On the Road to Collioure
The Covid-Pandemic is far from over, even here in France. Last night, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a nighttime curfew for Paris and eight other French cities to contain the spread of COVID-19 after daily new infection rates reached record levels: Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Rouen, Saint Etienne and Toulouse are being targeted by the measures. Out of a total population of 67 million, the measures affect 20 million of them…almost one-third. That’s substantial.
The new curfew (“couvre-feu” in French) means that people in those areas will not be allowed out of doors later than 9 p.m. or before 6 a.m., except for essential reasons, starting this Saturday for a duration of four weeks. If caught, the fine is 135€, and repeat offenders could get hit with 10 times that. For us folks living in urban areas, in small apartments, this means we will be back to being confined…at least for a while.
The virus is expected to occupy our attention until at least the summer of 2021. Macron said, “We won’t be partying.” At least not until the new cases are reduced to 3,000 to 5,000 a day. Currently, the new cases are up to almost 27,000 a day. The government is determined to put a halt to the rise.
This won’t be good for particular businesses, such as restaurants, cafès, bars, theaters and cinemas. But, the government will be subsidizing those establishments to make it a bit less painful. Meanwhile, more and more people will be “heading for the hills.” We’re seeing a real interest in homes in the countryside, in places where outdoor space can be had, and a real separation of people can make one feel more secure, provide some open air breathing space and battle the pandemic with less concern.
In coinciding with this new announcement, I am headed out of Paris and toward the south tomorrow by TGV to Nîmes, then by car to Pèzenas in the Hèrault department in the Occitanie region. From Pèzenas, we will explore the area around the Canal du Midi and onward to Collioures in the department of Pyrènèes-Orientales, just near the border with Spain, passing along the way Bèziers and Narbonne. Our goal is not only to visit these beautiful areas of France, but to scout for properties and towns that might interest our North American clients.
In 2002, I led a group of International Living readers to this area of France and fell in love with its charming, but rustic nature, very different from Provence. Provence has a kind of refinement and gentrification that the Occitanie does not, but that’s what makes it particularly authentic and unspoiled. It’s been way too long since I’ve been back, with the exception of having filmed a House Hunters International in the very heart of it a couple years ago—Living Large in Languedoc, Season 119, Episode 2.
The Occitanie is an area of France that has always had a large population of Britans who have gravitated more toward neighboring Provence and the Riviera on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, bordering on Italy, but not near as many Americans. Perhaps we can change that!
Journalist Sophie Lam, wrote “Forget Provence, Languedoc is the real South of France and here’s why.” “When you hear talk of the South of France, your mind’s eye is most likely drawn to Provence and the lavender and sunflower fields, the hilltop villages, the vineyards and aquamarine beaches of the Côte d’Azur. And yet Provence is not the South of France. That title goes to the less familiar Occitanie. Francophiles might know it as Languedoc-Roussillon, which for the last two years has joined Midi-Pyrènèes to form a new, under-exploited but beguiling corner of France where the beaches are wilder than the neighboring Riviera, the cities more relaxed and the history more intriguing.”
Note: Occitanie is the southernmost administrative region of metropolitan France created on January 1, 2016, from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrènèes. It consists of 13 “dèpartements”: Ariège, Aude, Aveyron, Gard, Gers, Haute-Garonne, Hautes-Pyrènèes, Hèrault, Lot, Lozère, Pyrènèes-Orientales, Tarn and Tarn-et-Garonne. It’s the third ranking geographical area in France with 72,724 square kilometers.
If you’re looking for sun, the west can rival the east. Montpellier, less than 30 minutes drive the from the sea, is almost on a par with Nice with 2,668 hours of sunshine and 148 days of strong sunshine each year. Carcassonne, renowned for its fairytale castle in the Aude department provides 2,119 hours of sunshine a year, while Toulouse clocks up to 2,031 hours of sunshine.
And property prices are considerably lower. The average per square meter price for a home in the Occitanie is 1,680€ compared to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region with 2,960€…43 percent lower. That means your hard-earned buck stretches a whole lot further. We will be exploring this in greater depth during our excursion there, so stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the region and all it has to offer as a great place to hang your hat…any time of the year.
Highlights from the Region
Adrian Leeds Group®
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