Five Fun Winter Activities in Occitanie

Here is a great article by Wendy Hicks (more information about Wendy at the end of her article) for those winter activities in the Lanugedoc.

With the New Year here we tend to either hunker down or focus on goals and organizing.  With the weather being unpredictable and gloomy it’s easy to forget that there are still a lot of great things to do in the Occitanie (formerly called the Languedoc-Roussillon).

Here are five fun activities you may have not have thought about doing.


Check out the Carcassonne ramparts

Did you know that Carcassonne offers free admission to visit the castle and the ramparts EVERY 1st Sunday of the month until March 2018? Both the castle and the ramparts are open free of charge.

Free Sunday dates:
- February 4
- March 4

The Monument is free, all year round, for 18-25 year olds (offer extends only to European Union Nationals or regular residents in the territory of the European Union).  For more information here is their website:

Voie Verte Greenway

Cycle or jog the 75km Voie Verte Greenway

The greenway of Haut-Languedoc is located on the old Mazamet -Bédarieux railway line.  It is about 75 kilometers long and it offers a protected area for cyclists and joggers.  It is a mostly level path that meanders past lovely villages such as Olargues providing ample opportunities for picnics along the Orb or Jaur River.  You can pick it up at either end in Mazamet or Bedarieux or at many of the villages along the way.  Here is the website with the details and maps

Practice French

Is one of your goals for 2018 to improve your French?  Ours too.  But for me to learn something it needs to be fun or I just won’t stick with it.  With that in mind we have been playing HISTOFOLY ® which is a game about the history of France.  It is a trivia based board game about the kings and queens, holidays, wars, anecdotes, genealogy, arts, territories, religion, and every day life. We found it online at and have enjoyed it immensely.   

Another versatile no-cost way of learning French is with YouTube.  In particular we found a goldmine of lessons with Learn French with Vincent who has hundreds of courses available at:

Another popular site is:

How do you practice your French?  Comment below with your favorites.

French cooking. Image by Renée Jacobs

Learn new recipes

Now is the time to try out all those recipes you have been saving.  Have you tried Cassoulet?  It is a stew from the Languedoc region made with beans, meat and sausages. It takes a while both to prepare and to cook but the result is definitely worth it and will be a big hit on a cold winter night. I really enjoyed this entertaining version.   

Another tasty cold day meal is French Onion Soup.  My current favorite recipe is from Foolproof French Cookery by Raymond Blanc.



This humble vegetable is very much part of the French culinary anthology, it was probably also responsible for the second invasion of England by the French. The quality of the onions is crucial in this recipe.  We want both high acidity and high sugar levels to create a fully flavored soup.  The best onions are Pink Roscoff; Spanish Onions, although lacking in acidity, will also work.  If you like a strong onion flavor, caramelize the onions for a further 15 minutes until very dark brown.  


For the soup

50g Unsalted butter

4 Medium Roscoff or Spanish onions, cut in half and then sliced into 3mm slices

1 tbsp Plain flour

200ml Dry white wine, boiled for 30 seconds to remove the alcohol

1.5l Boiling water

2 pinches Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1tsp Sugar (optional)


To serve

12 slices Baguette, cut 1cm thick

150g Comté cheese, grated



Softening the onions

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/ Gas Mark 6. On a high heat, in a large non-stick saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. Add the onions and soften for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with 10 pinches of salt and 2 pinches of pepper.

Caramelizing the onions

Continue cooking the onions for 20–30 minutes to achieve an even, rich brown caramel colour. Stir every 2–3 minutes to prevent burning.

Toasting the flour

Sprinkle the flour on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 8–10 minutes, until it is very lightly coloured. Stir the flour into the caramelized onions and mix thoroughly.

Finishing the soup

Gradually stir in the white wine and one third of the boiling water. Whisk well and add the remaining water. Bring to the boil, skim off any impurities from the surface and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding the sugar if required.

Making the croûtons and serving the soup

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking tray and sprinkle two thirds of the grated Comté over them. Place under a hot grill for 3–4 minutes to melt and slightly brown the cheese. Serve the soup in bowls, with the croûtons on top. Serve the remaining Comté separately.

Let us know if you tried either of these recipes and what you thought of them.  Or share some of your favorites in the comments below. 

Ice Diving  - Image may be subject to copywrite

Ice Diving

Yes, that’s right.  Looking for something completely different?  Try ice diving at Les Angels Capcir.  Explore the world under the frozen lakes.  Whatever your level, you will be supervised by qualified instructors: an underwater instructor to whom you will be connected and another on the surface to provide a life line, to which you will also be connected. For more information check out:

But don’t worry, if diving into a freezing lake isn’t your thing they have a lot of other activities like skiing, snow-shoeing, toboggans, sleigh dogs, or even laser tag. 

About us:  Renée Jacobs and Wendy Hicks run photography workshops in the south of France at Maison des Rêves.  Renée is a globally acclaimed female nudes photographer and together with Wendy they run custom photography trips to ancient castles, mysterious grottos, natural wonders, or to the endless wineries.  For more details contact us at:



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