Back to Belcastel

Belcastel on a greyish September evening

This week, we celebrated an important wedding anniversary and returned to Belcastel in Aveyron to do so in style. This plus beau village is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Vieux Pont, which specialises in Aveyronnais produce and local recipes with a modern twist. The family who run the restaurant also run a small hotel in a converted barn on the other side of the River Aveyron. This means we can sample their excellent wine list without having to worry about driving the 50 km home with a police contrôle potentially around every corner.

Restaurant from the Rive Gauche
Hotel in the converted barn to the left of the bridge

I’ve written about Belcastel a couple of times before, and you can read those posts if you click the links at the bottom. The village huddles in a lovely valley by the stripling Aveyron, dominated by its château. Needless to say, it’s heaving with tourists in the summer, and we prefer to visit out of season.

Stripling Aveyron at Belcastel

Below is the château. If you’re wondering what the excrescence wrapped around the tallest tower is, all will be revealed below.

Normally, the late September weather is glorious. On this occasion, the drought had broken, and it rained some of the time while we were there. Even so, I was able to take photos of the village from new angles, so this post is effectively a photo shoot.

Foodie heaven

Before I start that, though, I have to tell you what we ate. Unusually, we chose the same dishes. You might think I am obsessed with food and that we eat out in Michelin-starred restaurants all the time. The former might be true, but our bank balances wouldn’t permit the latter. I did not take photos of our dinner, something that makes me squirm somewhat, although I must admit that I have very occasionally done so.

Apéritifs: I chose a glass of champagne; the SF ordered a double Ricard, which he drinks only as a treat these days.

Pre-starter: to keep their stars, restaurants have to offer these tasters. We were served two: a soup of melon topped with sesame seeds in a tiny bowl; and a small fillet of fried red mullet with beetroot and a beetroot mousse: a delicious combination.

Starter: a risotto served with a purée of butternut squash and thin slices of squid.

Main course: Aveyron veal, served slightly pink with a potato galette and various seasonal veg. Tender and perfectly cooked.

Cheese: a gigantic trolley is wheeled in, filled with Aveyron cheeses, from which you choose a selection. More than three is considered bad form.

Pre-dessert: yes, you get one of those, too. A granita of sorrel (unusual choice but very good), topped with a sweetened cream.

Dessert: normally, I go for anything with chocolate in it. We both decided this would be a bridge too far, and so we went for peaches poached with bergamot, accompanied by sorbets and walnut biscuits.

A Pessac-Léognan went with all this.

Now it’s bread and water until Christmas. But if you’re feeling flush, the village and the restaurant are certainly worth a visit. Considering the quality of the food, they do a reasonably-priced lunch menu.

The château

A French architect, Fernand Pouillon, restored the ruined château in the 1970s. Its origins date back to the 9th century. It’s now home to several art galleries, specialising mainly in modern and contemporary art.

The excrescence? It’s the fashion these days, it seems, to use ancient buildings as backdrops for modern art installations, e.g. the yellow concentric circles on the fortress of Carcassonne last year. At Belcastel, it’s a wrap-around sculpture, which is part of an exhibition entitled Ignis Fatuus (will-o’-the-wisp). You’ll have to make up your own mind about it.

The village

Main street, parallel with the river

Animal shoeing device. A horse or cow would be restrained with its belly in the leather straps while it was shod. We’ve seen another one in Espinas, a village close to us.

Modern sculptures outside the Mairie.

The 15th-century church is on the other side of the river from the main part of the village.

The 15th-century bridge, with a cross in the middle. Although it can carry vehicles, it’s very narrow. I had to walk backwards in front of the car to guide the SF while he negotiated it with not very much on either side. The next morning, our roles were reversed.

If you’ve been to Belcastel, what did you think?

You might also like:

Every Château Tells a Story: #10 Le Château de Belcastel

Belcastel: One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France

France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages

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About nessafrance

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.
This entry was posted in Aveyron, Food/drink/recipes, Places and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Back to Belcastel

  1. Kate Swaffer says:

    Congratulations

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds lovely and great photos. Your meal seemed to be both very creative and tasty. My mouth was watering well before you got to the veal. One of these days I’ll get over to your part of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know why I thought he was…!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I sort of avoided Belcastel for quite a while, but with two very good friends and wonderful early September weather last year, we decided to nip over to Belcastel, setting off in mid-morning with a picnic. From where we settled by the river, I suddenly realised there was an exciting painting there for me; not a touristy painting. I went over there for a good ten afternoons to paint and the people in the bar by the campsite were just lovely. They offered me private parking and when I had a café they insisted on giving me (free of charge) a slice of Fouace … I was in heaven!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It is touristy, of course, although almost empty out of season, which is when we prefer to visit these places. I love walking around the streets and ruelles when nobody else is there. The river there is lovely. What nice people you met.

      Like

  5. My dream to go there… but since I am unattached it is a bit tricky eating in places like that alone.
    My brother was there last week, I wonder if it was the same evening as you?…
    And my son went there on his honeymoon four years ago.
    It seems it’s everybody’s favourite place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Oh gosh, I do know what you mean. I used to do a fair bit of travelling for work. Eating alone in restaurants was always excruciating! Perhaps if you went with a friend…

      We went on Wednesday last week. There was another English couple there, although that isn’t uncommon. But I wonder if it was him? Small world, if so.

      Like

      • No, they were there Thursday, but he remembered a tall slim attractive grey haired lady and a bearded gentleman, I thought that sounded right! But it can’t have been you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        That wasn’t us, then. I’m quite tall and grey haired (don’t know about the other adjectives!), but my husband definitely isn’t bearded!

        Liked by 1 person

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