South of France: Languedoc: Winter and Wines

Enough boat for a while!

While the work continues at the shipyard, Chantier Allemand,
we leave the coast of the Mediterranean -

- leaving the welder and the painter and the electrician and all those big shipyard machines -
- to somehow manage without us -

Collecting shells on a beach picnic.

and head off on a Small French Road Trip.

Off to explore the Languedoc's prime attractions.
The Pont du Gard. The Tarn Gorges. Stone villages.

We have them all to ourselves in warm December sunshine.

Were we talking about wine?
Did you know the Languedoc is the single biggest wine-producing region in the WORLD?

It grows more than a third of France's total wine!
2800 different wine producers.
2 BILLION bottles a year!

I took part in the grape harvest here in the Corbières in 1974. (!) 

There were a lot of vineyards even then, but the quality has improved immeasurably. 
It's becoming my favorite wine region. 

The "terroir" here contains lots of fossils - and shells. 

Even up on the hills, shells everywhere.

Of course, I said that about Burgundy and Bordeaux, too.

But what blew us away this week was the VARIETY of the landscape.

In just this one little region.
From snowy mountain passes -

- to desert valleys that looked JUST like New Mexico.

 Stone filled medieval towns with crooked cobblestoned alleyways -

- to Roman bridges and Cathar castles. 

Strikingly beautiful.

Pont du Gard - absolutely incredible old Roman aqueduct.

Just to give you a sense of the scale!

It's VERY popular in summer. 
Camping cars and tourist-filled cafés.

In December: 
We have the pleasure of being the ONLY people in many of the most striking sights.

And for once in France:
We even have the roads to ourselves.

Did you know they have pink flamingos here?

We stay in ridiculously gorgeous hotels and renovated palaces.

Again, we're often the only guests, so we have time to chat with the owners.
Discuss their towns and their lives with them.  

Stan investigates delicious breakfast offerings in Pézenas.

This town, St.Guilhem-le-Desert, gets 2 million visitors in July and August. 

And of course - every town has its market. 
Every vendor a specialist.

Temperatures changed from freezing - to 18° C - high 60's - on the same road.

A great way to spend the weekend - while everyone else was out Christmas shopping. 

Roadside picnic. With a small glass of Languedoc rosé.