The Languedoc Versus The Béarn–Contrasting The Glories Of French Country Springtime

“I’m over in the Languedoc region of the ‘other’ south of France,” writes Correspondent from that country Lucy Culpepper.

“As we drove from the Béarn in the Pyrenees Atlantic department on the west coast of France to the Languedoc department on the east, following the line of the Pyrenees Mountains, I was particularly struck, this springtime, by the contrast of the two regions. The early maize is starting to poke through the dark chocolate-colored Atlantic Pyrenees soils; it is verdant and abundantly green with every type of deciduous tree coming into leaf.

“As we drove east, the soils gradually changed color to a rich, red, reminding me of the tropical soils of Central and South America. Rows and rows of vines are in early leaf, contrasting beautifully with the red soil. On unfarmed Languedocian land there is plenty of green, but it’s an olive green; there are many trees, but they are mostly evergreen with omnipresent long, tall Cypresses swaying in the wind and huge maple trees, with peeling white bark, lining the avenues leading into villages.

“Parts of the Languedoc remind me of pictures of Tuscany; houses are built from the stone that makes the soils so red, and roofs are covered with red clay tiles. As you pass through villages they sometimes, when the light is right, seem bathed in a permanent sunset of yellow, orange, and red.

“Over in the Béarn, houses are made from darker stone and painted white (and Basque red if the owner hails from the Basque Béarn), with wooden eaves and fascias. They have bigger windows and generally look better cared for. Perhaps that is simply a result of the more constant climate of the Béarn in comparison with the longer, hotter summers and colder, drier winters of the Languedoc…”

Kathleen Peddicord

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