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TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

TRIP REPORT : THE Auvergne and Languedoc, June 2022

Old Jul 13th, 2022, 03:57 AM
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What a wonderful trip report. We love driving around in France but have only been to a couple of the places in your report. Thanks for introducing us to more interesting towns and gorgeous scenery in areas we never thought of visiting.
You have a good eye and your photos are beautiful.
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 06:26 AM
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Perpignan is one of the twin capitals of Catalonia, so the influence is more Catalan than Spanish. There is at least one Catalan station on TV, and certainly Catalan radio.

The architecture of Collioure, as well, is peculiarly Catalan, so any comparison with the Cote d'Azur (as you had heard from others) is limited.
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 07:09 AM
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ANUJ, thank you for your itinerary. Yes, you do travel at a fast pace. Too fast for me but I am probably a lot older than you. However, you have a very interesting itinerary, and you certainly saw a lot. I would really like to visit Collioure and Perpignan some day. Your photos are beautiful! Love the quay in Perpignan.
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 07:57 AM
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ANUJ - I like how you don't hold back on honest assessments, yes parts of perpignan are rough but the centre is lovely. I do find some of the colors of buildings and shutters echo the eastern end of the coast -- the ocres, the mustards, the mint greens, the pinks. the corals. But compared to Provence, no provencal blue. (of course, it stands in stark contrast to the sombre palette of Montpellier).
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Old Jul 13th, 2022, 09:25 PM
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Day 17:NARBONNE, CATHAR COUNTRY

As we left Perpignan for Narbonne, our home base for next two nights, we drove through Cathar country. For those interested in a bit of history, the Cathars were a community of independent-minded Christians based in the Languedoc-Roussillon. They didn’t find favour with the King of France (who wanted to seize control over the south) and the Pope (who denounced their brand of Christianity) and were wiped out in a resulting genocidal war in the 1300s.

A number of castle ruins are found across the countryside, and we shortlisted two of these to drive by – Queribus and Peyrepertuse, both close to the little hamlet of Cucugnan.

Queribus unveils itself gradually as you drive towards it, and is an imposing sight as you get closer.


The castle

The castle

Views of valley from Qureribus, and a glimpse of Peyrepertuse in the far distance


Some views of Cucugnan and the valley as we approached, and drove towards Peyrepertuse

Cucugnan

Valley




We drove up to have a closer look at Peyrepertuse (the largest of the Cathar castles), which sprawls across a limestone ridge.


Castle from a distance

From the parking lot

View of valley, Queribus in the far distance

Leaving Peyrepertuse




We dropped by the les plus beaux village of Lagrasse, with its charming medieval centre and famous landmark - the Abbaye Ste-Marie d’Orbieu


Lagrasse

View of abbey

View of abbey




Just before Narbonne, we stopped at Fontfroide Abbey (a former monastery), dramatically set amidst vineyards and olive groves. We had missed the last guided tour, and just spent some time around the grounds, tasted their wine (cultivated in the sprawling estates around) and left for Narbonne.


Abbey entrance

The wine shop

Surrounding vineyards




We got to Narbonne by early evening, parked in the next street and checked into our hotel. Our friendly host shared a map and some ideas of how to spend time in the city. Narbonne is a large city with a rather compact centre, which can be covered leisurely on foot in a few hours.


Outside the covered market

Inside the covered market

Near the Hotel de Ville

Street view

Pont des Marchands across the canal

Stained glass windows of the cathedral

Outside the cathedral, view from garden

Inside the cathedral

Around the cloister
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 04:15 AM
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Day 18: NARBONNE, WINE COUNTRY

Interestingly, the Languedoc is the largest producer of organic wines in France, but does not share the recall or visibility of regions like Bordeaux or Provence. Reds account for the majority (predominantly syrah and grenache grapes) of production, though there’s also rosé, whites and some sparkling. We’re not wine connoisseurs by any stretch, but we found the wines to be high quality and represent exceptional value for the price paid.



We visited the stunning wine estate cum luxury resort Chateau d’Hospitalet, just outside Narbonne. The owner, Gerard Bertrand, a former rugby player and now owner of a highly successful wine empire, has put Languedoc firmly on the map. The tasting room is gorgeous, stocks a very large selection of wines (not just the ones produced locally, but across his 13 estates in the Languedoc). Our sommelier was very friendly, spoke perfect English and was very generous with the tastings including some (very) expensive older vintages. Almost all their wines are organic, and we bought some to take back home which were also biodynamic and without added sulphites.


The estate

The tasting room

Around the boutique

Outside the boutique

Wines on display

Some (very) expensive wines on display here

Accomodation

Pool with a view


We also wanted to experience one other family-run estate - the Chateau Grand Moulin, just outside the wine hub of Lézignan-Corbières. We were very warmly received (despite being walk-ins without an appointment) and offered a range of tastings. The wines were excellent, and we bought a few bottles.


Chateau

Tanks

Wines on display


We headed next to the little village of Homps, along the Canal du Midi and home to La Maison des Vins, the local co-operative for Minervois wines.


Outisde the Maison des Vins

Inside

View of Canal du Midi from nearby bridge


Next on the agenda was the les plus beaux village of Minerve, a former Cathars stronghold, dramatically located in a ravine surrounded by gorges. After exploring the town, we took the stairs down for the canyon, with natural tunnels bored through the cliffs.


The winding road to Minerve

View of Minerve, as you approach from the parking lot

Street in Minerve

View of bridge

View of valley and gorges around

Down by the cave


We visited the tiny port town of Le Somail located along the final stretch of the Canal du Midi, before heading back to Narbonne.


Saint-Marcel bridge in Le Somail

View over the canal from the bridge

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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 08:14 AM
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Thanks again for the great narrative and set of pictures. It is great you are showing off all these less traveled but beautiful villages, cities and areas. When we went to Minerve, it was deserted and I see it is not much different in high season (We were checking out the region as a possible area to live and hit many of the same places)

The wines of the region are scraping back from the past where they were known for quantity and less for quality. They still are value priced relative to the better known regions. I had a nice glass of Gerard Bertrand rose with dinner at a restaurant Monday back home in NorCal and have a bottle of red that I recently picked up.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 10:16 AM
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I am astonished at the amount of territory and magnificent things you've covered on this trip. This is like three sojourns all in one.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by gooster View Post
Thanks again for the great narrative and set of pictures. It is great you are showing off all these less traveled but beautiful villages, cities and areas. When we went to Minerve, it was deserted and I see it is not much different in high season (We were checking out the region as a possible area to live and hit many of the same places)

The wines of the region are scraping back from the past where they were known for quantity and less for quality. They still are value priced relative to the better known regions. I had a nice glass of Gerard Bertrand rose with dinner at a restaurant Monday back home in NorCal and have a bottle of red that I recently picked up.

There is a vin doux naturel from Maury which is exceptional. I've not seen it outside the region of the Pyrenees Orientales. Locals drink the red chilled and the white room temperature.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 03:42 PM
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We spent a week in the beautiful little village of Eus near Prades and visited all the places you mentioned. We did walk up the road to St Martin de Canigou and then my husband climbed further up to look down over the abbey for a magical photo. This was in 2008. Not sure I could do it now fourteen years later. I loved the pink marble we saw in Villefranche and also in Pezenas. When we came down from Serrabone priory there was a shop selling regional products and we bought some lovely goats' cheese which we enjoyed for our picnic later. Ah memories.

Anuj you have had a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing it with us. It has been a balm for my France deprived soul.
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Old Jul 14th, 2022, 08:38 PM
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Having some trouble with my eyes so it’s taking a long time to read …but I’m so enjoying your travels and I recall once thinking of a SW France trip with a base in Narbonne for awhile, it seems well connected for public transport.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 12:33 AM
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Picturesque towns and villages. Unique expansive landscapes. Ruins. Cheese. Thank you for sharing a few less familiar slices of France with me. Il est incroyable.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 04:43 AM
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Thank you for your kind comments ... and your patience. The TR has taken longer to complete than I'd hoped, but we're almost at the end.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 06:27 AM
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ANUJ, we don't want it to end! If you can stretch it out, great.
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 10:51 PM
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Day 19 and 20: MONTPELLIER

We left Narbonne in the morning for Montpellier. We were to return our car to Hertz at the Montpellier Méditerranée Airport (I’d been advised to avoid driving anywhere close to the city). Our GPS had again caused much heartburn (a parting gift?), so we just followed the street signs with an airplane logo affixed to get there. We made one final stop to fill up the tank - it’s ironic how the gas station for your last fill always has the most expensive fuel (and was missing the SP95-E10 blend, so had to fill the premium petrol !).

Upon reaching, the Hertz representative offered to examine the car, and I encouraged that – given the car’s (extensive) pre-existing damage and scratches. We left after explicit confirmation that there were no further damages and the fuel tank was full. The Hertz final invoice followed a few days after, without any surprises (a relief!).

We took the airport bus to town, and hopped aboard a tram to Place de la Comedie to check-in to our hotel.



Montpellier is very lively and friendly (courtesy the young student population, being a University town). Our first day -Saturday, was brimming with festivities as it happened to be the last day of Pride celebrations, followed by the local rugby team taking a victory lap through town in the evening. Our second and final day - Sunday, was peaceful and quiet, with no trace of the crowds from the prior day. As a result, we witnessed two dramatically contrary but equally interesting sides to Montpellier over a single weekend.


rue de la Loge, an arterial road completely taken over by the parade!

By the fountain at Pl de la Comedie, on a bustling Saturday

..and Comedie, on the Sunday !


The Montpellier cathedral, dedicated to St Peter, is very impressive. The beautiful church organ was playing in the background, when we entered. The adjoining school of medicine occupies the premises of the former monastery.


Outside

Inside, view of organ

Inside, by the altar

Window

The school of medicine, almost an extension of the cathedral building


In general, the historical centre (referred to as the Ecusson, due to its shield like shape) with its maze of streets, is wonderful for walking.


Rue de l'Université

Rue Foch

Les Halles Castellane, the covered market

Inside the covered market

Streetside cafes

Arched walkway

Even amidst all the hustle, it's possible to seek our some calm in areas like Place de la Canourgue.


Place de la Canourgue
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Old Jul 15th, 2022, 11:26 PM
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Day 19 and 20: MONTPELLIER (contd.)

Montpellier has many mansions (hôtels particuliers) in the old town (with a concentration along Rue du Cannau), with ornate doorways and facades.









The Promenade du Peyrou is a nice place to relax, with the Arc de Triomphe at one end and the Château d’Eau (a Corinthian temple and aqueduct terminal) at the other.


The promenade

Château d’Eau

Arc de Triomphe



The tree-lined Esplanade Charles de Gaulle, has some landmarks in the proximity– the Musée Fabre and the distinctively pink new opera house / theatre - Le Corum.


Fountain at Esplanade Charles de Gaulle

Le Corum

Musée Fabre




The modern district of Antigone, created in the 90s, sets a high very benchmark for what modern urban development ought to look like, while preserving the historical core. Interestingly, this “new town” is accessed via the Polygone mall, so we got some shopping done as well!


Past the Polygon mall

Entering Antigone

Fontaine Thessalie

Médiathèque Émile Zola

L'Arbre Blanc (The White Tree), an award winning residential building

Place de l'Europe




Montpellier has a vibrant and diverse dining scene. We went resto-hopping, over our 2 nights here... from Lebanese to African and artisanal burgers to Argentinian empanadas, we were in (veggie) food heaven !


Green Lab

Grand Slam Burger

Che Boludo Empanadas Argentinas


Montpellier is an absolute gem, and a fitting end to our Languedoc itinerary.



Next, and final tranche : Last 2 days of our vacation, in Paris.

Last edited by ANUJ; Jul 16th, 2022 at 12:18 AM.
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Old Jul 18th, 2022, 05:30 AM
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Day 21 & 22 : PARIS

We always end our France trips with a few days in our favourite city in the world, before our flight back home. My wife jokes that our real vacation begins when we get to Paris, after the hectic travelling that inevitably precedes it.

We were visiting Paris after almost 3 years, and I can't describe how wonderful it felt to be back. We had no real plan over the next 2 days -but just roamed around aimlessly, re-visiting a lot of our favourite places again.

Of course, Paris doesn’t need a trip report, and I won’t bother you with one. But I think some (randomly selected) photos of Paris may be welcome, I always find them therapeutic.


































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Old Jul 18th, 2022, 09:07 AM
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Goodness you covered a lot of ground in two days! Grom and Stohrer!!

I too haven't visited Paris since 2019--canceled the 2020 trip and am still too skittish to go. But the thought that I might never see Paris again after some twenty visits makes me unbelievably sad. Thank you for the pictures!
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Old Sep 6th, 2022, 11:06 AM
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Thanks for those wonderful pictures; makes me want to visit every place you showcased. We are planning to be in Montpellier for a month this coming winter and would like to do some day or overnight trips. Question - did you use a guidebook and, if so, which one? I am having a hard time finding current guidebooks for the Languedoc region
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Old Sep 6th, 2022, 09:37 PM
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The Rough Guide Languedoc and Fodorite Stu Dudley's itinerary for the region (he has posted it on these forums or you could ask him) were useful reference, apart from the various TRs/posts on Fodors/TA etc.
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