Thursday, February 13, 2014

Travel Europe | Exploring Southern France

One of my favourite places to visit is southern France, along the Spanish border where the Pyrenees Mountains form dramatic scenery and wine villages buzz with the seasonal activities associated with harvesting the wine. This area is known as the Maury wine region. And it is located just west of Perpignan France. 

The Maury wine trail is a road that goes due west through the town of Maury and the other wine villages. Driving along the Maury wine road, there are tall and enormous trees that were planted during Napoleon's era that create a beautiful landscape as your car takes you further west. On one side of the road is the Maury River that feeds the vineyards and on the other side are the foothills of the dramatic Pyrenees Mountains. The terrain is chalky and wine vineyards zig zag along the edge of the hills. Each village has numerous wine tasting rooms where you can stop and try the wine. 

Every so often along the top of the ridges of the mountains, you see a ghostly castle draped in the fog and clouds that swirl along the landscape. The castles are the remnants from the Cathar era and they were built to protect their citizens; who lived in this rugged terrain, from the religious wars that engulfed Europe during the 12th Century. 

As a single woman traveling alone through this area, I never had any problems driving and visiting the sites on my own. There were never any unwanted stares, glances or creepy remarks or conversations. I enjoyed zipping through the countryside, tasting wine, exploring landmarks and meeting new people. 

However, being an American did put me at a disadvantage when driving. One evening, I was driving back to where I was staying, I stopped at a roadside park to enjoy the view of the countryside. I stepped out of the car so I could walk along the road while looking out over the mountains and turned my back to the car. I immediately became distracted by the sound of gravel being crunched under the weight of the tires. I had left the car in neutral and it was slowly making its way down the hill without a driver. Panic set in as I tried to stop the car by sheer force while hanging onto the door knob and digging in my feet. The car did not even slow down. My next attempt was trying to out run the car and get into a position to where I could open the door and jump inside. For some reason this worked and I slammed on the brakes and for good measure added the parking brakes. 

There I was, half on the road and half on the shoulder. Luckily, it was a remote area and cars were not common. Being parked in the middle of the roadway did not present any immediate danger. I gathered my wits, and drove back to where I was staying the night. And that evening, I had a great story to tell during dinner.

Written by Linda Jenkins
Linda Jenkins is the CEO of A travel website with vacation properties located in Italy, France, Spain and England
Makiko Saba is preparing for solo backpacking adventure across Asia & Europe. Featured posts will share a glimpse of countries that will be covered along the year-long expedition route. 

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