Have you ever been on holiday somewhere in France and fallen head over heels in love with the town, the area and the way of life? That’s exactly what happened to Anneke Koremans and Peter van Deursen from Holland when they went on holiday to an area known as Occitania in France.
Occitania is the name given to the area where Occitan, the langue d’oc, was traditionally the first language in days gone by and which once covered almost half of modern France along with parts of what are now Italy and Spain. It is not a legally recognised area but has been known by that name for centuries (Occitan texts can be dated back to the 11th Century) and even today there are about 1.5 million people who speak Occitan.
Occitania includes the southern half of France: Provence, Drôme-Vivarais, Auvergne, Limousin, Guyenne, Gascony, southern Dauphiné and Languedoc. The Occitan Valleys in the Italian Аlps, where the Occitan language received legal status in 1999. The Aran valley, in the Pyrenees, in Catalonia (Spain) where Occitan has been an official language since 1990 and the Principality of Monaco (where Occitan is traditionally spoken besides Monégasque).
Anneke says that she had a “boring desk job” and decided to study tourism and thereby met her husband Peter van Deursen, who was at that time a travel manager for a tour operator. The pair decided to travel and look for a house in Italy or France but when they got to the southern Languedoc , they knew they had found their paradise.
Both gave up their jobs and moved to the Aude district where they explored, investigated and researched Occitania and became experts on the area which resulted in them setting up a tour company called Barinca Travel. “We thought that if we have to make a living, then why not chose to do it in a trade that we love. We love making people happy and we both already had so much experience in tourism. My knowledge of the history of this region quickly turned me into a guide for friends first, but soon people would hire me for the day or even a week. When groups came in, the demand was also for accommodation, transportation and assistance with logistics and planning. We found the job we needed and wanted, but the job also found us” says Anneke.
Occitania has proved a source of inspiration in many ways for the couple. Anneke has a love of history, exploration and forgotten mysteries. The more she researched, the more the mysteries of this ancient land appealed to her sense of creativity. She already had a deep interest in Gnostic history and her passion was fuelled when she discovered the tale of “relic hunter Otto Rahn who had worked for Himmler trying to find the Holy Grail for his Wevelsburg Grail Castle in Germany”. It tied in with her research, and after she had joined a secret brotherhood to get a better understanding of hidden history and mystery, she added her own knowledge of the area and her latest discoveries to write an adventure thriller called “White Lie”. It has attracted attention from Hollywood and Anneke says “I am now keeping my fingers crossed that the producer who is currently looking into the story, will move forward and start the preproduction phase soon”.
Peter and Anneke adore the region they live in but say that Carcassonne, Alet-les-Bains, Chateau de Montségur, the rock church and hermitage of Galamus and the caves of the Sabarthès region around Tarascon-sur-Ariège have a special place in their hearts. They love all of the Cathar castles and their passion, knowledge and enthusiasm are unmistakable when it comes to their guided tours. Their Occitania tours are cherished by many visitors, authors, historians, researchers and even VIPs. Although they discretely decline to name names Anneke reveals “I was pleasantly surprised to be hired by Alex Trebek, the famous American show host (Jeopardy) and his amazing wife Jean. He stood out because he already knew so much. Fun days!”
In fact the couple now have so much know-how that their new production company PanOccitania Media has been a huge hit. Anneke and Peter helped the Discovery Channel team when they were in the area filming at enigmatic Rennes-le-Chateau with best-selling author Tim Wallace-Murphy. Shortly after they were asked to help a team from UK TV show “Mystery Hunters”. Anneke and Peter decided to set up the production company to support film crews who visit the area. Anneke’s historical prowess, and her ability to source the perfect location with a photographer’s eyes have made her the go-to person for film crews from around the world.
See Barinca Travel’s Occitania tours video:
Anneke says there is never a dull moment in her life now. If she is not writing (a sequel to White Lie), taking tours, or working with film crews, she will be out reviewing hotels, restaurants and location hunting – the perfect job in the perfect surroundings.
Anneke Koremans book White Lie (under the nom de plume Jeanne d’Aout www.jeannedaout.com) based on the mysteries of Occitania. Find details of Anneke and Peter’s Occitania tours at www.barinca.fr and you can see some of their videos showing the beauty of the region on www.panoccitaniamedia.com