One of the best things about Languedoc-Roussillon are the roads. Specially in February, when the country still looks austere and rough. France is yours while the mass tourism has not landed here yet. You drive across the mountains and hills covered by the patches of vineyards.
There are no green leaves yet, however, the first while flowers are sprinkled over the grass making the place alive. Those flowers tell you that the spring is about to touch the branches and to make it all grow and flourish.
I liked it very much just like that. Empty. You can sense the power of the mountains, the warmth of the land and the silence of the locals. This is beauty. And you respect it.
On the road to l’Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire we drove through the vineyards. It was an 11 km long road from Limoux to St.-Hilaire that serpentined through the roughed valley of southern France. No cars, no people around. What makes it different from a similar road in Napa Valley (California, USA) is the unity with the earth and the village. In France there are no fences. You drive and the vineyards are there. You can stop and walk along them and through them. You can touch the branches, have a picnic next to the vineyard and be part of it.
The valley of Corbières and its roads, vineyards, villages and castles are magical. The history is right there, the people are right there and you are right there and a part of it all. I love being a part of the place where I am at that moment. I am enchanted by the fact that there is only one bakery in each town, one school, one post office, one fruit stand, one grocery store and one or two cafes. And there are road signs telling you where is what. You buy bread like locals buy it. You eat when they eat. And to be able not to be a tourist is amazing.
It is powerful to be able to be local. It is the fact of accepting what is around you. It is the matter of truly enjoying it; To like the cold air of Languedoc-Roussillon region; not to mind that there is no sun for days; And to enjoy the rain. It is great to feel the softness of the damp and warm earth under your feet in February, even if your boots get completely dirty.
I am glad that Pays Cathare had almost all the stores and tourist attractions closed in February. The roughness of the country, the narrow roads and the cold air make you feel strong and happy. The silence of the villages makes it real. The hills are unattractive and the snow covered Pyrenees, that separate you from Spain, make France your home.
France, February 16th 2013