France is the most visited country in the world. It tops our client dream lists, and there are so many reasons to visit this incredible country. From the incredible food and wine, to the charming countryside, the lavender fields of Provence, Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, the glowing lights of Paris and the history of Normandy, there are so many places we have seen and so many that we love to return to. There are also some truly special spots just the right amount of “off the beaten track”. These make wonderful additions to a tailor made French holiday for those looking for something more unique. Tucked in between the Mediterranean sea and the Spanish border, the region of Occitanie is the southernmost region of mainland France. Occitanie was “created” as a region in 2016 combining the regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. It then became the second largest region in mainland France.
Carcassonne is a small sized city, that can easily be visited as a day trip from St-Rémy. History buffs will love this incredibly interesting, restored fortified medieval town. The medieval citadel, known as La Cité, was first built in the 13th century. The village is filled with commanding watchtowers and double-walled fortifications, of which, many were restored in the 19th century. Once inside the walls, the ivy-covered buildings and cobblestone alleyways feel like something out of a french fairytale.
Outside the walls, there is the very different “lower city” of Carcassonne, called the Bastide de Saint-Louis. Built on the orders of Louis IX is how it acquired the name. Bastide de Saint-Louis has a very different feel to La Cité. It is more of a modern French city with national shops and cafe lined boulevards, and almost completely free of tourists. Not far from the city are the haunting remains of the Châteaux de Lastours. A national historic French monument, the remains of these four castles built in the 11th century are beautiful. As archeologists keep turning up discoveries, the remains are continually excavated today.
Sète is a short ride east, and a fascinating French port city in Occitanie that is truly unlike any other city in the country. Located on the Mediterranean, it’s a mix of quays, canals and bridges. The water is present in almost every aspect of city life – in fact, its nickname is the “Venice of Languedoc”. The colorful houses and boats of the Old Port make a lovely day exploring. You will al so find numerous bars and charming restaurants along the water.
Bordered by one side by Thau lagoon, this gives Sète easy access to spectacular mussel and oyster cultivation. This is a great side trip for those who love to fish. La Pointe Courte is the fishermen district of the city of Sète, and the one that just borders the lagoon. This area is a lovely stop, literally and figuratively, bridging the fisherman that live on the border of the water with the rest of the city. There are also many sandy Mediterranean beaches in the area. Additionally, for those looking for an alternative day trip, you can enjoy the ancient salt flats. Visitors to Occitanie also cannot miss the climb up Mont Saint-Clair. This small mountain rises up behind the city and provides beautiful, sweeping views over the landscape and canals.
From Sète, an easy trip to one of the most unique places in Europe – the Camargue. Located south of Arles in the Rhone delta, it’s a nature and wildlife reserve full of marsh land and lagoons, and nature of all colors. Wild pink flamingos are native here, along with herons and many other types of birds, and walking through the ornithological park is an incredibly special experience. Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is, perhaps, the most well known town in the Camargue nature area. It’s not a big town and lovely to explore, but also a great jumping off point for exploring the area by boat.
France has so many incredible experiences to offer travelers, but the cities of Carcassonne, Sète and the Camargue reserve are truly unique gems to add on to a southern French tailor made vacation.