Occitanie

  • The Pic du Midi de Bigorre is located in the Hautes Pyrénées department and the Occitanie Region. The observatory perched on top of the 2877-meter summit allows for panoramic views across the 300 km mountain ranges that run along the French and Spanish border. Visitors reach the Pic by cable car and then can visit a history museum inside or dine at the restaurant which features everything from fast food to local dishes fit for gourmands. One can also choose to come in the evening, gaze at the stars through various telescopes, and then spend the night in one of the observatory’s cozy rooms.…

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  • The Pyrénées-Orientales is the far eastern part of the mountain range that stretches across the French-Spanish borders. Having once been part of Spain, it still clings to those roots in calling itself Pays Catalan. Indeed, the Catalan flag is as common as the French flag in this region. At that far eastern edge, there are spectacular beaches. But during a two-week trip last summer, we spent most of our time exploring its natural wonders further inland. This includes some of the best thermal baths we have found in France. Not only did we visit a couple of thermal stations, but we also wandered out…

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  • Camping is finally on the rise in France and the folks at Glamping Hub have taken notice. Based in Seville, Spain, the outdoor accommodations company says its neighbor to the north has become one of its fastest growing markets. Glamping Hub focuses on unique, higher end outdoor experiences. It currently has 338 accommodations in France, according to partnerships manager Amy Ahlblad. “It’s one of our trending marketplaces,” she said. “We’re noticing a lot of demand from countries outside of France.” With camping seen as potentially an even more popular choice for the summer vacation period following the coronavirus lockdowns in France,…

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  • The drive from Toulouse to La Ferme de Souleilles took about 90 minutes and led us through some of our favorite landscapes in this southwestern corner of France. After a short stretch on the highway, we exited into the Lot-et-Garonne Department where a slowly winding road took us through the region’s small and rounded hills. The department remains deeply rural, and so we passed through occasional small towns and viewed scattered farmhouses in the distance. Within about 2 km of Souleilles, we began to see bright red and yellow signs indicating that we were headed in the right direction. Pulling…

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  • During a quick getaway for a day of skiing in the Pyrénées, my friend suggested that rather than head to Ax 3 Domaines in Ax-les-Thermes, we go a bit further toward a small station called Ascou. I had never heard of Ascou, but I was game to try something different. Ax-les-Thermes in the Ariège Departement is home to Ax 3 Domaines, a large ski station that is one of my favorites in the Pyrénées. But as we entered Ax on this Saturday morning in January, we could see that the streets were already clogged with cars and people renting skis…

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  • Searching out the best and most garish Christmas light displays had been part of my holiday routine since I was a kid. While the holiday season in Toulouse is festive, we lack both a car and neighbors who believe the best way to recognize the season is to cover their houses in multitudes of blinking lights and animatronic elves and reindeer. Fortunately, we do have the Gaillac Lantern Festival, which provides a very different kind of holiday light spectacle. We’ve visited Gaillac, the Tarn Department’s third largest city, several times to explore its surrounding wine region. It’s wine and culinary…

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  • France’s craft beer boom has been building slowly for several years, but the impact of this hops revolution really struck me one summer evening while meeting a friend for a glass of wine. We had sat on the terrace of a bar across from the Marché de Carmes in Toulouse and ordered two glasses of red wine. As we waited for them to arrive, I noticed something odd as the waiter continued to take other orders. Young, old, middle age, they were all ordering beer. I craned my neck around and couldn’t see another glass or bottle of wine in…

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  • High on our list of places to visit when we first moved to France in 2014 was the Pyrénées. On a clear day, one could see the snow-capped peaks from Toulouse, beckoning to those who wanted to escape city life. And so, on the first vacation for the kids, that’s what we did. Amid the frenzied weeks of settling in and getting the kids enrolled in schools, we were shocked to discover the details of the vacances scolaire. It seemed they had just barely started classes in September, and now loomed a two-week break at the end of October, known…

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  • Sète is one of those places in France that doesn’t necessarily have the high international profile it deserves. But having visited this Mediterranean seaside city twice, it’s become one of our favorite beach destinations in a country that hardly lacks for them. Located about 45 minutes southwest of Montpellier, Sète boasts 12 kilometers of beaches, a vibrant street arts scene, and killer views thanks to being built on and around Mont St. Clair. And while you can still get a hint of luxury here, we prefer Sète to many of the hotspots further up the coast which have become victims of…

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  • Gascony has rightfully developed a strong reputation for rich, traditional southwestern food enjoyed with hearty wines and strong spirits at a slow pace. These and other traits are why this rural stretch of land has become one of our favorite corners in France. But it’s also easy to stereotype a region like this one and miss the broader pleasures it offers beyond its famous foie gras, armagnac, and magret de canard. During a last-minute getaway to Gascony, we spent a week sampling the traditional as well as the modern twists offered. No need to ignore one for the other. We…

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