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

TOWNS & 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.


LAUZERTE

Lauzerte is in the department of the Tarn-et-Garonne about 30 km north of Moissac.
One of 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.
Its 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 valleys.
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 farms, churches.
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.
Lauzerte's 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
AUVILLAR
One of the most beautiful villages in France.
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.
The 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.
Outside 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 d’Agen.

In the surrounding area, take time to visit the ancient abbey and cloisters at Moissac.
MONTCUQ
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 waffles.
The town's name derives from the Latin 'montem cuci' meaning "cuckoo mountain".

QUERCY REGION
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 resistance.
Many remnants of these historic periods remain and are well-preserved, including prehistoric cave drawings, huge castles and medieval walled bastions.
Other highlights of the region include many attractive towns with their pavement cafes, sophisticated shops, ancient quarters and weekly markets.
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.
Despite this, 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 summer.

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 Years' War.
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 relaxation alike.

Prayssac In The Lot Valley
Holiday 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.

The 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 artisans.

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.

Puy 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 leisure facilities.

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 destination!
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.
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Midi-Pyrenees Holiday homes, Gites and Villas with pool in
Tarn-et-Garonne and Lot-et-Garonnes regions of South West France

Towns & Villages in the Midi-Pyrenees, South West France

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 ancient university.

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.

About 24 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 exploring.
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.
Lauzerte Square
Lauzerte
Auvillar
bathing lake near montaigu de Quercy
Lake Montaigu de Quercy
Montaigu de Quercy Market
Prayssac Market

 
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