She returns to discuss the France where she lives. The south. There are many south of Frances, known to many people, but not many know, or can experience the true south of France in the way that Loulou does. And today she shares her south of France with us.
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When I tell people that we live in the south of France they immediately think of the quaint hilltop villages and gorgeous lavender fields of Provence or the sun-drenched beach towns of the Côte d'Azur.
That is not our south of France.
Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis are not our neighbors, nor are Brad and Angelina or Peter Mayle. There are no international film festivals welcoming the glitterati and the harbors are full of fishing boats, not millionaire's yachts.
We live in the Languedoc-Roussillon, or more specifically le Minervois, an absolutely stunning winemaking region located smack dab in the middle of la France Profonde.
Never heard of it? I'm not surprised.
French guidebooks usually give a brief mention of the highlights of the Languedoc-Roussillon over three or four pages:
- Vibrant and young Montpellier
- Nîmes and the Pont du Gard
- Charming and colorful Collioure, where Henri Matisse lived and worked for many years
- The majestic walled city of Carcassonne
- The Cathar castles
- Narbonne, Béziers, Sète and the windswept beaches along the Mediterranean coast
- The Canal du Midi, which links the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean
- Minerve, one of les Plus Beaux Villages de France and the village which gives this region its name
Living in the Minervois means that we enjoy a life that moves at an escargot's pace.
When we first arrived that was a frustrating fact for two Americans who were used to speedy service and instant gratification and I'm still surprised that two urban dwellers like ourselves have managed to survive in rural France.
Over the years we have learned to slow down and relax, to take our time, and to appreciate the little things.
We shop at the weekly markets where we fill our panier with local produce, fromage de chèvre, wine, and honey. The only traffic jams we suffer through are during the vendage, when grape-filled tractor-trailers slowly make their way to the cave to be crushed. The shops open late, take 2-3 hours for lunch and close early, and we've happily embraced the tradition of the long, lazy Sunday lunch.
I still have moments when I can't believe that I am fortunate enough to live here in the south of France. Our south of France.
And sometimes, usually, when I'm driving along the plane tree-lined Canal du Midi or sitting at the village café with a glass of local rosé on a balmy evening, I feel like I should pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.