Departmental capital: Carcassonne
Main cities/towns: Limoux, Narbonne, Castelnaudary, Lézignan-Corbières
What springs to mind when you think of the Mediterranean coast of France? Sun, sea and Saint-Tropez and the cinematic glamour of Cannes? Soaking up the opulence of the principality of Monaco while watching the Grand Prix?
There are reasons why the Riviera is the first place many gaze at longingly when dreaming of a life in the south of France but you would do well to cast your eyes a little to the left of the Côte d’Azur on the map, where you will find a – relatively–undiscovered part of the country that comes with all the sun-soaked benefits but minus the designer price tag.
“Relatively” is, admittedly, doing some heavy lifting in that last sentence. It is not Provence but Occitanie, and the Aude in particular, is a popular enough location for people looking for their own place in the sun. A quarter of the properties in the department are second homes and, in certain areas at certain times, those with a sharp ear may hear a distinctly anglophone lilt to the conversation.
But this part of the world is not Audeshire. It remains firmly, decidedly, its own place.
The sharp geography is distinctly French Med; the culture and cuisine pure France sud ouest pastoral chic; the history – with its Cathars and grail legends – is all its own.
With an airport in Carcassonne, as well as nearby Béziers, Montpellier and Toulouse, it is easy to get to. Road and rail links are also good, thanks to the demands of tourism.
Despite all these advantages, property remains affordable. Expect to pay in the region of €1,578 per m² for a typical house in the department, rising to a n average of €2,277 per m² in the popular coastal resort of Narbonne.