A tiny French village called Fabrezan, surrounded by vineyards and nudging a sparkling river, is one of our favourite family holiday destinations.
Sandwiched between the Pyrennees and the sea in the Languedoc Roussillon area in the south, the area offers breathtaking natural beauty basking in a very special light that never fails to lift the spirit.
My parents own a holiday home in the heart of the village which seems to be stuck in a time warp and it means we’re lucky enough to have a base from where to plunge ourselves into the French way of life and soak up the culture every Summer.
Here are some of our favourite things to do:
Breakfast treats from the Boulangerie: Every morning the children run through the village on their own – there are very few cars – to the bakery to order pain au chocolats and croissants, proudly showing off their growing French vocabulary.
To Market: On any given day there is a market in one of the nearby villages – a treat for the senses. Colourful fruit displays, barrels of olives bursting with flavour, endless varieties of cheese and sauccison compete with floaty dresses, toy mountains and bric-a-brac for your attention. The aroma of roast chicken from the Rotisserie and sugar-frosted churros (like donuts) hang in the air.
Swimming in the river: Although the Mediterranean is only 20 minutes from Fabrezan, we often head to the next village of Ribaute, where bottomless, dark pools and sparkling waterfalls beckon. The most popular swimming area is reached by climbing down a steep embankment and is surrounded by flat rock surfaces. We while away the hours stretched out on the rocks, occasionally dipping into the water, while the boys cause havoc with their nets among the fish population and jump from the rocks into the pools below.
The wine: Fabrezan is in the Languedoc wine region and offers a selection of excellent wines, but after a day on the beach or at the river a demi-pichet of their cheap and very drinkable Rosé sitting outside at The Grand Café – the most popular pub among the locals – mellows you nicely into the evening.
The sea: Narbonne is the nearest beach and though quite built-up and touristy, the long stretch of white sand is great for getting a bit of colour and catching up on your reading while the children build sandcastles and splash about.
The food: Whether you eat Croque Monsieur at the pub, pizza or tapas or splash out on a gourmet meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, the food is always an event in France – especially if it’s dragged out slowly across several courses.
La fete de Fabrezan: Every year at the end of August, one of the town’s main arteries is closed off for the annual festival for three days of non-stop drinking entertainment, with not a tourist in site. We love joining the locals at long trestle tables for open-air meals such as Moules Frites to Poulet Basque and accompanied with chunks of baguette and cheese and washed down with indecent amounts of the Rosé mentioned before. The children run around playing cache-cache (hide-and-seek) with the French children, catch plastic ducks for cheap spoils and begging for tokens for the bumper cars. After the meal the night fills with the sounds of loud pop music as a band entertains the crowds until the early hours.
Cité de Carcassonne – 30 minutes from Fabrezan is the well-known medieval walled city of Carcasonne – well worth a visit and leading to endless stand-offs between knights armed with plastic swords and dustbin lids for the rest of the holiday.
The locals: Much as they like to joke about “les Rosbif” the locals are warm, friendly, cynical, complicated – and very welcoming if you try to speak their language and show an interest in their lives. My parents have made good friends through the years and the fridge is always bursting with the tastiest homegrown tomatoes, peppers and salad from their allotments and bottles of self-produced wine.
I love luxury and buffet tables groaning with all-in-one meals, but a week in Fabrezan is an injection of culture mixed with decadence justified by expanding my French vocab. C’est magnifique!
If you’ve been to Fabrezan or would like to know more, give me a shout. Also really keen to hear about your special holiday destinations.by