travel through time when visiting Cathedral of Saint Stephen (La cathédrale Saint-Étienne), a successful mixture of Gothic and Romanesque style dating back to 13th century. Starting to serve pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela in the 11th century, Basilica of Saint-Sernin is certainly the largest Romanesque church in Europe and considered to be the largest in the world. From Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea, more than 200 km, the Canal du midi is intertwined with a landscape full of Romanesque jewels, Cathar castles and exceptional works of art. Albi or “The red city” offers you an authentic view of colorful architecture with its medieval alleys. Breathe the atmosphere of the exceptional ancient and medieval heritage in Narbonne, historic city founded by the Romans just a stone’s throw from Mediterranean Sea.
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