Languedoc Land of Contrasts

Languedoc Carcassonne CiteSete - the colorful port

fenetre.jpg Languedoc Tour - Sete canal night Salade Italienne...delicious!  Francoise terrace

 Languedoc – Land of Contrasts

 

“An Undiscovered Region in Southwest France!”

 

Please enjoy the slideshow of our most recent Languedoc tours! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ea3M5lwNCp0

  

Book a tour for 2017 now.  Please contact us at:  

BestofFranceTravels@gmail.com 
October 9-18, 2017:  $3895 per person in double occupancy $600 Single supplement
  

 

Travel with us to explore the tiny villages and the contrasting landscape of plains and mountain ranges. Here between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, you can feel the spirit and romance  of the troubadours, minstrels and poets who entertained the courts.  Visit the castles and fortress ruins of the counts of Trencavel and chivalrous knights who fought to defend their people, their culture and their lands from invading armies of crusaders. Spend an entire day in Carcassonne, the most expansive and best preserved walled city in Europe. This fairy tale Medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of top two most visited sites in all of France.

Enjoy the amazing wines of Languedoc! This is the largest wine region in the world. New wines, organic wines, grape varieties that were nearly lost, the famous sparkling wines, the tiny producers as well as the fabulous wine estates all contribute to making Languedoc the “New Wine Capital” of France!

Gastronomy! Languedoc puts the emphasis on “local” and “organic”.  We work with restaurants, wine makers and merchants who use local products of the region. They call it “Terroir” here. It’s the way the sun, the wind, the soil, and all of the elements contribute to the freshness and high quality of the products used in their regional cuisine. You will have the chance to meet some of these very special people who literally work the soil with their own hands.  You will get to taste these delights at a “farm to table” restaurant and on the domain of an award winning winemaker.

 

Our Home Away from Home

 

Our location for the first four days of the tour will be the small fishing village of Sête, on a peninsula surrounded by Mediterranean blue waters. The incomparable light and colors are the qualities which have given Sête its second name, “The Venice of Languedoc”. Our lovely hotel, The Grand Hotel Sete, is located in the center of town on the canal and we have reserved rooms with canal views for you to enjoy! Wake up to the beautiful light reflecting off the Belle Epoque buildings and the colorful boats docked below. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast surrounded by palms in the light filled atrium of the Grand Hotel.  

For the next five days we will stay an 18th century presbytery in Cuq Toulza, a picturesque hamlet surrounded by rolling hills and farmlands.  Our inn, Cuq en Terrasses, was awarded “One of the Best Hotels in France for Service” and also received the Travelers Choice Award from Trip Advisor as one of the top 25 hotels in France. It has recently been chosen by Alastair Sawday as one of the best hotels in France! In his book, Go Slow France Guide, he said “”Slow and Special it most certainly is, and human and beautiful, too”.  Each evening you will be served a beautifully presented gourmet five course dinner prepared by Andonis, the chef and one of your hosts at the inn.  Choose a wine pairing if you like and allow your host, Philippe, to select a wine for the different courses. Breakfast can be taken on the terrace overlooking the hills. Fresh squeezed orange juice, homemade Greek yogurt, bread pudding, jams made from their own fruit trees, the chef’s own blend of granola, fresh eggs from their own chickens….You will never want to leave.

 I hope you are ready to start planning for a wonderful tour to the South of France in 2017!

Our 2015 Languedoc tours were wonderful. Every day was filled with adventure, amazing food, fun people, and perfect weather. 

The cooking lesson and the meals at Cuq en Terrasses were fabulous and then some.  I think it was the best food I’ve ever had in France.  Another highlight was our boat cruise with the “ostréiculteur” or the oyster farmer who came aboard our boat and showed us the work involved in cultivating oysters and mussels.  I never knew there was so much work involved.  Every time I eat oysters from now on I will appreciate them even more.

Of course we enjoyed visiting the medieval castles, walled cities, cathedrals, and perched villages.  We were able to visit several villages on market days and took advantage of some more food tasting and shopping.

We have a great bus company with a large comfortable coach just for our little group. No squishing into a mini-van for us!  Our drivers are so accommodating.  One of our travelers wanted to stop along the coast to photograph the flamingos. Our driver made a U turn (a legal one) and voilà – we were there!  His favorite expression was “Tout est possible.” whenever I asked him if we could do something that wasn’t on the plan or if we could stay a little longer somewhere.  (Translation: “Everything is possible.”)  

Please contact us by email for an application and to sign up for a tour. I hope you can travel with us soon and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about our tours to France. BestofFranceTravels@gmail.com

 

Ten amazing days  in Southwest France

 

Land of a Thousand Colors

The blue and gold of the Mediterranean sea and sands, the green of the pines, hills and valleys of the Montagne Noire, yellow sunflower fields, the white snow-capped Pyrenees, and the red and purple vineyards at harvest time.

Land of History and Legends

Romans, Greeks, Visigoths, and Francs all left their mark on the region. Languedoc is known for its history of Templar knights, hidden treasures, the search for the Holy Grail, and a humble Friar of Carcassonne who stood up to the Holy Inquisition and rejected their torturous methods. The raging wars of the Crusaders of the 12th and 13th Centuries ravished the land in an effort to stamp out the “heresy” of the Cathars. The region of Languedoc was independent of the King of France and even had its own language, Occitan – the Language of Oc, (Langued’oc). Julius Ceasar was quoted as saying he wished that the Romans could speak Latin as well as the people of Occitania! It was the language of the poets and troubadours who performed their songs of love and chivalry throughout the land. Most of Modern European literature owes its origins to the richness of this beautiful language.

Land of gastronomy and fine wines

Home of the first ever sparkling wine and the largest wine growing region in the world. Local specialties of the Cassoulet, foie gras, cheese and honey from the Corbieres mountains, nuts and mushrooms from the hills of Cabardès, salt and oysters from the sea, olives of the Minervois, charcuterie from the Lauragais, fresh trout from the lakes and rivers…

Day by Day Program for Languedoc Land of Contrasts Tour

Day 1 We will meet you in Toulouse at 9:00 AM.  We will drive to Carcassonne for an in-depth visit inside the walled city. We have a variety of activities planned for you here today and will have a special group lunch.  After our visit we will drive to Sete, our destination for the next 5 nights.

Day 2 This morning we will drive to medieval Pezenas.  Pézenas is one of the most lively and beautiful towns in the South of France. You will notice that many of the buildings have gorgeous carved stone fronts and intricate ironwork – a reminder that Pezenas was once the playground of kings, princes and some of Europe’s most famous artists.

Day 3 Market day in Sete!  Sleep in or get up early and hit the market which opens at 8 AM.  This is a large market that fills the square and meanders along several streets. You can find everything from clothing, shoes, sunglasses, baskets, jewelry, art, books, music, and of course, lots of food.  Try the green basil cheese.  There are museums to visit, boutiques, or just enjoy walking through the narrow streets and along the canals. In the afternoon we will visit the Musee des Beaux Arts in Sete and will drive to the top of Mont St. Clair for the beautiful views of the Mediterranean.

Day 4 Today we will drive to Meze. In the morning there is a market. You will be delighted by this charming little port town, one of the oldest in all of France.  In the afternoon we will have a private two hour excursion on a boat with our own captain. We will meet an ostreiculteur, the “oyster farmer” who will meet us to tell us about the ways they raise oysters, clams and mussels.  We will have an onboard tasting of these delights, fresh from the Bassin de Thau, accompanied by a regional white wine. Our boat captain will take us across the lagoon to the village of Marseillan where we will disembark for our private tour of Noilly Prat. Afterwards we will enjoy a tasting of the different three different vermouths, vermouth cocktails. Take advantage of their beautiful shop to purchase some delightful chocolate treats made with Noilly Prat vermouth.  Return to Sete late afternoon.

Day 5 Today we will drive to the magnificent Abbey of Valmagne.  After a visit of this 12th Century Benedictine and Cistercian abbey, set in the midst of the vineyards of Languedoc, we will have a chance to taste the wines from their own domaine.  The monks first started making wine here nearly 900 years ago.

Day 6 After breakfast and we will depart for our next destination: Cuq Toulza, a tiny hamlet in the hills of the Tarn region. On the way to Cuq Toulza we will stop in Carcassonne for market day. The Place Carnot is filled with vendors that spill into the side streets.  Visit a few of the lovely shops in the center of the lower town, called La Bastide.  This was once a walled city built by Saint Louis in the 13th Century and the streets are still on the same grid pattern as they were over 800 years ago. Lunch with the group is included. After our visit in the Bastide of Carcassonne we will continue to our inn, Cuq en Terrasses.  You will have time to unpack and relax before you enjoy the first of your fabulous dinners here.

Day 7 Today we have a drive into the heart of the “Montagne Noire”, the Black Mountain, to visit the charming village of Saissac and the medieval chateau fortress. Saissac is the least known, yet the oldest and largest of the Cathar fortresses. After our visit to Saissac we will drive into the beautiful region of Minervois to the historic village of Minerve, site of the tragic siege of the Cathars.

Day 8 Today you can sleep in and enjoy a late breakfast.  Later, after a light lunch prepared by the hotel chef, we will begin our cooking lesson at our inn.  We will learn how to prepare several delicious courses that will be our dinner tonight.  After our cooking lesson, you can enjoy a swim or a leisurely walk in the beautiful countryside.

Day 9 We will depart in the morning for the village in the sky, Cordes-sur-Ciel, one of the most breathtaking perched villages in all of France. After our visit to Cordes, we will drive south to Albi, home of the amazing 13th century Cathedrale Sainte Cécile, the world’s largest brick cathedral.  We will visit the Toulouse Lautrec Museum where you can see more than 1000 works created by Lautrec. This is the largest collection of the artist’s work in the world. The museum is housed in the former residence of the archbishops, Le Palais Berbie. Be sure to visit the beautiful formal gardens beside the palace with a spectacular view of the Tarn River.

Day 10  Departure Day.  We will provide your transport to Toulouse airport, train station, or Toulouse center if you are staying longer in France.

If you would like to add days before or after the tour to visit Toulouse we will be happy to book you a room at the Grand Hotel de l’Opera (http://www.grand-hotel-opera.com/uk/index.php) in the center of Toulouse.

The order of the daily program may be adjusted to accommodate certain events, weather, markets, etc.

A Few Highlights of our Languedoc – Land of Contrasts Tour

We invite you to visit the websites of the places we stay and visit.

  • Five nights at Cuq en Terrasses:    http://www.cuqenterrasses.com/en
  • Buffet breakfast every morning with breathtaking views of the countryside
  • Five course dinners each evening on the terrace at the gourmet restaurant of Cuq en Terrasses
  • Cooking school lesson by the chef, Andonis, at Cuq en Terrasses.  This is lots of fun!! We will dine on our creations afterwards, of course.
  • Four nights at The Grand Hotel in Sete, http://www.legrandhotelsete.com/#/en/accueil/
  • Buffet breakfast every morning in the light filled atrium of our Belle Époque era Hotel
  • Traditional open air market on Wednesday in Sete held on several streets of the town center.  There is a “textile-bazaar” as well as flowers, food, and baby animals. http://www.halles-sete.com/
  • Private tour and cocktail tasting at La Maison de Noilly Prat where the famous vermouth is made.  Discover the interesting history and secret methods of creating the finest vermouth in the world. http://www.noillyprat.com/
  • Marseillan Port town- one of the oldest villages in all of France! http://www.marseillan.com/
  • Mediterranean Boat excursion departing from the charming village of Meze. Visit the oyster beds with an on board tasting of the freshest, straight from the ocean oysters and mussels – accompanied by the celebrated crisp, white Picpoul wine of the region.  Taste a local specialty “Tielle”, a tarte of calamari, tomatos and olives. http://www.tourisme-sete.com/meze.html
  • Pezenas: A village that has been designated as a “Ville de Métiers d’Art” for its widely varied group of artisans and antique restoration craftsmen.  A visit to Pezenas is a unique opportunity to see a complete city as it was in the Middle Ages. http://www.pezenas-tourisme.fr/en/
  • Abbaye de Valmagne – Visit this magnificent abbey that was founded by Cistercian monks in the 11th Century. http://beta.valmagne.com/english/
  • Visit of the walled medieval Cité of Carcassonne and the Bastide St. Louis of Carcassonne. http://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/
  • Tasting and presentation of the creation (in 1531!) of the first sparkling wine in the world. Dom Pérignon said, “Come quickly brothers, I am drinking stars!”
  • A Day in Albi, a World Heritage UNESCO SITE http://www.albi-tourisme.fr/us/discover/world-heritage-unesco.html. Visit the amazing cathedral St. Cecile and the Toulouse Lautrec museum. http://www.museetoulouselautrec.net/
  • Cordes-sur-Ciel http://www.cordessurciel.fr/en/cordes-sur-ciel-a-voyage-in-time/ A medieval perched village that will take your breath away (literally!)
  • Visit to Saissac, one of the least well known, but largest and best preserved of all the Cathars fortresses.  This was the castle of Bertrand de Saissac who was the tutor of Raymond Trencavel, the young viscount who gave his life trying to save Carcassonne from the onslaught of the crusaders. http://www.saissac.fr/son-histoire.php
  • Airport transfers from Toulouse airport
  • Meals: Breakfast daily, 5 dinners, three lunches

Price of Tour:

$3895 per person based on double occupancy

$600 single supplement

Limited to 14 people

Tour Dates for 2017 

October 9-18, 2017