When we imagined our trip to the south-west of France (about 2 hours south of Toulouse) we knew it would be an adjustment from our usual big city stays, but we also had a bit of Paris syndrome. Paris syndrome is the extreme disappointment tourists can feel after visiting Paris and it not living up to the hype in their head. While I would definitely not categorize our time in France as "extremely disappointing", the restaurant scene was almost as treacherous as some of the mountain roads we encountered deep in the Pyrenees.
This was the biggest hurdle for us as huge foodies, but we noticed some other things we wish we would have known before. These are some things we noted during our 3 month stay in France that you might want to be aware of before heading this way:
1. The quality of ingredients for cooking is OUTSTANDING,
We have a theory that this made the restaurant scene even more disappointing because the ingredients were readily available including tons of fresh fruits and veggies, spices galore, local farmed options everywhere you turn, etc... It was jarring to buy fresh veggies to make amazing dishes at home, then go out for a cassoulet (very popular local dish) and have it be bland and boring.
2. But you need a car to get around
Ok, so not too much a surprise here given we're quite remote, but we didn't realize the true gravity of the need for a car. We expected to need a car for adventuring on the weekends, but we are also far enough away from larger grocery stores that it is very necessary to just have a car to survive. After driving through very similar small towns in the area we noticed quite a few have a main downtown area folks can walk to, but these stores are often very small with limited options. Additionally, if you need any toiletries, tools, vet, etc... you would typically need to walk or drive quite far to find those items. We're exceptionally thankful to Hans' family for letting us use their car while we've been here, it was hugely helpful for us.
3. The landscapes are beyond gorgeous,
Where we were located was basically at the foot of the mountains so the views just outside were already incredible, but we also explored out quite a bit and discovered some of the most beautiful views we've seen to date. Farms, vineyards, caves, forests, rivers and lakes, this area has it ALL. We went on several hikes and drives through the countryside searching for the best views and it was breath taking every time. Note: check out our instagram highlight "Quillan" for more pictures of this area.
4. But you have to know where to find them!
With family in town, cleaning up the property and a medical scare (we're fine!) we weren't able to get around too much at first so it took us a while to find the best places to visit and must-see landmarks. If you're in the area be sure to check out our France google maps list for some great sites, restaurants and attractions nearby.
5. They love to party in the south of France.
One of the coolest positives we were certainly not expecting was the sheer number of activities available in this region. Because folks are a little bit more remote they tale any and every opportunity to throw a festival, event, race, etc... Since we've been here we've had a few fairs, a food festival, a bike race, a motorcycle event, a karaoke festival, live music and weekly markets. All this to say you certainly won't get bored in this area if you explore and ask about what's going on!
All in all this trip to France was a great one filled with twists we may not have expected, but overall enjoyed figuring out. If you're looking at staying in this area, especially Quillan, please feel free to reach out. We will likely be back for another visit soon!