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 Little-Known Languedoc Region In South Of France Offers Affordable Vacations Off The Beaten Path


ESPERAZA, FRANCE – For those doughty travelers who "collect" countries, the tiny state of Andorra, tucked into the Pyrenees along the border between France and Spain, is a good find.  For those who enjoy adventurous vacations, it's an ideal spot for family skiing on gentler slopes than those found at the "name" ski areas elsewhere in Europe and a destination where die-hard shoppers will discover shelves full of duty-free goods.


Visits to this pocket-sized principality are part of the allure of a one-of-a- kind, value-priced trip to the Languedoc region of southern France. It's a region of castles and Cathars, of the DaVinci Code and dinosaurs, and even of a museum devoted to le chapeau (a reminder of when Esperaza was a world-renowned center for manufacturing hats).


You'll discover these—and many other treasures—on a self-drive vacation as you explore a part of Europe relatively untouched by time. You'll spend six nights in the tiny market town of Esperaza, which sits astride the River Aude some 25 miles south of Carcassonne and is ideally located to explore the region.


This out-of-the-ordinary vacation experience is offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company, North America's foremost experts in travel to some of the world's least-traveled regions. It offers accommodations at the Maison de la Riviere, a lovely chamber d'hote where hosts Jo and Roy Hayes offer comfortable accommodations. For those who prefer a little more space— perhaps those traveling with families—a house rental in the area for a one- week stay is a wonderful alternative.


The countryside is spectacular as it rises high into the Pyrenees. Explore mountain villages in France and close-by Spain.  Plan to drive on a day trip to Andorra—a distance of about only 50 miles—and you'll climb from about 1,300 feet to about 8,500 feet.  You can even explore tiny Llívia, an enclave of Spain completely surrounded by France!


Languedoc also is unabashedly wine country, with many wonderful wineries to visit and samples to be enjoyed. The Great Canadian Travel Company has arranged a special two-hour tutored wine tasting at the Vinecole, an integral part of the exquisite Domain Gayda winery located only about 20 miles from Esperaza.


The history of the region is fascinating, as you become engaged with the swirling mysteries of the Knights Templar, visit 1,000-year-old castles of Cathar heretics and study the mystery surrounding the Da Vinci Code. 

Esperaza also is home of an expansive dinosaur museum, exhibiting abundant local finds of paleontological remains.


This region is, too, a place where the countryside offers a seemingly unlimited number of marked hill walks and also provides opportunities for horseback riding as well as river kayaking and rafting. Then, there are the simple pleasures of sipping a restorative in a charming town square as you watch people go by.


Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, this region benefits from an exceptionally pleasant climate along a spectacular coastline. In recent years, it has become a popular French holiday destination, known for its thermal springs and spas, for its grottoes and caves and—for "foodies"—French regional culinary specialties including cassoulet, a rich, slow-cooked stew of white beans and meat.


Cost of this trip is just US$539 per person (based on double occupancy).

Included are a seven-day economy class car rental (including taxes), accommodation at La Maison de le Riviere, breakfast daily and the two-hour wine-tasting tutorial.  Departures are available year-round.


Reservations and additional information are available from The Great Canadian Travel Company Ltd., 333 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 712, Chicago, Illinois 60601, 800-661-3830,


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