The Midi Pyrénées region is situated in the south west of
France, bordered by Aquitaine and the Atlantic to the west and the Pyrenees and
the Spanish border to the south. It stretches as far north as the mountains of
the Auvergne and east to the neighbouring region of Languedoc-Roussillon.
There are lovely towns and villages in this region
& VILLAGES IN THIS REGION:
Bastide Villages - These fortified
villages were designed and built in the 13th and 14th centuries when the English
and French were constantly at war fighting for the control of South West France.
The villages follow a similar style - arcaded central market square, usually
with a Church in one corner and the streets follow the grid plan. They are
virtually unchanged today. Local ones include Tournon d'Agenais, Penne
d'Agenais, Puymirol, Castelsagrat, Beauville, Pujols, Lauzerte which is on on
the pilgrim route for the long walk to Santiago di Compostela, as is Moissac -
with its wonderful abbey of Romanesque architecture and cloisters. Nearby is the
confluence of the Rivers Tarn et Garonne, you can have a splendid view from the
Point de Vue de Boudou.
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.There are
three officially classified "prettiest villages in France" in the Tarn et
Garonne. Two of these are Lauzerte and Auvillar , both are well
worth a visit.
in the department of the Tarn-et-Garonne about 30 km north of Moissac.
the most beautiful villages in France
Lauzerte is an intriging medieval
village with spectacular views; a pretty Saturday morning market and providing a
stop on the pilgrim trail - St Jacques de Compostella.
This beautiful town
is well worth a visit.
Lauzerte is a surprising place. It is one of the "plus
beaux villages de France" (one of the most beautiful villages in France), an
accolade given to villages in recognition of the quality of their architecture,
historical significance and environment. Lauzerte certainly fulfils these
criteria, but more than that it is an intriguing idiosyncratic town.
origins are as a fortified settlement for the Gauls and its name dates from 1000
AD, from the Latin 'lucerna' or lamp, in recognition of its position, visible
from afar like a lamp.
At the end of the 12th century it was given to the
Count of Toulouse for him to create a castelnau: a city protected by a castle.
Strategically and economically important, the project was immediately successful
and 200 building plots were distributed to his supporters. By 1200 glorious
buildings lined the long road twisting up the flanks of the hill to a south
facing plateau by the chateau with far reaching views across the surrounding
It was a halt on the route of the Pilgrimage to St Compostella,
populous and rich, and the medieval houses still lining its streets today, bear
witness to its historical significance as one of the best examples of a
fortified village in the Midi Pyrenees. It was an established stopping off
point on the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, with many modern
travellers following the same route to this day.
From its position in the
heart of the Chasselas grape zone d'appellation, and the production of 'Melons
de Quercy' Lauzerte watched over a fertile and productive region of hills and
valleys glowing with fruit trees, sunflowers, maize, vine and lavender and
studded with the products of this richness: pigeonniers, windmills, stone built
The high village is laid out around the church of St
Barthelemy and the 'top square', Place des Cornieres. This beautiful square,
surrounded by the houses of the rich merchants and magistrates, shows clearly
that those who lived there were powerful and rich and wanted magnificent
surroundings to match. These houses date from the 15th to 18th centuries. This
square was ,and still is, at the heart of village life, and has hosted countless
markets, spectacles, executions, announcements and battles.
strategic significance has shaped the whole of the village: and every corner is
witness to its long and significant development. The Barbacane was a defensive
construction to protect the Porte d'Auriac from assaults from below; after the
periods of greatest trouble an esplanade was developed from which there is
another incomparable view over the surrounding countryside.
Built upon a rock
pinnacle, the village proudly dominates the neighbouring valleys and provides
magnificent panoramic views from the ramparts. Many of the old buildings have
been restored to preserve the proud heritage of the village. The splendid paving
in the central place is curiously raised up at one corner, an idiosyncratic hint
at modern thinking behind the ancient facades.
One of the most beautiful
buildings is a small half-timbered house, adorned with flowers in summer and
wedged in between its much larger and grander neighbours. Take time to relax
with a coffee and soak up the architecture and history that oozes from the stone
walls and gothic and renaissance windows.
It continues to have a rich
interest in the arts: there is a thriving community of painters, artisans,
potters and the bar 'Puits de jour' in the top square is locally renowned for
its live music.
The Saturday market in the top square is unlike most French
village markets, with an idiosyncratic mix of crafts and bio-produced food. Even
during the winter there are several restaurants, augmented in the summer when
the visitors swell the numbers. From April to November the pilgrims wend their
way up the hill with walking sticks and rucksacks, dogs and even occasionally
donkeys. The library often hosts interesting exhibitions and arranges, for
example an annual 'Festival of literature'. During the year many events are
organised by the tourist office; from summer evening 'food markets', where the
squares are filled with tables and chairs and stalls selling food; to 'Journée
de l'arbre", a festival on a tree and wood-theme, where you can buy hand turned
wooden crafts and the trees themselves. There is often a 'Marche des potiers': a
Potery market, where you can buy from the many potters and ceramicists who work
in the area.
Each year there is the 'Nuits de Lauzerte", where the whole
village is transformed with lighting and music from 11 til 1am. As all over
France June 21 is 'Music Day' and the Puits de Jour organises outdoor music til
late into the night.
It is a living village, with infant and primary school
in a wonderful building in the Place du Chateau, whose dining hall is the
original, stone-vaulted hall (where the acoustics are so difficult that the
children are only allowed to speak in whispers during their meal!) and a
secondary school; 2 doctors, cafes, restaurants, 2 supermarkets, a hardware
store, drycleaners, greengrocers, chemists, 3 bakeries, a newsagents which sells
English papers, and much more
One of the most beautiful villages in
Set on a rocky outcrop and dominating the Garonne valley, the village
of Auvillar (Alta Villa) was established in Gallo-Roman times, and was an
important port for the river trade. The Garonne was navigable down to Bordeaux
and was an important trade route for grain, wine and for salt from the coast on
the return journey. In 1789 the records list 49 sailors and their families
living in the village. There is a shrine near the port dedicated to St Catherine
(patron saint of river people).
The fortifications that encircled the
village still exist today and access to the village is only possible through one
of the three ancient doorways. One of the doorways is surmounted by an imposing
clock tower of brick and stone built at the end of the 17th Century.
triangular place in the centre is surrounded by wealthy residences of the 17th
and 18th Centuries. In the centre of the place is a circular grain market which
was constructed in 1825 and is unique in the south-west of France.
the old high part of the village stands an old Benedictine priory, which is now
the church of St Pierre.
Located at the south-west of the department of
the Tarn-et-Garonne, overhanging the Garonne river and 8 km from Valence
In the surrounding area, take time to visit the ancient abbey and
cloisters at Moissac.
Montcuq is a small town and commune in
south-western France in the Lot departement. Lying 25km outside of Cahors, its
residents are known as Montcuqois.
The town remains vibrant and a
popular tourist destination. It still has a rich agricultural industry, and is
known for its manufacture of meringues and gaufres de Saint Daumes
The town's name derives from the Latin 'montem cuci' meaning
The area known as the Quercy
is within the Midi-Pyrénées region and includes the departments of the Lot,
Lot-et-Garonne and Tarn-et-Garonne is la vraie province française, with
its close-knit communities, myriad food markets and village shops that shut at
twelve sharp. The Quercy is a place where gastronomy means just what it says -
the art of eating well.
This area is one of the gastronomic centres in
France, specializing in foie gras, confit de canard, goat cheeses, truffles,
walnuts, and Cahors wine. There are many excellent restaurants which measure up
to Paris standards but at more reasonable prices.
The region is spectacularly
beautiful with its numerous rivers, forests, limestone cliffs, caves, and
plateaus. Its rich history encompasses such milestones as prehistoric man, the
Hundred Years War, and the Second World War during which it was a centre of the
Many remnants of these historic periods remain and are
well-preserved, including prehistoric cave drawings, huge castles and medieval
Other highlights of the region include many attractive
towns with their pavement cafes, sophisticated shops, ancient quarters and
The small farmhouses stand dazzling white against green,
ochre and sunflower-yellow fields, barely broken by the deep red of an
occasional poppy. It is peaceful, tame countryside, the idyllic byproduct of
centuries of rich farming.
Quercy Blanc, takes its name from the white
limestone which colours the soil. Many villages are built of Quercy blanc, the
beautiful local white stone. This ‘white’ Quercy is an area of intimate,
flowerstrewn uplands and gentle, fertile valleys.
The light in summer
reflecting off the white stone buildings with their external stairs (or bolets)
overhung by gently pitched canal-tiled roofs is notably southern in character.
Here is a picture-book landscape of small villages, rolling hills and valleys
with poplar trees, fields of sunflowers, tobacco, melons and vines. In the
surrounding hills there’s a profusion of wild flowers. Rare wild orchids happily
co-exist on the slopes with scrub oak and juniper.
winters can be harsh. Garden plants have difficulty coping either with the long
summer droughts or the hard winter frosts. It’s not for nothing that balconies
and gardens are ablaze with numerous tender pot plants during
Hard to believe also that all the conflicts and waves of invaders
during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion should have left so few
permanent scars on this landscape.
The people of this area are descended
from generations of rugged, determined farmers who had to reap a meagre living
from rocky soil. They are fiercely proud of their independence which explains
the strong role that they played in the Resistance. At the same time they are
very warm and friendly. Although many of them do not speak English, they are
very accustomed to dealing with English-speaking people since the English have
been in this region since the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Hundred
Quercy Blanc - untouched by the industrial upheavals of later
centuries and, until recently, increasingly depopulated - is today in the best
sense a rural backwater - a perfect desitination for lovers of France and
Prayssac In The Lot Valley
Destination With Plenty To Offer
The pretty town of Prayssac is located in
between two of many large, meandering bends of the river Lot in a beautiful area
of France known as the gastronomic heart of the country. Prayssac is a growing,
lively area, ideal to spend long awaited, welcomed summer breaks.
town itself boasts many varied amenities with an impressive selection of
restaurants, cafés and bars. Throughout the summer and starting in Spring, many
fêtes and festivals take place along with musical evenings, fairs and wine
tasting. Gourmet foods on offer for sampling and crafts aplenty made by local
The Lot region offers opportunities for many outdoor
activities to suit all abilities, ages and tastes including rambling, guided
nature walks, canoeing, boat trips, wine tours, cave visits, horse riding,
mountain biking. The landscape is varied with limestone plateaux housing famous
caves, open fields to the rivers that carve their way through the rock. Well
known tourist sites in the area include the spectacular castle of Bonaguil, the
famous cliff side location of Rocamadour, caves at Padirac and Peche Merle,
along with the bustling and vibrant town of Cahors – the Quercy Blanc's capital,
famous for its red wines with its medieval buildings, the turreted bridge Pont
Valentré and a good range of shops and restaurants. The Lot is rich in its
diversity of landscapes and the architecture offers authentic values, amazing
nature, knowledge and beauty.
There are endless opportunities to enjoy
the wonderful foods found in the abundant markets – choose a varied selection to
eat at your rental home on the terrace overlooking the town and the spectacular
long reaching scenery. Prayssac’s own colourful market is on a Friday morning
each week tempting you with colours and aromas hard to resist ! Decide on dinner
that evening whilst enjoying a freshly ground cup of coffee with a warm
croissant in one of the many pavement cafés dotted around the town.
L’Eveque in the heart of the Cahors wine region is a must to see. Built on the
side of an outcrop of rock next to the Lot river it displays honey coloured
medieval dwellings set into the rock itself, viewed best from the bridge
spanning the river below. There’s a varied choice of places to eat and several
Great activities for families like canoeing down the
river Lot or Celé and Aveyron valleys, tree climbing, boat trips, hot air
balloooning for those with a head for heights. The region offers stunning
scenery ideal for horse riding and walking . The ancient bastides of
Monflanquin, Monpazier, Villereal, Lauzerte are nearby too, many steeped in
history from the Hundred Years’ War. A town within easy distance is Montcuq,
which has a fabulous local Sunday market. Chalk soil gives abundant flora and
fauna. A great place for a holiday! The Dordogne is an hour away for a quick
visit to this popular tourist region. The people, like the climate, are
exceedingly warm contributing to an enjoyable, self-catering holiday in a
bright, comfortable well equipped home.
Lot and Quercy - The perfect holiday
The Quercy is an ancient land of hills and valleys,
rivers and overhanging precipices. Bastide villages crown the craggy tops and
perch precariously on the edge of sheer cliffs. Vineyards drape the lower slopes
and oak forests romp over any uncultivated land. It’s an outstandingly beautiful
landscape. Situated as it is, in the southwestern corner of France, squeezed
between the elegant city of Bordeaux and the fabulous city of Toulouse, it
enjoys a delightfully warm, climate and an extended summer, warm weather often
continues well into November. Just a word in your ear though. Winter, when it
finally arrives, is cold. Very cold indeed!
If you’re planning a
trip to Cahors, don’t forget to visit a vineyard to taste the sumptuous dark
wines that have been produced there for two thousand years. (See article) And
don’t forget to visit the markets for a few delectable cheeses to go with it.
One that shouldn’t be missed is the cabecou from Rocamadour. A damp disc of
salty goat’s cheese from the hill-farms surrounding the famous city-shrine of
the same name. (See article) You’ll find warm goat’s cheese salad on every menu
in the summer months, and this is the cheese you’ll receive. You’ll invariably
discover a few toasted walnuts in your salad, dressed with their own oil.
Another speciality. It’s said that Eleanore of Aquitaine, who was born in
Bordeaux, brought the walnut to this land nine hundred years ago and it’s still
one of the major crops of the region.
Midi-Pyrenees Holiday homes, Gites and Villas with pool in
Tarn-et-Garonne and Lot-et-Garonnes regions of South West
Towns & Villages in the Midi-Pyrenees, South West
Toulouse is both the regional capital and the
centre of the aerospace industry in France. It is a lively, southern,
cosmopolitan city, rich in art and architecture with a fine old quarter and an
Albi lies above the Tarn Valley, dominated by
its great red brick cathedral. It is the birthplace of the painter
Toulouse-Lautrec and the museum there houses many of his works.
km NW of Albi, is Cordes, a walled mediaeval town with 13th and
14th century Gothic buildings and a market hall with a fine timber roof. Many
artists have settled there and it is worth a detour.
The old town of
Cahors stands on a bend of the River Lot. It has
a relaxed atmosphere, good shopping and an excellent market. The Cahors
vineyards stretch along the river valley to the south.
The oak woods and
walnut groves, river valleys and limestone cliffs topped with ancient fortified
towns and villages of the north, give way to the open, hilly green farming
country of Gascony.
Auch, the former capital of Gascony, lies in
the heart of the Armagnac region. The old town is built high above the River
Gers and approached by narrow roads and long flights of stone steps. In every
direction from Auch, the main roads and country lanes take you through the
villages of this deeply rural part of the region, many of which are worth
Life in the mountain villages and farms of the Pyrenees has
remained largely unchanged. Their southern climate means that it can be warm and
sunny from as early as February. Roads are good and generally well sign-posted,
although snow lies on the higher peaks until May and some of the highest passes
may be closed.