The area of Languedoc is so called because in the 10th century the poetry of the troubadours was written in the local language in which "oc meant "yes" so the area became known as langue d'oc. In local schools this language is still taught as an option and you can still hear older members of the community speaking it in the shops and bars. Due to its origins in poetry Occitan is a romance language also spoken in Italy and Spain. There are perhaps 1.5 million people who speak Occitan in their daily lives, while 5 or 6 million people are able to speak the language. The poet, Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914), wrote the much-admired long poem Mireiò in Occitan and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904.
The troubadours performed their poetry of love, satire and war in the courts of kings and nobles all over France, Spain and other countries in Europe.
There are now actually six dialects of Occitan: Provençal, Gascon, Languedocien, Limousin, Alpine and Auvergne. When France became a unified country in the 15th century, the language of the French court, langue d'oïl, was favoured over Occitan and other regional languages, “langue d'oïl” developed into what we now know as modern French rather than “langue d'oc”. Languedocien is spoken in Languedoc, Rouergue, Quercy, Agenais and Southern Périgord in southern France.
About 10% of the people in Languedoc are fluent in the language, and another 20% understand the language to some extent .In the Occitan-speaking part of Spain, Occitan has official status alongside Spanish and Catalan and is used in official documents, on road signs and as for instruction in schools.
Montlaur is also in Cathar country, with many Cathar Castles.
Many best selling books have been written about the area's link to the Holy Grail including:
- The Da Vinci Code,
- Holy Blood Holy Grail,
The Occitanie people are independent thinking, loving and very French worthy of such a wonderful and ancient culture and language.
It is well worth time for research the area and language before your visit.
Also research Catalan. Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya and therefore Catalan is widely spoken by the people of Barcelona. This area was closely linked to Catalunya in years past.
As I live in the area myself, I am ideally placed to pass on up-to-date information of where to visit. If you tell me your personal interests I would be happy to assist in your holiday itinerary.
Blessed with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, you should enjoy wonderful weather for your stay.
You should certainly step back in time and visit the wonderful Cathar castles of:
- Peyrepertuse (a 3 star world must see attraction)
- Rennes le Chateau.
All within 1 hour drive through wonderful scenery and all well worth a visit.
Wine is the principal agricultural crop in the area, although weat and sunflower oil is also grown on the planes between Carcassonne and Toulouse. Languedoc Rousillon used to produce more wine than any other area of France. originally this was of a low quality but now the quality of some wines is outstanding and cheaper than some of the more well known wine areas.
Montlaur produces excellent wines with Domaine Baillat inside the village.
A short drive takes you into the famous areas of Minervois, try to find some Minervois La Liviniere Wine not available outside the area and quite special. Enjoy!
There are so many beautiful villages nearby to visit.
The major towns in the area all have markets during the week.
They're great places to visit and a sensory delight for people watching, photography or just enjoying the smells of fresh produce.
Carcassonne has two markets each week.
As an artist I would strongly recommend a visit to Collioure as its only about 1.5 hours away.
Collioure is a gorgeous, colourful village and place for artists over the centuties because of its wonderful light. But go early as it gets many visitors and parking can be a problem.
The Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi runs from the Mediterranean through Beziers, the Minervois, Carcassonne and on to Toulouse.
It is a UNESCO world heritage site and has a cycle/walking track along its entire route. I have cycled it myself many times and recommend at least a stroll along the towpath lined with trees to both offer shade and to help line the canal with leaves to stop water leakage.
Lagrasse was voted one of the most beautiful villages in France. It was built around a 12th century Abbey which you can visit. I go to Lagrasse often as it has many good restaurants and lovely cafes plus cobbled streets and a Cash Machine! You can also swim in the river complete with a life guard in the peak season.
Montpellier, an hour 20 minutes away, has great shopping, dont stay in the main shopping areas walk in the small side streets with wonderful restaurants. Try to find the magnificent tea shop with hundreds of teas for sale and even a place to try tem out sitting outside in the wonderful side street.
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system. It is a great place to visit with a unique aerospace fun park suitable for all ages.
Toulouse is a city with great red brick architecture and close to a must visit town on Albi, home of Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The Pyrenees are spectacular and a short drive away. The "Le Train Jaune" is a famous steam train ride through stunning scenery.
In winter you can take advantage of great skiing.