Friday 21st April 2017 – ‘Day 3′ of our travels (continued).
On leaving Castelnaud (see my previous post), we headed towards Ambialet and it was here we hit our first road block – almost literally! The satnav was stubbornly trying to send us down a road which had been helpfully blocked by the local gendarmerie. After a few (admittedly poor) attempts at trying to force the satnav to reroute us, we were both getting a little frustrated and more than a little annoyed at finding ourselves back at the same roadblock again and again.
As tempers threatened to flare, and blood sugar crashed, we decided to go into the nearest village, stop, regroup and grab a bite to eat before heading off again. That village was Giroussens where we sat on a bench overlooking the Giroussens Panoramique, a gorgeous panoramic view over a verdant, river-ribboned valley whilst we ate an impromptu picnic of pâté, fresh French bread and fruit before moving on to Ambialet. Magnifique.
A bit of background info on Ambialet:
Ambialet is a commune in the Tarn department in southern France. It’s a small town and not on the list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France but is worth visiting for the surrounding scenery and pretty riverside location alone.
Ambialet’s castle was a stronghold of the Cathars and was sacked during the Middle Ages by Simon de Montfort.
Ambialet, which we eventually reached via a completely different route, was small but notable for the approaching scenery as much as anything else. Trailing alongside the river Tarn, steep hills and wooded valleys abounded and after a brief stop for a spot of guerrilla photography, we decided to push on to Brousse-le-Chateau.
A bit of background on Brousse-le-Château:
Brousse-le-Château is a small village in the Aveyron department of southern France, set in an idyllic and peaceful location perched on a rocky spur above the banks of the Tarn and Alrance Rivers.
It is classified as one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ and is within Regional Natural Park of the Grands Causses.
The medieval castle dates from the 13th – 15th centuries, with the towers and original castle ramparts casting their protective gaze over the pretty village as they have for more than 600 years.
The journey to Brousse-le-Château was a joy itself. The wide, crystal clear Tarn to the right of us, the Parc naturel régional des Grands Causses all around us and the occasional small but perfectly formed village made the journey fly by.
We even picked out a dream holiday home which was annoyingly already occupied by a pizza restaurant of all things (see above pic) but we could forgive that one flaw for the glorious views over the water and its abundance of turrets (a must have in Amanda’s eyes). Brousse-le-Château did not disappoint however.
More so than many of the other Bastides we would visit, there was something rather militaristic about Brousse. Just enough that one was in no doubt that this was a village that had seen considerable conflict over its long lifetime. The fortified walls remain and unlike the fairytale turrets of Carcassonne, the château here looked rather more solid and indomitable than decorative.
The perilously steep and ruggedly cobbled streets were a little perilous under foot and difficult to navigate with my dodgy knee so we were unable to venture far into the village itself but what we did see was beautiful. Its sprawling silhouette and untouched streets looking more like a set piece on a sound stage than the living, breathing village that it is. The temptation to return in a long dress and mantel will remain with me forever I suspect …
We instantly fell in love with Brousse-le-Château, the wonderful feelings that this place evoked will be ours to treasure for a lifetime. For me, I have to say, it might also have something to do with Brousse being awash with my all time favourite flowering plant, the beautifully romantic ‘Wisteria’.
As an aside, today was the first time we were to fall afoul of what was to be an ongoing adjustment problem: finding food.
Being out of season as it was, most places were closed and the few that were open kept very short hours – 12 till 2 at lunch time and perhaps 7 till 9 in the evening. After this, nothing. And I mean nothing. Even the supermarkets (when they could be found) were open for a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon. Consequently, we found ourselves scouring the streets of Cordes-sur-Ciel at 20h45 desperately searching for food.
We managed to dash into a Pizzeria just as it was about to close and they graciously served us with probably the biggest Pizza and Salad I have ever seen. Under normal circumstances, you could have fed a family of four with our meal once the bread and sides arrived but by this point, we were starving so normal be damned…
The photos are my own or Amanda’s unless otherwise stated.
Thanks for reading.