We just returned from 2 weeks in the Languedoc, and let me tell you, our trip couldn't have come at a better time. The day before we left I was grumpy and frustrated with Paris.
Yes, it happens.
In a single day, just two days before we left, I had an unpleasant interaction with a pharmacist, was almost run over by a scooter in a crosswalk just 10 minutes later (and I had the light!), and then the icing on the cake was having to deal with some last minute, ridiculous and time consuming issues at our bank.
It felt like time to get the hell out of Dodge for a bit.
Autumn is our favorite time in the Minervois. The intense heat of the summer has broken, yet it is still warm and usually sunny. It's red wine weather, and those intense reds they make down there are perfect with rich, cooler weather dishes like magret de canard, pipérade and cassoulet.
And the colors! If you've never seen vineyards in the autumn, I highly recommend making a trip to see them.
One sunny day I went with my friend, Gee, to Narbonne for a bit of shopping and lunch in les Halles. She had told me about one of the restaurants in the covered market, Chez Bebelle, where the chef/owner calls out the meat orders to the neighboring purveyors over a megaphone. A few minutes later the various butchers shout back at him and toss the order to him across the market. Which he always catches.
Now this I wanted to see!
It was a simple, delicious menu with grilled meat, fries, salad and tomato/garlic bread. All washed down with a glass of local red. I had the grilled duck breast and couldn't have been happier. Especially for €13.
Other than seeing friends, we didn't plan much. I cooked, took walks in the garrigue, had coffee with friends and enjoyed catching up with our neighbors. It was a relaxing 2 weeks.
Our village is the kind of place where you head out to run two simple errands - return a can opener to a neighbor and go to the café for 10 minutes to use their wi-fi so you can check your email and the weather - and get home almost two and a half hours later because you spent 45 minutes chatting with the neighbors and then got to the bar to find the mayor, who kindly offers you a drink, which you can't just turn down.
Time moves at a different pace in the south of France.
After living in the south for almost 9 years before moving north, people often ask me which I prefer: the south of France or Paris?
That's an impossible question to answer because the two places couldn't be more different. Our village in the Languedoc* has a population of less than 400 and our corner of the 15ème in Paris probably boasts five times that many people. And I mean the actual corner where our apartment is located.
Down south it is calm and quiet, the village is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, a glass of local Minervois AOC wine will set you back €1.30, most of the restaurants serve only French food or pizza and, sadly, leave a lot to be desired, life is organized around opening hours and a car is required for practically every little errand, especially bureaucratic ones.
In Paris it is calm and quiet between 3-4 a.m. (sometimes), our apartment building is surrounded by cafés, a bakery, a butcher and has a really nice view, a glass of wine will set you back €4-8, the restaurant choices are very good and varied, we can go grocery shopping on Sunday and even have groceries delivered to our apartment, and driving is a nightmare and to be avoided at all costs.
There's just no comparison. They are both wonderful and frustrating in their own way.
*it feels very weird to say that we were at our house in l'Occitanie, instead of the Languedoc-Roussillon. It's definitely going to take a while to get used to that.