A week en France, a beginners guide to the Llanguedoc-Roussillon

A week en France; things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon

This was my first trip to France in many many years, and my first ever time dans le sud de la France.  Instagram set me up. I shared my struggle to find the right rental in the UK (a week with Mother and the kids) on IG Stories. Honor, who owns gites at Maison De La Roche, slid into my DMs and suggested that we go there instead. I had no idea there are so many things to do in Languedoc. Such is the Euro, it actually worked out cheaper for us to fly from Southampton to Perpignan (with Flybe) than drive to the coast in Britain. It turned out to be a brilliant, busy, doing-stuff holiday. Fuelled by (good) cheap wine and beautiful food.

Things to do in Languedoc where to say

Oh la la Languedoc-Roussillon is a sunbaked region that stretches from Provence to the Pyrenees. We stayed at Maison De La Roche, a former wine domain in the tiny village of Ferrals les Corbieres. It was given new life by owner Honor Marks when she moved there from London in 2007. She’s transformed it into a charming complex of 3, two-bedroom gites* set around a courtyard garden and sweet, heated swimming pool.

*It would suit a few families holiday together really well.

What really makes a stay at Maison De La Roche is Honor herself. She is an encyclopedia of local knowledge. Every day we chatted about the options for the next, discussing a host of options to suit our mood. She booked us restaurants and sunbeds, gave tips and directions and was an all-round gem. Click here to follow her adventures on Instagram.

The village

First and most important things first, French bread. There is a boulangerie within walking distance of Maison’ for breakfast croissants. With local bakeries closing at the rate of 20 a week, this is not guaranteed on a French holiday anymore.

Ferrals les Corbieres also has 2 restaurants. We tried Chez Bembe a rustic grill run by an ex-rugby player, which was excellent. And – naturellement – you can buy wine at two great wineries. Other bits and pieces and more restaurants are a few minutes drive away. O Mazzette in neighbouring Fabrezan was my favourite.

You’ll need a car for this holiday, and if you bring your own you can fill it up with wine to take home!

Le vin

When in France we must learn more about wine. One of the highlights of our stay was a wine tasting that Honor organised for us with Matt from Taste Du Languedoc.  An expat of 29 years, Matt kept us entertained all evening with a whistle-stop tour of regional wines, delicious tapas and tales of life in France. Taste’ offer bus tours if you are looking for a more serious wine experience.

La Plage

Is it a holiday if you don’t hit the beach? There are several seaside options within an hour of where we stayed, and we decided to visit Gruissan. It boasts miles of unspoilt coastline. For a little comfort, we booked sunbeds in advance at the Voile Blanche beach club (€12 per bed per day). At Voile’ you get waiter service and great restaurant food (you can stay and eat into the evening with the sand between your toes).  And a proper toilet – which is how I like to roll at the beach.

And while you are in Gruissan, drive 15 minutes along the coast to check out the stunning pink water at Le Salin de Gruissan. The beautiful natural salt lakes (best viewed on a sunny day) create an exquisite pink sight. You can eat seafood at the rustic restaurant, buy natural salt at the shop and look around the salt museum too.

River swimming

For me, our afternoon swimming in the river Orbieu at the village of Ribaute was the best thing we did all week. It was completely free fun, and we felt completely free (and cool, thank goodness, it is super hot in the south of France in the summer). Climbing on the rocks and watching the older kids jump in the river from anxiety-inducing heights was just – perfectly French.

Wherever you are staying – ask your host to recommend spots for river swimming. They are difficult to find without local knowledge. And rock/beach shoes/old trainers make the experience a little easier.

Carcassone

A visit to the massive medieval citadel at Carcassone is a must. It’s basically a blooming glorious big fort on a hill. We were told that it influenced Walt Disney when he created his magical castle, which is a story that seems too good to check. All that said, it is a very busy tourist attraction, so get there early to avoid the worst of the crowds.

The food and shops inside La Cite walls are generally very touristy. We ate at Jardin de Carcasses which is a well-priced, cool and leafy haven next to the cathedral.

Mirepoix market

More medieval history is to be found at Mirepoix, an anciet town on the Languedoc -Pyranees boarder. There are many, many options available if you want to visit a market when you stay in France. But market day (Monday for the big market, but there seems to be something going on most days) at Mirepoix is in a different league. Stalls line the streets around the beautiful town square. Beware the parking!

Please leave any of your Languedoc recommendations in the comments below.

Travel fans,  click here to read about our brilliant Cornwall holiday or the best things to do in Copenhagen.

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2 comments on “A week en France; things to do in Languedoc-Roussillon

  1. Helen on

    Gonna have to call you out on this Mrs P – it was not your first visit to the South of France – my mums house was in this exact region!!
    Glad you had a lovely time. We went back to France last year for the first time in ages (probably since mum sold the house) and remembered what we love about it! We were lucky enough to go back again this year, and hope our friends invite us back to their holiday home next year too!

    Reply
    • Helen on

      Now was it REALLY? There you go! To anyone reading these comments – please know that this was many, many moons ago wasn’t it H, what were we 25/26 years old? I must say it’s a great place to take slightly older kids, and there’s so much to do. And as for the food and wine… much love and many thank you’s for reading, Helen x

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