The first thing we noticed when we came down to the Languedoc region to live was the golden light of the sun. Not only does it show its face far more often than in the UK, it also gives out this special rich light, almost syrupy, towards the end of the afternoon and before sunset, casting sharp defined shadows as it beams through the trees. We often say it is no wonder that so many painters came down to the South of France to paint!
The climate here is Mediterranean with hot dry summers, bursts of heavy rain occasionally in the winter and moderate in the spring and autumn months. I frequently say we have “big” weather here. By that I mean that it is rarely dull and overcast and you don’t get drizzle; rather it is frequently very sunny, when it rains, it pours, and then there is the odd, quite spectacular thunderstorm and lightshow.
Our whole area often boasts that it gets 300 or more days of sunshine in a year and we can vouch for that. However, it is a large area and the weather can vary greatly from village to village within its borders, depending on whether you are nearer to the coast, the mountains or the foothills.
In France, the Languedoc is the hottest region in the country after Corsica. Much of the coastline is sheltered by mountains and tends to be sunnier and hotter than some of the inland areas. Villages up in the mountains of course are cooler and damper. I mentioned “big” weather - we have seen some spectacular lightning, often without thunder and simply lighting up the sky like some incredible rock concert. We have also seen hailstones the size of golf balls and very heavy rain that results in flash flooding, and then of course there is the wind. People will tell you one department is more sheltered than another from some of the winds we get down here, but in truth, they all have their moments of extreme gustiness! The winds have names such as the Mistral, the Scirocco and the Tramontane – the latter being the most evident. We have noticed though that after a day or so of heavy gusts, the winds will disappear and will be followed by still, tranquil days.
In general, the weather is seasonal, with January and February bringing some rain, some snow and even the occasional frost. Snow is clearly visible high on the mountains sometimes well into March ,and even as I write, the Pyrenees are still showing off their snow-capped peaks. So it comes as no surprise that March and April can be mixed and a tad unpredictable, but still bring lots of sun.
May and June are very pleasant months, with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. July and August are very hot and dry, with temperatures often reaching into the high 30s. This is a dry heat though, so feels less uncomfortable than climates which have a great deal of humidity.
October is warm and sunny too, normally with that lovely Indian summer feel bringing with it the truly beautiful colours of autumn. As we reach the end of the year, November and December are much cooler, though not normally below freezing.
The most noticeable difference between the climate in the Languedoc and the UK for us is the sun – which will not surprise you to hear I am sure! Even when it is quite cold in the winter months, you never get that rather depressing grey cloud hanging over you. Also the climate is less of a lottery. You can certainly rely on summers being very hot and the seasons following their usual pattern. The high winds are something which takes some getting used to and some kind of heating is most definitely needed for the winter – many folk having log fires and wood burners.
It is a joy to watch the seasons roll around, see the vines developing their lush greenery as spring takes hold and then watch the colours turn after summer comes to an end. In other words, one is more aware of the weather here, the seasons are fairly well defined and it tends to be that much more extreme than in the UK. Adapting to our climate? Fear not, I don’t think you will have much of a problem there!
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