Pyrenees-Orientales (66), Languedoc
For most of its life, the Pyrenees-Orientales region (formerly called Roussillon) of Languedoc was Spanish, only reverting to France in 1659. Since then it has retained a distinctively Catalan flavour, with Catalan spoken widely, and the Sardana dance, Bullfights and Paschal rituals still performed. The food too has a Spanish flavour, with spicy chorizzo and paella popular. The downside, perhaps, to all all this latent Catalan nationalism in the Pyrenees Orientales is that the people here seem slightly less welcoming to foreigners, and can sometimes be quite unfriendly.
The landscape of the Pyrenees-Orientales is perhaps the most dramatic in Languedoc, dominated by the towering Pyrenees, the foothills of which hold some of Languedoc Roussillon's most interesting sightseeing.
As the plain nears the coast, huge etangs appear (inland lakes), home to fishermen and wind surfers alike. The coast is mostly flat, but suddenly (thanks to the Pyrenees) starts to undulate at Collioure, creating picturesque bays and headlands (more like Provence). Collioure is particularly pretty and even, dare I say it, glamorous, with chic restaurants and cafes looking out over the battlements and pastel-coloured houses.
The mountains of Languedoc's Pyrenees-Orientales give way to huge river valleys of the Tet and Tech rivers, where fruit farms abound growing apricots, apples, almonds and much of France's early vegetables.
The valley of the Tech is particularly beautiful, with Cathar castles visible on high peaks, and rolling foothills covered in vines and fruit trees. The Cherries from Roussillon are the first picked in France, and a ceremonial bunch is presented to the President each year.
This is also Cathar country (along with the Aude), with some of the most famous Cathar ruins located in Pyrenees-Orientales, Languedoc. Constant wars between the Spanish and French have also left a number of forts (Salses) and fortified towns (Villefranche) - all of which add to the rebellious flavour of the region.
Property in the Pyrenees-Orientales region of Languedoc is cheaper than Aude, Herault and Gard - with excellent bargains still on the market. The Pyrenees-Orientales is also an excellent region to live in, with Perpignan a bustling and vibrant city full of classy boutiques, funky art galleries and good restaurants. The countryside is breathtaking, and of course, good skiing is only an hour or so away. The beaches are excellent too, and all have superb views of the mountains.