5 More Hidden Gems in Southwest France

 

Château de Cas

Château de Cas, Espinas

This coming weekend the annual Journées du Patrimoine take place throughout France. You can visit historic buildings and monuments, some of which are not normally open to the public, and many of them offer free entrance. I have already noted several places I’d like to see. This link takes you to the official website. Clicking on ‘Programme’ opens an interactive map, which is annoying, since you have to know where you want to go to start with. However, you can also download and browse regional brochures.

My previous post about hidden gems proved popular, so I thought I’d add five more. They are not all historic monuments, but they are things worth seeing and/or doing in my opinion. You can read more about them in previous posts, for which I give the links below.

Le Château de Cas, Espinas

Château de Cas in its restored state

Château de Cas in its restored state

This castle of 13th-century origins dominates the Bonnette Valley between Caylus and Saint-Antonin. It’s the home of the Lastic Saint-Jal family, who restored it to its present impeccable condition in the 1980s. The château was used for storing clandestine arms during World War II, but it was ransacked and badly damaged.

The château has a tiny Romanesque chapel, which I think is delightful.

Every Château has a Story #1: Le Château de Cas

The Viaur Valley

River Viaur rushing over the rocks

River Viaur rushing over the rocks

The River Viaur is a tributary of the Aveyron, which it joins at Laguépie. One of our favourite walks starts below the pretty village of Bar and goes alongside the river under spreading chestnut trees. If you go at the right time, the autumn colours are spectacular and the chestnuts are falling. You can gather them to your heart’s content.

The village of Lagarde Viaur with the fortified church on the left

The village of Lagarde Viaur with the fortified church on the left

This walk passes through Lagarde Viaur, now a very quiet village but once a more important township in a strategic position. The commune has put up plaques recounting its history. I particularly like the fortified church at the top of the village.

I’ve written about the Viaur in two posts:

Weather for Walks

Walking the Viaur Valley

The Abbaye de Beaulieu, Tarn-et-Garonne

Abbaye de Beaulieu

Abbaye de Beaulieu

Take the road from Parisot to Verfeil, which winds along the beautiful Seye Valley. As you round a bend, you come upon the Cistercian Abbaye de Beaulieu, which nestles in a sheltered spot by the river. This tranquil place certainly lives up to its name.

The abbey has weathered fluctuating fortunes in the past. After the Revolution, the magnificent church was used as a cowshed and was filled with manure. Then, a scheme to move it stone by stone to Saint-Antonin was foiled by Prosper Mérimée, inspector of historic monuments, in the 19th century. The abbey was restored from 1959 onwards and is now a centre of contemporary art.

Abbaye de Beaulieu - Front Elevation

Abbaye de Beaulieu – Front Elevation

Abbaye de Beaulieu-en-Rouergue: Centre of Contemporary Art

Villeneuve-d’Aveyron

La tour-porte Cardalhac

La tour-porte Cardalhac

I mentioned this town briefly in my previous post about hidden gems, but I think it’s worth an entry of its own. Often overlooked in favour of its large neighbour, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, and the Plus Beaux Villages of Belcastel and Najac, it is nonetheless an interesting and appealing place.

The present town has spread beyond its original walls, but much of those remain, along with several fortified gates. Villeneuve is a bastide, one of the defensive new towns that were constructed during the 13th century on a grid pattern around a central square. This is a place to wander around while imagining how it would have been in its heyday.

A highlight is the soaring church of 11th-century origins. It has a series of 14th-century wall paintings showing pilgrims en route to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle.

Eglise Saint-Sepulcre

Eglise Saint-Sepulcre

Beautiful Bastide: Villeneuve-d’Aveyron

Truffle Market at Limogne, Lot

'Black diamonds'

‘Black diamonds’

The Limogne truffle market is not exactly a gem but it deals in them – the black diamonds of Quercy. It’s overshadowed by its much bigger sibling at Lalbenque (to which, incidentally, I have never been). I found it fascinating when I visited a few years ago. The market is held only during the winter months, when truffles are found. Since they are becoming scarcer, only a few sellers attend. And blink and you’d miss it; it’s all over in about 10 minutes. However, as an example of a particularly French enterprise, it’s well worth a visit.

Truffle Market at Limogne

You might also like:

My series of posts about local châteaux
5 Hidden Gems in Southwest France

Copyright © 2016 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

 

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to 5 More Hidden Gems in Southwest France

  1. clemency46 says:

    Thank you for all your interesting posts which I love reading. There are also truffles for sale at Limogne market in the summer months. We’re regulars there and we saw a vendor with a basket of them in August. These are the summer truffles – very similar to but less pungent than their winter cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks for commenting and for your kind words about my blog. It’s interesting to know that they are selling truffles at Limogne market in the summer. We rarely go, so I hadn’t seen them. Since it was a wet spring, that may have helped. After the dry summer and early autumn we’ve had, the harvest may be even smaller than usual.

      Like

  2. Osyth says:

    So much treasure! I can’t WAIT to be back in November …. I’m not a truffle-pig myself – I find the taste overwhelming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m looking forward to tomorrow when we’ll take advantage of the Journées du Patrimoine to visit one or two places we don’t already know. I must admit to liking truffles, although the ones served in restaurants have often lost their taste already.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Montal_(Lot)
    Your website is such a marvelous resource for the hidden treasures to be found reasonably close to home. Thank you. I hope to visit the chateau du montal which has been closed for refurbishment. A little part of me is anxious that it won’t have lost its charm as a result. It has been a favourite of mine for years. Ps the link insisted on pasting first!
    Enjoy your journees patrimoine….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MarinaSofia says:

    Homesick already… enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unfortunately I am allergic to truffles … not a big handicap ! The rest is just gorgeous to me ! Many thanks, Vanessa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Oh, that’s a pity. I must admit I find truffles a bit overrated, probably because they are usually too old by the time you get to eat them. Once I ate really fresh truffle grated over scrambled eggs – it was delicious. But I can live without them…

      Liked by 1 person

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