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Le blog Sud de France

Accueil > Sud de France Lifestyle

Everyone lives at their own pace

On the beach, or in the shade of the trees, in the wine cellars – or on steep pathways looking for old stone buildings, listening to contemporary music, tasting specialties, or making contact with tradition… The sunny southern lifestyle is anything but dull! Testimonials.

The small group went walking for two days on the steep paths of the GR 66 between Gard and Lozère. Lucien, Paule, Martine and Dominique left Paris in order to take a series of hikes on the Languedoc-Roussillon trails. They are in their fifties and have stressful jobs. “In IT and medicine…. it’s our holiday, so we don’t talk about it”, said Lucien. “We were longing for some nature, preserved areas, silence, and wanted to take some time to live and to bring a sense of originality to our stay.” It was an unusual meet up on the first evening. “We slept in a hut perched in the branches of a chestnut tree,” laughed Dominique, before adding: “It was great…. The shooting stars provided a bedtime show during the night

The next morning, the trail got steeper. It followed an old cattle track up to the Suquet pass, not far from Vigan. They entered forest tracks after having passed by charming villages. Mont Aigoual and its weather observatory finally emerged after two days of walking. “Roll on bedtime!”, sighed Martine, a tad tired. She knew that a welcome drink was waiting for her up there in the hostel. She quickly forgot the amount of kilometres she had covered when tucking into some Lozère sausages accompanied by a chilled Muscat wine.

The next day was dedicated to the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A barge was moored in the shadow of plane trees, waiting for them: a superb rural guest accommodation with a Jacuzzi on the flat deck, a huge TV screen in a large living room, elegant bedrooms… After a mild night rocked by the streams, they were ready for a fresh start the next day, along the canal towards Béziers. Twenty short kilometres on the banks with short stops at the locks… A quiet time before a new two-day hike in the Pyrenees regional natural park, including the Canigou climb, a sacred mountain of the Catalans, and a night in the Cortalès lodge. The Parisians were in awe when they reached the summit. The Roussillon plain and the Mediterranean Sea lay at the bottom. “Sublime”, they yelled from the heart. It was now time to open a Roussillon rosé wine, and to tuck in to a handful of Collioure anchovies while enjoying the sunset over the Albères.

Pleasant breaks in the vineyards

A majestic vineyard clinging to the arbour of the restaurant set on stilts. The sunny terrace overlooking the Thau lagoon and its oyster farms. A couple in their forties, comfortably seated, were about to enjoy a seafood platter, facing the Mont-Saint-Clair which stood out amidst the blue sky.
It was their first vacation day. Nadia and Jean had come from the Paris area on a discovery tour of the Languedoc vineyards. “We came across the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon in a wine bar near the Saint-Honoré market place in Paris. That’s where we got the idea of this trip from”, explained Jean, gazing into infinity through a glass of the golden-yellow white wine the sommelier had just served him in a glass ball. The itinerary of the week: to discover Thau lagoon white wines, red Pic-Saint-Loup wines, and the sweet wines of the Pyrénées-Orientales. Nadia was quick to add, “We also plan to have some snacks and meal breaks”. Breaks which would lead this couple into the Pyrénées-Orientales. “We are going to spend a day at Llo in the hot and sulphurous waters of the Roman baths”, said the young lady. Another relaxing day on the mattress of sea gazebo was also included in the program as well as stops in two or three “good” regional restaurants – and there is no shortage of these in Languedoc-Roussillon. There are 25 featuring in the highly exclusive group which have been awarded Michelin stars.

The meal was a success. Nadia and Paul opted for a stroll on the steep slopes of the Massif de la Gardiole before retiring into the cool cellar of really charming vineyard residence.

In the evening, they headed to the cottage. A fisherman’s house surrounded by olive trees. White seagulls being blown by the southern wind were hovering in the blue sky, symbolic of a peaceful life.

From the Middle Ages to pop music

A hotel in the nearby suburb of Montpellier. Philippe and his friend Marc were sat at a table in the shade of a mulberry tree, engrossed in their iPad screens, close to the swimming pool with turquoise water. They are thirty years old. “Why should we choose Languedoc-Roussillon as a holiday destination this summer? “ Philippe, a professor of medieval history at the Faculty of Lyon replied without hesitation: “Because of the number of UNESCO sites within the region”. A visit to the Pont du Gard was scheduled for the following day. Carcassonne will be the day after tomorrow. Marc was still looking up concerts in the local area on his tablet, dressed in a shirt and jeans. These two friends were devoting the day to heritage, history… and to concerts in the evening. “The entire region is portrayed as a land of festivals, this is also one of the reasons for our stay”, said Marc, before adding “Besides, the events are staged at fantastic venues… ‘M’ at the Nîmes arena, an opera in the fortifications of Carcassonne, or a jazz evening at the Théâtre de la Mer in Sète, this should be great”.

The week’s itinerary almost stalled, the touch pads were crammed into backpacks. The day began with a site classed as a world heritage site: Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. One of the most beautiful villages in France and a stop along the way to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. The stroll began with a visit to Gellone Abbey, a jewel of early Languedoc Roman art. The cobbled village streets then followed. John pointed at a stone facade. “This is where Roman and Renaissance windows reveal the medieval identity of the city”, said Philippe. After a break in the foliage of a giant plane tree planted in 1855, they returned to Montpellier stopping for a swim at the “Pont du diable”, which is considered to be one of the oldest French medieval bridges. “What are we doing tonight?”, asked Mark. The electronic tablets came out of the bags: “There’s a concert at the Pont du Gard”. They had a picnic at the site, including gorgeous Costières tomatoes seasoned with Camargue salt, some cold meats bought from the halls in Nîmes, and some nectarines from the nearby Costières region. The day finally ended with a varied evening with soul, funk, hip hop, pop, synthesised and rock beats under the Roman aqueduct, decorated in blue and red lights. A marriage of the old and present times: this is also the magic of holidaying in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Black bulls and men in white

An arena in the Petite Camargue. Red fences. Men in white in the centre of the bullring. And an all-black bull tumbling around in a cloud of dust. Serge and Jeanine, who are on holiday at a campsite in Le Grau-du-Roi, are attending a Camargue bull race for the first time. They arrived with Paul, their life-long friend, who is now based in Marsillargues and is addicted to the “bouvine”. During the race, he explains the history of this tradition, which is considered to be a real sport in Languedoc-Roussillon. “The first race, says Paul, dates back to 1402. It was given to Arles in the honour of Louis II, who was the Count of Provence at the time.

A red coloured ribbon, two white wool tassels and strings decorate the ever-feisty bull’s horns. A man in white sets off. The bull follows him in his mad pursuit. The raseteur (who starts the race by collecting small items between the bull’s horns) jumps the fences with incredible agility. “He managed to take the red ribbon out… The cockade!” , says Paul enthusiastically. Serge and Jeanine give a round of applause. A bell announces the arrival of a new bull inside the arena. The announcements of new premiums from the speaker add tempo to the race. There is a genuine ballet between the men in white and the cocardiers (cockade bulls) on the sand of the track.

In order to gain a better understanding of Camargue traditions, Paul had invited both his friends to attend an “abrivado” (where bulls arrive accompanied by gardians on horseback) in the morning. Supervised by gardians, the bulls tumble around in the village streets. “The gardians”, Paul insists, “must stick together and not let the bulls escape”. This is not easy. In fact, youngsters cling to the bulls and try to get them away from the triangle formed by the gardians. A strong shove is emphasised by the horses’ hooves on the asphalt.

Throughout the lunch break in the shade of plane trees enjoying a gardiane (bull meat stewed in Costières red wine), Paul explained with an inexhaustible brio all of the traditions of the region: the tambourine, jousting, bullfighting, the sardana… In the street, there were musicians wearing white boaters with yellow jerseys playing trumpets, saxophones and trombones, which give the small village the look of a Spanish fair. Another Languedoc-Roussillon tradition.