Belcastel, France – Day 4 Cont…

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France – The Most Beautiful Villages in France

Saturday 22nd April 2017 and ‘Day 4′ of our travels (continued).

A bit of background on Belcastel:

The incredibly beautiful village of Belcastel is situated in the Aveyron department in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.  It’s about 20 kilometres west of Rodez and most definitely a must-see place if you’re in the area.

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Continuing north, we headed cross-country to our next destination.  As we drew closer to the river Aveyron and its many tributaries, the landscape became more dramatic with lush, tree-lined valleys, rock promontories and crystal-clear rivers and streams.

Amanda on the bridge at Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

All this beauty should have prepared us for the wonder that was Belcastel but to turn a corner and suddenly see the beautiful Château de Belcastel appear as if by magic in its hidden valley was simply breathtaking.

The beautiful stone bridge at Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.
My friend Amanda in the centre photo.

Belcastel is a picture perfect, chocolate box fantasy of a village.  Spanning a sharp curve of the Aveyron River, the majority of its buildings, including the restored château, are on one side of the bank whilst the church and a sprinkling of hotels and cafes can be found on the other.

The beautiful bridge at Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Each is joined by a 15th century arched stone bridge which practically sparkled in the glorious sunshine.   Just above are a few shots of this beautiful stone bridge.

To my amazement, I saw a gentleman guiding a young woman, in a car, over this bridge. There was barely enough room but she managed to cross unscathed.  I wish I’d taken a shot of this great feat now.

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Hidden away until the early 20th century, the village was relatively inaccessible and it was as recent as the 1970’s that the château was purchased and restored by a local architect. This spurred individual property owners to join in the restoration of the village and lead to its extremely well deserved Les Plus Beaux Villages de France appellation.

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Fish scale roofs (apparently referred to lauze-roofing), thickly forested hillsides, and overhanging balconies with skirts of verdant wisteria all add to the fairy-tale-esque feel of this spectacular place. Stunning.

We visited so many beautiful historic towns and villages on our ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ trip but I have to say, Belcastel was one of my favourites.  God willing, I will come back here because this magical place deserves more than one visit.

Belcastel, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sincere apologies for the poor quality videos, that’s my doing.  It’s been pointed out to me that I should have turned my phone around.  Sorry about that.  😀

All photos and videos are the property of myself and Amanda.

Thanks for visiting.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, France – Day 4 Cont…

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France – The Most Beautiful Villages in France

Saturday 22nd April 2017 and ‘Day 4′ of our travels.

A little bit of background on Sauveterre-de-Rouergue:

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue is located in the Aveyron Département of the Midi-Pyrénées in Southern France.  It’s roughly 35 km south-west of Rodez.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Heading north, Sauveterre-de-Rouergue was our next stop. Having done a bit of research since then, it seems that this little village was something of a design project in its day

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Essentially made of nine blocks set three by three, the centre ‘block’ is a large, open, arcaded public square surrounded by eight separate blocks of buildings, each set around a garden with its own well. Not a bad bit of planning for the 13th century!

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue is a very old royal “bastide” that dates back to 1281 and retains its original layout.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

There are still lovely half-timbered or Renaissance-style houses on the main square,  with about forty-seven arcades surrounding it.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Nestled under the beautiful stone arches are a number of sweet boutique-style shops where local craftsmen and shopkeepers sell their wares.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Well off the beaten track, the village was remarkably quiet for a Saturday afternoon and we enjoyed yet another impromptu picnic in the sun before hitting the road once more.

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Sauveterre-de-Rouergue, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Thank you for taking the time to visit my site and I hope you enjoyed today’s collection of photos by Amanda and me.

Ambialet & Brousse-le-Château – Day 3 Cont…

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Aerial views of Ambialet to the left & Brousse-le-Château to the right.
Photos source unknown.

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.

Seat and view where we ate lunch in Giroussens.

Ambialet

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.

The beautiful scenery around Ambialet, Tarn Department, France.

Ambialet in the Tarn department of southern France.

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.

The beautiful scenery around Ambialet, Tarn Department, France.

Ambialet in the Tarn department of southern France.

Brousse-le-Château

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.

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

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.

Pizzeria we discovered en-route to Brousse-le-Château.

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.

The view from the bridge looking at Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

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.

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.
This photo is by Christophe Finot – Wikipedia

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

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 …

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Brousse-le-Château, Aveyron Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

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’.

My all time favourite flowering plant….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…

Brousse-le-Château by Pierre PONCHEL – Wikimedia

The photos are my own or Amanda’s unless otherwise stated.

Thanks for reading.