The Languedoc-Roussillon has been a well-defined and much-loved region as far back as this writer can recall and beyond. The question on everyone’s lips is now: is it Languedoc or Occitanie?
Languedoc (specifically) borders the Provence to the east and the Midi-Pyrenees and Spain to the west.
The Midi, on the other hand, always refers, somewhat vaguely, to the South-West of France in general. Natives often describe themselves as “gens du Midi” (people of the south).
Gens du Midi
They have a strongly pronounced (and to the uninitiated, often incomprehensible) accent and equally strong culture. Additionally, the light has a special quality about it – a bit like the Alpine air in Switzerland. It’s why Van Gogh painted most of his masterpieces there. Light and sun, as strong as the local flavours, conspired to drive him mad, as they would anyone who’d spend hours on end outdoors in the height of summer.
You might wonder why, then, with all these strong and well-established elements, would the French decide to re-brand the region as “Occitanie”?
Occitanie – the new Provence?
Occitanie is, quite simply, Languedoc and Midi-Pyrenees combined together for administrative purposes. It’s also a marketing device to promote a part of France that is at least as beautiful as Provence. Provence became fashionable after it was “discovered” by a Brit (Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence). Occitanie, on the other hand, is a bit of a sleeping giant.
The name refers to the historic use of the Occitan language and its various dialects. In fact, the name stems from the word òc, the equivalent of “yes.” For that reason, the new name has proven popular with people who are fiercely proud of their Occitan roots.
Whether or not tourists and marketers embrace the new name is anyone’s guess. Ours is that it will take time.
Languedoc or Occitanie: whatever you call it, the region’s relaxed charm is here to stay
Everything takes time in the area. The slow tempo is part of its charm and, even though it takes a few days to get into the lull of things and decompress when coming from a major city, the transition is effortless.
It is, of course, smoothed by copious amounts of good local wine, rich but healthy food, fresh air and that remarkable sunshine that makes you feel happy for no particular reason.
So, if stress starts getting the better of you, whether you prefer Languedoc or Occitanie, go take a week’s cure. Your body and spirit will thank you for it, I guarantee.