red-vines-to-moulinSo often I have to pinch myself when I step outside and see such that yes, I am living in a postcard. Especially lately.

One of the great fall foliage spectacles happens as the vineyards of southern France change to patchworks of vivid reds, oranges and yellows. The colors depend on the grape varieties, so each plot is a defined hue in a patchwork. The rolling hills of vines in the south of France give New England’s trees some stiff competition.

red-yellow-sharpFall is one of the greenest seasons of the year here. The return of rain makes the grass grow again. Soon the plowed fields of winter wheat will be emerald seas. Many of the trees and shrubs keep their leaves all year, so it never feels quite as bare as in the north.

yellow-and-redDuring the height of summer’s heat and dry spell, it was rare to see butterflies, but now they are all over, mostly flitting in pairs, and catching the sunshine in a way that reminds me of July fireworks, spilling over and over across the sky. I suspect they left us for cooler climes during the summer and now are on their way south. Our winters are mild, but not mild enough for butterflies.

They clearly got the memo about fashionable fall colors.

ivy-house-frontEven the houses are dressed in saturated shades.



ivy-house-by-riverEverywhere I go, another breathtaking vista unfolds.


Sometimes the light is sharp and clear, the cloudless sky a hard blue, the Pyrénées–newly white–sharply etched across the horizon. But in the mornings and evenings, the light is golden, then increasingly red. Not so different from the leaves themselves.

hazy-patchwork-zoomFine days mean crisp nights. As fireplaces are lit again, the scent of burning wood perfumes the air. It contrasts with the wet, earthy compost smells as leaves and grass turn back into rich dirt.

south-from-lowSometimes the light reminds me of the paintings of Jules Breton.



There’s even beauty underfoot. All it takes is opening our eyes. The mix of colors is wonderful.




28 thoughts on “Fall in the South of France

  1. The butterfly on the left is a Red Admiral, or Vulcain in French. The adults will hibernate by tucking themselves away in behind ivy or in garden sheds, ready to fly again in March or whenever the weather warms up again. They may also overwinter as chrysalides. The one on the right is a Speckled Wood, or Tircis in French. It may overwinter as a caterpillar or a chrysalis.

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  2. Snap! We drive from Quillan to Trouillas near Perpignan and back again today across vine-covered fields in the Fenouilledes and further south, and hillsides swathed in trees in shades of green to brown with every hue of red, orange and yellow in between. Simply magnificent. The plane-tree-lined lanes between Thuir and Millas were particularly glorious.

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        1. Sunday is a hard one. My favorite restaurant, le Clos des Framboisiers, is open only in the evenings and not at all on Sundays.
          Le Clos Occitan, 68 Blvd Barbès (just outside the Bastide) is full of local families on Sundays at lunch.
          The Bistrot d’Auriac is next to the golf course (by the old hospital). A little bit out of town but GORGEOUS. The bistrot is less expensive than the restaurant.
          The Domaine Gayda is in the village of Brugairolles, just south of Carcassonne. It might feel touristy because you have to make an effort to go there; it isn’t the kind of place where the family is going to meet Grandma for Sunday lunch (which is exactly what Clos Occitan is).
          There are some others open Sundays but we’re not fans of them.

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    1. The seasons are pretty mild here (a relief after New York’s brutal winters and steamy summers), especially in the south. But they’re undoubtedly more distinct than in Australia.


  3. Wow, I love the houses all dressed in their autumn creepers. I once saw a very similar effect on a house in central Vienna, but it was surrounded by tourists and I couldn’t get a good shot!


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