Languedoc Roussillon in the South of France - The Secret"s Out
The region may not be as coveted as its neighboring Provence but that in some ways adds to its charm.
Beware though, knowledge of this less popular, but equally spectacular, part of France is gradually getting out with more and more tourists coming to the area.
Carcassonne itself boasts 3 million plus visitors a year, quite a number for a city with a population of circa 44,000.
At a glance you can see what the region has to offer below: - A number of UNESCO registered world heritage sites including La Cite, The Canal du Midi and the Pont du Gard.
The Millau viaduct close to the capital Montpellier on the A75 is also, in my opinion, a potential world heritage site for the future, it's a massive man made structure that spans the valley and overlooks the town from which its name came.
The largest wine producing region of France responsible for approximately 30% of the countries wine production, a large proportion of which comes from the Corbieres, Minervoise and Fitou vineyards.
The Mediterranean coastline with some wonderful resorts such as Collioure, La Franqui, Narbonne Plage and Gruissan to name but a few.
The Black Mountains national park with its inland waterways and rocky tracks.
A good proportion of the Pyrenees mountain range, with snow capped mountains during the winter and fabulous views all year around.
A series of Cathar fortresses of which Carcassonne's La Cite is probably the most famous but you will also find Montsegur, Queribus, Peyrepertuse, Puivert and many more among the count.
Some wonderful cities including Montpellier, the capital of the region, Beziers, Nimes, Mende, Narbonne, Perpignon and of course Carcassone.
In addition to the fabulous Mediterranean coastline you can find any number of inland lakes, some natural and some man made.
Lac de la Cavayere is a popular recreational lake just outside of Carcassonne for instance but there are many more in the region, including those in the Black mountains mentioned previously.
For the sporting enthusiasts there are a large selection of options available ranging from water sports, to skiing to cycling, white water rafting, canooing, hiking and the list goes on.
The clarity of light in this region, largely unaffected by the pollution found in many part of the world these days, is relatively well known and has attracted some famous artists in the past including Picasso who for a time took up residence at Collioure.
If you prefer to exhume your artistic vent with a camera this clarity of light works well for the photographers as well and there are many opportunities for photographic experiences aided by the presence of some of natures best backdrops that include mountains, lakes, rivers, beautiful skies and Mediterranean coastline.
If your preference is architecture then there is no shortage here either whether you visit the cities, towns or perhaps some of the world heritage sites.
Languedoc Roussillon is made up of 5 departments, Aude (11), Gard (30), Herault (34), Lozere (48) and the Pyrenees Orientales (66).
Herault is the most densely populated and is where the capital Montpellier resides, Lozere is the least populated.
Given the region stretches from the coast to the mountains and then inland towards Toulouse, the climate can vary depending on where you are.
The coast tends to benefit from the warmest weather and the mountains are generally the coolest but overall it is still a Mediterranean climate and during the summer months it is possible to see peaks of up to 35C anywhere within the region with an overall average temperature of around 28C for the main summer months of July and August.
August of course is when the French take their national vacation and the 1st Saturday in August is when you will see a mass exodus from the North to the South of France, Languedoc Roussillon is no exception to this trend and when most of mid to northern France closes down for the summer holidays, it is the busy season both here and the South of France in general.
Places such as Carcassonne, Beziers, Narbonne and the coastal resorts fill to the brim and you may be lucky if you can even find somewhere to park in the smaller resorts such as La Franqui and Collioure, assuming of course you can make it close enough to think about parking.
For the cycling enthusiasts there will be a chance to follow the Tour de France as they race through the region, normally sometime in July, there are lots of websites that detail the exact route and schedule so you can pinpoint a suitable location where you can observe the race.
This really is a spectacle worth seeing even if you are not an ardent cycling fan, there is the sense of circus as the pack approaches and the sponsors drive around and around throwing out their free samples to the waiting crowds of multi-national fans.
It can be a long wait but when you see the circling helicopters following the pack leaders you know they are nearly upon you, so make sure you have your cameras at the ready because they whip past at unbelievable speed.
The serious followers of course run back to their cars and set off for the next vantage point, for the less serious it is fun way to spend a few hours and to chat to some international neighbors.
I hope that you have found the above information of interest even though I can't help feeling that the dialog presented barely scrapes the surface of what this region in the South of France has to offer.
Each one of the summery points explored in any depth could probably keep you engrossed for a week and there is much more I have not touched on.