Catalonia feels distinct from the rest of Spain, and its four provinces enclose an impressive wealth of natural splendour. Pyrenean peaks loom above meadows and fertile vineyards, plains are pock-marked with volcanic cones, and rocky coves punctuate sandy beaches. The Costa Brava’s shores are its biggest lure, though travellers will also discover medieval architecture and history as well as Salvador Dalí's gloriously surreal 'theatre-museum' in Figueres. Languedoc is across the French border and extends from the Pyrenees to Provence, this sun-baked region feels like a country in its own right. It’s been a strategic border since Roman times and is awash with historical reminders, from Roman aqueducts to hilltop Cathar castles. These days it’s best known for its vineyards, and the busy beaches sprawling along its Mediterranean shore. Catalonia and the Languedoc of France offer all this and so much more; so add in the rare treat of touring the countryside by train, and this turns from a vacation into something very special.