This region contains so much to see and do that it’s easy to visit only the obvious places, those that get the most publicity: the plus beaux villages, the Viaduc de Millau, the better-known markets, the famous festivals. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find hidden gems that are well worth a visit. I’d like to share with you a handful of them, about which I’ve written on this blog.
It wasn’t easy to choose and there’s plenty of scope for another five in a post later on. In no particular order, these are my choices.
Hive House in Promilhanes, Lot
A very rare example of voluntary human and insect cohabitation, this small house contains bee hives built into the walls. In French, it’s called une maison rucher (a hive house). We visited a number of years ago and I understand it has been fully restored since then, so a second visit is overdue.
Update: here is a shot of it in its restored state. What a bijou little house! I could happily live there.
Les Jardins de Quercy
A lovely garden, or rather series of gardens, created in unpromising conditions: a couple of hectares of north-facing former farmland with the area’s typically stony and infertile soil. The owners have progressively developed it into a wonderful jardin à l’anglaise, with colourful borders, themed “rooms” and hidden corners. A real delight, best visited in May/June when the borders are stunning, but always rewarding.
Zadkine Christ in Caylus
The Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) lived in Caylus for a while, but he’s more closely associated with Les Arques in the Lot and with Paris, both of which have a Musée Zadkine. The Christ in the church at Caylus was carved from a single tree trunk and its elongated body and limbs are, to me, reminiscent of the paintings of El Greco. A visit to Les Arques is on my bucket list.
L’académie des Miniatures in Albi
Everyone visits the cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi. But cross the river and you’ll find tucked away in a side street a delightful small museum dedicated to miniatures. Before you think this isn’t your scene, I didn’t think it would be mine, either.
Each display case contains a miniature room complete with furniture and accessories of 1/7th life size. They provide a very accurate view of French rural domestic life in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
Update: sadly, this lovely little museum appears to be permanently closed.
Okay, this is a plus beau village, and in summer it’s probably heaving. I visited one April. However, it is a little off the beaten track and may not be as frequented as villages like Najac. It’s a fascinating place, not only for its stunning towers but also because it was once a much bigger and more important town.
For me, the highlights included the charming walk at the bottom of the hill beside the babbling river Audierne (pic at the top of this post) and the discovery of a medieval potager.
Like all plus beaux villages, this is probably best visited out of season.
You can combine it with a visit to the nearby bastide town of Villeneuve d’Aveyron, which contains well-preserved 14th-century wall paintings in the church.
Yes, I know. I cheated. That’s six. I told you I found it hard to choose…
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