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Indie Series
Occitania: A sense of timeless­ timely freedom

Text and photography by Claudine Boeglin

“For me, being Occitan is about having a connection to the land,” says Valérie Bousquel in the article ‘France: The accidental rebirth of Occitania’, as she stares across the ravine. “It’s about having a passion for artistic expression and a love of liberty.”

The region in South Western France now called Occitania was granted the name following France’s redistribution of regions in 2016. Twenty-one regions resume into twelve. What was coined ‘France’s region big bang’ took 25 years of heated debates to merge into a definitive map.

I drove accross Occitania in a burgundy Mini Cooper with a first stop at Marwan & Jeremy’s Chateau Engalin. I explored Albi; its gothic-style cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. I felt an eagle on the aerial Viaduc of Millau. My final destination on the Cevennes Mountains, was at my friend Jerome’s converted sheepfold.

He spent fifteen years of hermit life to restore its ruin into his best kept secret in the wild. Even the GPS voice turning all names into Franglish, lost her sense of entitlement. There the landscape made of lapiazes, thyme and lavender, arid vegetation and disseminated dolmens, exudes the millenary cycles of nature. And the golden lacework on the chain of mountains at daybreak are dreamlike versatile screensavers.

If France seems eager to preserve its natural and cultural patrimony sometimes with forceful melancholia, I rarely felt more grateful for its alternative to the pervasive digital scape. Exit the influencers, the theatrical self and the mercantile narcissism it conveys. On the natural stages of the Cirque de Mourèze and the Cirque du Bout du Monde one could be free of trials for luddite ephemeral moments with no record, no audience, no spy, no data feeding algorithms.

© Dandy Vagabonds 2019