“I wonder if punters don’t just want to read about the romantic Peter Mayle/Place in the Sun fantasy?” remarked a literary agent to me when I was writing A House at the End of the Track. I'm happy to say I’m proving him wrong. Apparently the book is sparking people’s dreams to move to France …
I don’t know why the smooth golden dome of this summit has taunted me ever since I spotted it on the horizon of Pyrenean peaks in the Ariège. Its distinctive profile seemed to pop up everywhere I went. Rising up smoothly on one side, the dome breaks off abruptly where its eastern side has been chiselled away, no doubt by long-ago ice action.
I’ve wanted to stand on that summit for years, although I’d turned back twice.
This October, seeing a window of clear, cool days, I was going to do it.
Possibly overlooked by its more famous neighbour Avignon, the town of Orange in Provence offers considerable charm for a short stopover.
The triple waterfalls of Cascade d'Ars are deservedly well known, but it's possible to escape the crowds and make a detour that takes in the étang de Guzet.
At 1745m Tuc de la Coume is not especially high but you get a 360 degree panorama of both the summit chain and the surrounding valleys.
The Col de Pause is a starting point for some wonderful walks, as well as an up-close view of Mont Valier. This entry describes a walk up to the pastures known by various spellings: Areau, Arreau, Arréou and Areou, and its emerald green lake.
At 2088m, Mont Ceint (also known as Pic de Girantès) gives a superb 360° panorama over the surrounding ridges and valleys. Until recently it bore a poignant reminder of the French Résistance actions in helping escapees flee over the Pyrenees to Spain.
Have you ever spent time visiting the must-sees of a city and then slowly realised that it’s the hidden corners, the people and the feelings that stay with you over time, rather than what Tripadvisor tells you are The Ten Best Things to do in...?
It’s now possible to step from a damp and grey St Pancras onto the Eurostar and emerge less than six hours later into the heat and sun of Provence.
Why do English people move to Ariege, France? When I first began researching British incomers in Ariège, I was curious as to why they’d chosen that out-of-the-way corner of France. It turns out that choice wasn’t always the right word… For quite a few people it was simply where the house was, rather than an …