One of the first things most people ask us when we tell them our plans is Where are you going in France? When we tell them we are going to a small town called Quillan, about 40km due south of Carcassonne, the next question is Why?
So why Quillan? It’s an entirely random and yet thoroughly researched choice.
After moving to Cardiff, one of our earliest European holidays was a week in the Pyrenees in late winter. We flew in to Biarritz, hired a car, drove east, and fell in love with what we saw. The weather was sunny, the snow-capped mountains stretched as far as you could see, the people were friendly, the countryside was beautiful, and the food fabulous.
Since then we’ve had several more holidays in the Pyrenees region, including one holiday based at Lavelenet, which is only a half-hour drive from Quillan. It’s a beautiful region. So when it came to where to spend our three months, there was never any question about which region. That said, we had quite a large area to work with, having had lovely holidays as far west as Ainhoa (near the Atlantic coast), as far north as Condom (north-east from Toulouse), and as far east as Nimes (on the Mediterranean coast).
So how to narrow it down?
The first criteria was size. Not too big, but not too small. In the words of Goldilocks, ‘just right!’ We knew we wanted somewhere we could feel at home and get to know people. But we needed somewhere big enough to have schools for the boys, and a little bit of infrastructure so we wouldn’t have to drive everywhere.
The first step was to get out the maps of the area and start trawling for likely towns. And trawl we did – over many (many) pleasant evening hours. We marked up all the likely looking towns based on the size of their dot on the map. We discounted options that looked too urban or where the topography did not suggest an area of scenic interest.
We ended up with a list of about a dozen candidates, which we then googled and narrowed down further based on population size, what the schools seemed like and how appealing the town was to look at. Having narrowed it down to a handful of candidates we then trawled for accommodation, based on what was available, that seemed livable, and at a price we could afford.
And so it is that we will be spending three months in a first floor apartment above the Cafe du Fleuve in Vieux Quillan. No pressure at all, but after all that effort, the coffee had better be good!