France
Occitania

Here you’ll find travel reports about Occitania. Discover travel destinations in France of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

337 travelers at this place:

  • Day39

    Wild beach, wilder ride...

    October 6 in France

    Our first car adventure in France... to Plage Espiguette - an absolutely beautiful wild beach on the Mediterranean about 45 minutes out of town. We rented using “OUIcar” - an AirBNB type car sharing platform, so we saved a very few euros and ended up with a 20th century special - dingy and small, but we figured it would get us there and home... The day was actually amazing - with soft white sand, fun waves (I thought about Crystal Beach in Thunder Bay), excellent beach combing and sand dune climbing. It is a beach devoid of development, which means a different vibe - lots of bikes and kite-pulled dune buggies (and no constant requests for ice cream at the local beach bar). At around 18h00, we had to head home - slightly burned and very sun-tired, weighed down with shells and sand - our hair, clothes, towels, and every other place you can imagine. Sadly, our perfect day was not to be... we took a wrong turn about 10 minutes into our ride home, and that’s when the car engine started cutting out. Still 40 minutes out of town, Geoff pushed so hard on that pedal and ignition key I thought they would break, the engine finally turned as the night fell, and we finally roared in the direction of home with the big red light on the console flashing “STOP” in our faces. Malcolm offered to tell jokes to lighten the mood, but soon realized the futility of this, and contented himself with occasional body noises for a laugh. Anytime we slowed down, the engine would sputter again, and threaten to cut out -so Geoff did not slow down once for 40 minutes until forced to in a left turn lane - thankfully about 15 minutes from our house, and 5 from the drop-off for the car. Stalled on the road, now completely dark out, I called the owner. We sat amidst the honking horns (drivers not so patient having to go around). After 25 minutes, the owner arrived with his solution - he put Geoff at the wheel in neutral, and pushed the car back to his place using his own car... who needs a tow-truck in Montpellier? I walked home with the kids and we had dinner at a fashionably French hour - around 21h00. Dale sees this as a “scary” experience, Geoff sees it as a sign that our next car rental should be with an established company, I see it (now) as good practice for the many similar experiences we are bound to have in the next 9 months!Read more

  • Day19

    Animals...

    September 16 in France

    Hi. It’s Dale and Mama. We are writing about some of the animals we’ve seen in France. In Paris, we saw a lot of pigeons. If a random lady puts food on your head near Notre Dame cathedral, you will have a pigeon chapeau! In Strasbourg, we went to Parc de l’Orangerie where there was a little zoo. We saw flamingos, spider monkeys, parrots, wallabies, and white Alsatian storks (les cigognes) with really big nests that are native to Strasbourg. In Cormatin, which is a little village near Cluny where we stayed for 3 days, we saw lots of cute cats and kittens, and we saw three beautiful horses playing and jumping with each other and with their owner, Celeste. It was really neat to watch and I got to ride Assia, the white one, with no saddle! Finally, I met Java the sheep dog, and his sheep friends at the Acro-Bath, where we went climbing in the trees. Java had one white and blue eye, and the other was brown and black! That’s all for now. Bye!Read more

  • Day34

    The Olympic Pool

    October 1 in France

    Today me and Geoff went to a french olympic pool and it was huge! First you have to remove your shoes and put them in a small basket, next you go into a changing stall and change into your bathing suit (speedo) then you go through the opposite side of the changing stall to get to the locker rooms. When you put your stuff in the locker you go to a shower room and shower then you put your swim cap on and go to a hallway and when you walk through the hallway showers turn on and wash you again. Finally you get to the olympic pool but, if you go up one floor you get to a place where you can go on a large waterslide or relax in a not so very hot tub. If you go up two floors you get to a workout gym with treadmills and weights. If you go down one floor you get to a basketball court. When you are done you have to go back through the whole process and then you can leave. We live only a 15 minute walk away from the pool and it is right beside a huge library!
    Talk to you all soon,
    Cheers Malcolm
    Read more

  • Day28

    What really happened...

    September 25 in France

    Today, we started our weekly “croissants and pastries” breakfast at our neighbourhood boulangerie. Our daily adventure - cycling the 10km bike path along the river up to the Montpellier Zoo. It was longer than we planned, but we made it, practiced our French with the bears, giraffes, and zebras, and finished off the day with gelato on our way home. This is the story that the blog format would have you believe - sounds great, eh? Here’s what it really looked like... we had planned to go out for pastries, but were so long getting out of the house (because of all the complaining about biking today), that we ended up outside the boulangerie on a busy street, standing up beside our bikes and unceremoniously shoving Nutella beignets in our mouths. The “bike” route was a perfect cycling route, if you don’t mind frequently joining long stretches of narrow, busy streets with unforgiving two-way traffic. About half-way, Geoff got a flat, and had to take a tram back home to get it fixed. Exactly 30 seconds after he left, Dale had a major wipe-out in the gravel - screaming, tears, bloody skinned knees. Lots of fruit juice, emergency baguette, candies and a game of cards later, we were back on our way! It was especially fun to watch my two oldest children jockey for the honour of going first in our long line of five, in the middle of traffic. At the very end, the zoo is, of course, at the top of a huge hill, not suited to our heavy rental bikes. Two and a half hours later, we arrived! I could go on, but you get the picture... We are having fun, AND life with family in Montpellier looks a lot like it does in Ottawa!Read more

  • Day37

    Weather in Montpellier

    October 4 in France

    We haven’t had a drop of rain since we arrived... I fear it is coming, especially when we biked under this last night on our way through La Comedie. Montpellier is ready!
    (Actually, they are part of fundraising event for breast cancer research - I learned this when we walked by them today).

  • Day33

    "Welcome to France..."

    September 30 in France

    I heard this (spoken sympathetically) three times last week, from locals... here’s why - Our first travel SIM card finally ran out. We had picked it up in the Reykjavík airport, so this time, Geoff figured the train station would be a place to start... this was followed by many subsequent visits to the provider “Bouygues” where we were told “this is not our product” (despite the company name on the card). After having to activate (by phone), then register our identity (by phone), then switch providers, find a new card, show our passport and register our identity, then dial more phone numbers in a confusion sequence... we finally, several days lasted, have a French phone number and data plan... in contrast, check out what we had to do with Vodaphone in Iceland!Read more

  • Day46

    Montpellier Handball

    October 13 in France

    What a night. Me and Geoff went to a European handball game between the French league champions and the Hungarian national champs. European Handball is a mixture of ultimate, basketball and soccer. The point of the game is to score the most points in one hour by throwing the ball into the opponents net.
    See more rules in this video link.
    https://youtu.be/L0Y8qFFVPXw

    The two teams exchanged the lead multiple times and the final score was...(see pictures).

    After the game finished my bike got a flat tire so we walked to the tram station to find out that the ticket machine wouldn’t take Geoff’s credit cards and he had no cash. We only had six minutes until the next tram came so we went to a close-by bank and discovered that it had just closed for the night. We still had no tickets so we missed the tram. We were about to start walking a 1 hour 30 walk back to the apartment when Geoff had a brilliant idea. We crossed the street to the other ticket machine and luckily it worked! Sadly we had another 15 minute wait till the next tram came. We heaved our bikes onto the tram and rode the tram back to the apartment.
    Cheers Malcolm 😜
    Read more

  • Day563

    La Cavalerie picnic area

    January 10 in France

    The scenery on today's drive certainly kept us interested as we crossed the Massif Central mountain range. Bare trees and faded brown beech leaves covered craggy hills. Viaducts crossed ravines in which small stone built villages nestled and several tunnels plunged through inclines too steep to climb.

    Adding to the vines and Egrets we saw yesterday, we began to spot another sign of southerly climes - Processional Pine Caterpillar nests! We'd first noticed them in Italy last year; off white balls of spun silk, not unlike a large spider's nest, lodged in pine trees. These caterpillars will release poisonous hairs that can produce a bad reaction, especially in dogs. We must have seen thousands of nests on our route and so needed to be mindful when taking Poppy out of the van.

    As the road climbed to over 1000m there was a powdering of snow over the fields. On one particular descent below the snowline, white light peaked out from under the steely clouds on the horizon, highlighting a strip of snow covered mountains underneath. Up and down we went, the temperature dropping to 3°C, the snow becoming thick in places. Thankfully the road was in excellent condition, fully cleared of any of the white stuff.

    The soil became less fertile the further south we progressed. Many of the cliffs were sandstone and consequently the houses in towns and villages we passed through were made of the same. Pollarded Plane trees lined boulevards in these urban areas. Together with the chairs and tables set up outside cafés, the effect was an undeniably French atmosphere.

    The original stopover we were heading towards was a small car park off a dual carriageway on top of a high altitude plain. The turning wasn't clear and we missed it, but soon found a cosy gravel car park off a quieter road with grass, picnic tables and a pond. It was far less exposed than the first one and Poppy could even spend a bit of time off the lead. We'd decided not to drive too far today and had settled ourselves in by 2:30pm. The sun even treated us to a brief spell and we took a short walk along the nearby gravel road.

    Night brought some of the most amazing stars we've ever seen. There was no moon and very little light pollution so the constellations reached down close to the horizon. Orion, the Plough and the Milky Way were all super clear, although it took Vicky a while to spot the big 'W' of Cassiopeia as there were so many other stars shining brightly around it. We stood in the cold craning our eyes skywards feeling very, very fortunate.

    The sky might have started off clear but the night brought snow clouds and we woke to a few centimetres. The car park was waterlogged and Martha's wheels slipped a little as we climbed the sloped exit, but all the roads had already been well cleared and we had no problems after that.
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  • Day565

    Cerbère layby

    January 12 in France

    With a croissant from the local boulangerie settling nicely in our stomachs we began the 80km drive towards the Spanish border. Although we haven't been going flat out it has taken us a week since leaving Will's sister's in Orpington to reach this point. We could have sailed directly from the UK to Spain but it would have meant putting Poppy in the ship kennels for a considerable length of time and we weren't prepered to do that to our highly anxious rescue dog.

    On today's drive we followed the path of an estuary for a while before the road ran parallel to train tracks. All of a sudden the distant band of mountains we'd watched the sun rise over appeared much larger. Many were in silhouette but some were snowcapped and dramatic. The physical barrier of the Pyrenees led inland from the Mediterranean Sea, stretching right the way to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the French/Spanish land mass.

    After a detour to pick up supplies from Lidl (the French E.Leclerc supermarché had height barriers 😤) the van was climbing through mountain valleys. We had chosen to take the coast road and were so glad we did! The weather still being bright and windy, we were afforded stunning views of the sparkling azure sea flecked white with breaking waves. The route was steep and winding as it took us round headlands and into deeply indented coves where pale villages with terracotta rooftops clung to the valley sides.

    Even at this time of year the earth and grasses appeared scorched. Prickly Pear cacti grew wild outside the stoney terraced vineyards. We really did feel like we'd entered a different world. The stopover Will had found on Park4Night was amazing. A large fenced off layby above the picturesque village of Cerbère, it was inside a cove with a view down the precipitous rocky slope to the wild sea. The sun was shining brightly when we arrived and the view was so beautiful it was difficult not to pop with happiness!

    After lunch we scrambled down the zig zag shingle path to the pebble beach. Most of it was now in the shadow of the mountainside but Vicky climbed up some rocks and found a spot of sun to lie in (albeit in her thick padded coat) while Will attempted to fish. Unfortunately the wind was again far too strong and he had brought the wrong equipment. He ended up slipping over on wet rocks while trying to retrieve the top half of his rod and ripping part if his fingernail away from his finger. Ouch! Never mind, the shock only dampened his spirits for a little while and after a sweet cup of tea and some chocolate cookies his cleaned and bandaged finger wasn't going to stop him appreciating the gorgeous view and being excited about going to Spain the next day!
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  • Day564

    Beginning the day high up, we descended towards the coast. The use of land for agriculture became more intense and we found ourselves surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. We continued to drop down through a huge gorge with sandstone villages in the lower reaches and crucifixes erected on the peaks.

    As we approached sea level we began to see large succulents with long pointed leaves growing wild and even passed a garden centre dedicated to palm trees. Unsettlingly we also saw a woman standing in a layby. We tried not to jump to conclusions but then saw another and another. The vegetation had reminded us of southern Italy and now we'd discovered something else the two places had in common; roadside prostitution.

    Close to our stopover we caught a glimpse of a far away Mediterranean Sea, its bright turquoise unmistakable. Pulling off the D6009 we pulled up in a lorry park in La Palme. It was pretty empty, with only one HGV and a few cars.

    Settling down with a cuppa we set about calling Saga to renew the van insurance and Will's brother for a catchup. A lot of cars had been pulling in, doing a circuit of the parking area then leaving. We didn't think anything of it until Vicky was cleaning the windowsills and a silver BMW drove slowly by the van, stopped and reversed until the guy driving was level with the window. He looked at Vicky with a lecherous grin on his face and nodded his head. It quickly dawned on Vicky that he was kerb crawling and thought she was a prostitute. Her skin began to crawl and she swished the curtain closed. He drove off but circled round and passed slowly by the van half a dozen times before finally disappearing up the road. We began to pay close attention to the cars pulling in and all contained a single male apart from one, who dropped a woman off near the entrance. With the realisation that this was a place for punters to pick up prostitutes we unsurprisingly no longer felt comfortable and took the decision to move 4.5km down the road to a different village.

    Vicky was upset by the incident but fortunately the place we stopped at in Caves had no hint of seediness about it. A dry and open patch of grassland outside a primary school, it was bordered by a few low rise self contained houses on 2 sides, a basketball court and large stoney fields of vines on the others. We could even make out the sea a few miles away on the horizon!

    The wind was strong and buffeted the van but the sun had been out nearly all day and the brightness was a welcome change. Will tried flying his kite but the very high winds proved too much and he soon retreated in to the van for a warming cuppa. As the light faded a rosy glow lit up the clouds and we were greeted in the morning with an intense amber sunrise over the mountains.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Occitania, Occitanie, Linguadoca-Rossiglione-Midi-Pirenei

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