Yes! We count something like thirty reasons for you to come and visit the Tarn/Aveyron border area. Many are cities, towns or villages, three of them among les plus beaux villages de France, France's top-rated villages. There are museums; galleries; restaurants; amazing pieces of architecture; places that children will love; things that are part of our local lifestyle; and lots of wonderful scenery. Just ask us if you'd like more detailed recommendations, but here are our top picks for unmissable outings from le Claoust.
1. Cordes-sur-Ciel is one of South-West France's must-sees, a fascinating mediaeval village moulded onto a spike of rock in the Cérou Valley. Founded as a bastide (fortified village) in the early 13th century, it's very much a living place today. Stroll up its cobbled streets through the four sets of outer walls, or take the tourist 'train' and see the village in its dramatic rural setting before stepping out in the mediaeval heart of Cordes and enjoying its fine Gothic buildings and quaint shops.
2. Albi is the Tarn's big city(!) Its centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site and very well worth a visit, The cathedral is imposing from the outside and inside has wonderful paintings. Next to it is the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum; the artist came from the Tarn (see below under Lautrec). Don't miss the bishop's gardens overlooking the River Tarn. Albi also has a host of useful shops and amenities including the guilty pleasures of McDonald's and Burger King.
3. Monestiés is our local plus beau village de France. There are only about 180 of these across the entire country, so it's quite an honour. It's only five minutes' drive away and offers a couple of restaurants (see below), a good boulangerie, a chemist's (pharmacie) and a grocery specialising in local produce including reasonably priced Gaillac wines. The leafy Place du Foirail is beloved of local pétanque players and also hosts an interesting street market on summer Thursday evenings. Well worth a stroll down through the woods to Monestiés and exploring its quirky narrow streets. If you're an art fan, don't miss the moving Entombment of Christ, a very unusual example of late mediaeval religious statuary, or the Musée Bajen-Vega.
4. Najac, another of les plus beaux villages de France, is perched along a ridge high above the Aveyron Valley and is topped by a ruined castle fought over by the English and the French in the Middle Ages. Put your walking shoes on and trek from one of the village to the other, taking in the heights of the castle for the full experience. Or just enjoy the architecture and the views. There's a handy restaurant along the way.
5. Puycelsi, yet another of the impressive plus beaux villages de France, overlooks the valley of the River Vère and from its ramparts you can enjoy fine views of the surrounding countryside. There are a couple of restaurants on the main square and the huge Forêt de Grésigne (see below) is a short drive away.
6. At a more practical level, the biggest and liveliest local street market and an array of useful supermarkets and shops are to be found in the old mining town of Carmaux, 15 minutes away by car. The market has been held every Friday morning since 1825 and now extends across the three largest squares in the town centre. Food is to the fore (this is France) but alongside local cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables you can also buy kitchenware, clothes, leather goods and so on. For everyday supermarket shopping, Lidl, Intermarché, Aldi and Netto have outlets in Carmaux.
7. The River Viaur with its dramatic wooded valleys and clear water has to be one of the prettiest rivers in France. There are several good places to bathe, including those at Laguépie (see below), and you can picnic beside the elegant simplicity of the Pont de Cirou, built in the Middle Ages to link Toulouse and Albi with Rodez.
- The Ségala
- The Aveyron Gorge
- St Antonin
- The Gaillac vineyards
- Cap’ Découverte
- Soft play
- The Viaur viaduct
- Le Moulin de Varen
- L’Auberge Occitane / Mad Dog
- Toulouse-Lautrec home
- Les Monts de Lacaune
- The Upper Tarn Valley
- The Millau Viaduct
- Rodez - Musée Soulages
- Montauban - Musée Ingres
- Forêt de Grésigne
- The places YOU discover: villages, viewpoints, picnic spots, restaurants, bars, you name it …