Gorges du Tarn, France – Day 5

The ruins of Chateau de Castelbouc looking down over Castelbouc village in the Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.  Photo by Amanda.

A Small Taste of the ‘Gorges du Tarn’.

Sunday 23rd April 2017 and ‘Day 5′ of our travels.

A bit of background on the Gorges du Tarn:

The Tarn Gorges are dramatic gorges running from Le Rozier, north of Millau, to Quézac, in the Lozère department of the Massif Central, northern Languedoc-Roussillon, France.

Following the course of the Tarn River for 50 kilometres, the Tarn Gorges are among the deepest gorges to be found anywhere in Europe. They are also extremely picturesque – one of the most scenic parts of France – and offer several great vantage points from where to enjoy their beauty.  ~Information source: France This Way

Wonderful and dramatic landscape surrounded us in the Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.  Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.

Road trip again!  This time through some amazing natural scenery in the Gorges du Tarn.

It started out with a quick dash through Saint-Laurent-d’Olt with its stone bridge and run down shabby cafe, rather dull and uninspiring, so we carried on.  By Canourgue we had hit the Gorges du Tarn proper and were instantly enamoured.

Scenery en route through the Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.

These roads were narrow with steep climbs and scary descents, lots of vicious hairpin bends with accompanying sheer drops (gulp!) but so worth the extra grey hairs for the incredible views.

We found a beautiful spot with a magnificent view to eat lunch.
Amanda, my lovely travelling companion and friend.

Above is Amanda taking in the scenery at 1000 m while we stop to eat our lunch of local pate, French bread and fruit and getting a little sunburned in the process.

We thoroughly enjoyed this moment and seemed to have the entire area to ourselves until a huge white dog came bounding towards us, looking like a rabid polar bear and frightening the life out of me.

Huge spider nests the size of grapefruits were in abundance. *Shudders*

Everywhere we looked the trees were full of these huge spider nests the size of grapefruits that made us question our decision to park our bottoms on the floor to eat.  We set off again, heading towards to our next location, Sainte-Enimie

Sainte-Enimie, Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Click on the image to take you to the Office de Tourisme.

We stopped at the pretty little village, Saint-Enimie to take a few photos and stretch our legs.  I was surprised at how many people seemed to have had the same idea and I ended up joining a number of other weary travellers in paddling in the crystal clear, ice cold river, though our photos seem to be devoid of any sign of them, people that is.  Amanda, on the other hand, was a wuss and refused to get her feet wet.

The sign for Les Plus Beaux Villages de France on the way into Sainte-Enimie in the Gorges-du-Tarn.
Photo by Amanda – I was driving.

Sainte-Enimie, Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Photos by Amanda & Touch of Cinnamon.

We didn’t stay long as we’d still a good distance to travel and wanted to be back before it got too dark, you would too if you had to drive this route. 😀

The scenery continued to impress and we stopped many times to take photos and take in the incredible vistas.

Next on our list of must-see places was Chateau de Castelbouc looking down protectively over the tiny village of Castelbouc.  Stunning.

The ruins of Chateau de Castelbouc looking down over Castelbouc village in the Gorges du Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.  Photo by Amanda.

Castelbouc village with it’s ruined Chateau looking down over it, protectively and the beautiful scenery surrounding it.
Photo’s by Touch of Cinnamon & Amanda.

Looking down at Castlbouc is magical, the photo’s don’t do the view justice.  The village itself is tiny but worth taking a few minutes to explore.

Then on to our final destination of the day, this was the one I’d been looking forward to the most, Saint-Chely-du-Tarn.

Cascading falls at Saint-Chely-du-Tarn in the beautiful Gorges-du-Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon.
Swimming here was one of the highlights for me.

While the village is pretty but very small, with only a handful of sand coloured, stone buildings to talk of, it was more for the chance to experience the above (see photo) that had driven me to want to visit here.

I so wanted to go swimming in this beautiful setting, with its cascading waterfall flowing down from beneath the stone archway that was part of the village above into the blue-green river Tarn and the steeply rising, tree-covered cliffs that surrounded it.

I fell in love Saint-Chely-du-Tarn and would go back there again in a heartbeat.  For those of you that might want to do the same and go swimming here, be warned, it’s not easy, you sink up to your shins in the loose silty riverbed, which makes it incredibly hard to walk out to the deeper sections but don’t let that put you off, the place is magical.

Saint-Chely-du-Tarn in the beautiful Gorges-du-Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon.
Photo by Amanda.

View of the bridge at Saint-Chely-du-Tarn in the beautiful Gorges-du-Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon.
Photo by Amanda.

The bridge at Saint-Chely-du-Tarn in the beautiful Gorges-du-Tarn, Languedoc-Roussillon.
Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.

We’ll never forget these deep valleys, soaring mountains, geometric rock formations, ancient stone bridges spanning crystal clear waters, it’s cascading waterfalls, pretty stone villages and its abundance of nature, from butterflies, buzzards, kites, crickets, scarily large and bulbous spider web nests and the odd lizard or two and we’re sure you wouldn’t either.

Thanks again to Amanda for her contribution.  All photos are the property of myself or Amanda unless otherwise stated.

Hope you enjoyed this post and I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to posting about my trip.

Touch of Cinnamon

Chateau de la Falque – Accommodation for 3 Nights

The inner courtyard leading to our room.   Photo by Amanda.
Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France – Our Accommodation for 3 Nights.

Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.  Photos by Touch of Cinnamon.

Our Accommodation from Saturday 22nd to Tuesday 25th April 2017.

After Belcastel we took a fairly long and, as it turned out, eventful journey to our next accommodation.  A minor missed turning meant that we ended up travelling through the beautiful, historic Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt, the next town along from where we were staying.

Relais du Silence -Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.
Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.

Unfortunately, I was the one driving and had the unenviable task of trying to navigate (using the spiteful wench of a sat nav) through the smallest of cobbled streets.  She (sat nav) seemed to think that roads, a mere hand-span wider than our vehicle, are perfectly passable.  These narrow two-way streets often ended in a 90-degree turn on to yet another narrow street.  Narrow roads don’t normally bother me when I’m driving in Ireland, but in France, I found them nerve-racking, maybe because I was driving an unfamiliar hire car and didn’t want to lose my deposit!?  To both our amazement, we managed to squeeze through and were heartily pleased when we arrived at our next accommodation, ‘Chateau de la Falque’ in Saint-Geniez-d’Olt.

A taste of the narrow, two-way streets I had to drive through in Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt, France.   Images lifted from Google Maps.

 Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-d’Olt, France. 

View from where we parked. You walk under the stone archway to get to the courtyard and our room.   Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.
Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.

Nestled between Saint-Geniez-d’Olt and Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt, we seemed to have this beautiful, golden spa hotel pretty much to ourselves!  I’d have like to have learned more about the property but my French is none existent so I couldn’t ask the French-speaking receptionist for information but on my return, I spotted the following bit of info.

“Occupying a stone convent dating from the 17th century, this refined boutique hotel sits on 5 acres of parkland. It’s 1.7 km from Saint-Geniez-d’Olt village and 5.3 km from Parc naturel régional des Grands Causses.

A spa features a sauna, a whirlpool and a steam room, plus massages and treatments. There’s also a quaint courtyard and a chapel. ” 

The convent and its small complex of surrounding buildings were beautifully restored and walking through the stone archway to the inner courtyard made me feel very privileged.

Relais du Silence – Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.   This image is the property of the hotel.
Click on the image for their website.

The above image and the next two photos below are from the accommodations own website.  If you click on any of these images, they’ll take you directly to their website.

The Entrance  & our Bedroom.    These images are the property of the hotel.
Click on the image to visit the China Junior Bedroom on their website.

Our bedroom and bathroom.   These images are the property of the hotel.
Click on the image to visit China Junior Bedroom on their website.

The room was larger than expected and decorated in a pseudo-Chinese style with a great bathroom and the added bonus of a seating area.  As we were on a tight budget we used to pull the table over to the couch to eat breakfast and make up our packed-lunches before leaving for the day.  Living the high life, eh?  😀

The style of the room wasn’t really to my taste but it was large, clean and very comfortable for our three-night stay.   I only took a few snaps from inside the room but they were blurry, hence me using the hotels own photos.

Our room is the first door on the Left. Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.
Relais du Silence -Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.

The exterior of the building was definitely to my liking. It really was beautiful and a pleasure to return to at the end of a tiring day’s travels.  At night it looked particularly stunning and if we hadn’t been so tired each night, we’d have sat out in the inner courtyard with a bottle of red, but all we wanted to do when we got back, was sleep.

The inner courtyard to the rooms at night.  Photo by Touch of Cinnamon.
Relais du Silence -Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.

Views looking over the grounds and courtyard at night.  Photos by Touch of Cinnamon.
Relais du Silence -Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France.

We were surrounded by fields but only a short drive away from two towns.  There was an Intermarché with a petrol station within 5 minutes drive.

Each morning we woke to the sound of cow bells as the cattle came in for milking and in the evenings we were serenaded to sleep by the soothing mating calls of crickets. Perfect!

As for the town of Saint-Geniez-d’Olt, neither of us were particularly enamoured by it but in all fairness, we had been spoiled by some of the places we’d been lucky enough to visit prior to arriving here.  Having said that, the accommodation was wonderful and made a great base to visit some really special and beautiful villages and countryside nearby.

Chateau de la Falque in Saint-Geniez-dʼOlt, France. Photo by Amanda.

There was a spa at the hotel but we didn’t go in.  We had intended on doing so but didn’t have the time in the end, plus it was quite pricey.

There was only one minor negative to this property and that was the view out of our window, it overlooked an industrial estate of sorts.  This was the only negative detail I could point out but it still wouldn’t stop me from staying here again, in the future.

The cost for the 3-night stay was €270 + taxes for the 2 of us, making it €45 per person, per night.   We didn’t eat breakfast at the property but it was available for a fee.

Below are three little video clips.  Again I apologise for how bad they are, I was using my phone and had/have a bad knee causing me to limp, hence the jerkiness of the clips.

Thanks to Amanda for her contribution.  All photos are the property of myself or Amanda unless otherwise stated.

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.

Monestiés, France – Day 4 Cont…

Monestiés, Tarn Département, 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 Monestiés:

Monestiés is located in the Tarn Département of the Midi-Pyrénées in Southern France.  It’s 15 km east of Cordes-sur-Ciel and approximately 22 km north of Albi.

It’s a small village but it’s classed as one of the ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France and our next stop after Cordes-sur-Ciel.

Our visit to Monestiés was very brief but we got to enjoy a quick coffee sat under a young Wisteria vine before buying bread for the journey to our next lodgings in St-Geniez d’Olt.

Monestiés, Tarn Département, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Though very small, there were a wealth of various architectural styles in evidence and not one but two beautiful churches to admire. 

Monestiés, Tarn Département, Midi-Pyrénées, France

It was not until we were on the road again that we were to realise that we had actually only seen a small part of everything this village had to offer, as the village was actually split in two by the main road.  Ah well … maybe next time …

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.

Castelnau-de-Montmiral, France – Day 3 Cont…

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

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

Friday 21st April 2017 –  ‘Day 3′ of our travels (continued).

A bit of background on Castel-de-Montmiral:

The village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral is situated in the Tarn department in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France.   It has Albi to the west and Gaillac to the north-west.

It’s perched on a hilltop amongst beautiful scenery,  above the valley of the Vère river.

The village was founded as one of many bastide towns in the region in 1222 by Raymond VII of Toulouse and is among the ‘The Most Beautiful Villages in France.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

After Puycelsi it was a short trip to the hilltop village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral. Though not as pristinely restored as the village of Puycelsi, the beauty of this ‘Les plus beaux village’ lay in its authenticity and the almost palpable sense of age and history that seemed to ooze from its narrow streets and stone buildings.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Half-timbered ancient houses with overhanging balconies lined the cobbled streets leading to the centre of the village where the medieval main square, edged with dark corbel-vaulted arcades and dotted with quintessentially French bistro tables, was perfectly positioned for people watching.

Thoughtfully placed blocks of stone were also evident throughout the village, worn smooth no doubt by a procession of weary travellers through the ages struggling with the steep and winding cobbled roads as we did.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Space is obviously at a premium in Castelnau-de-Montmiral and the closely packed medieval buildings are strangely reminiscent of the Shambles at York though on a far grander scale. Even the Church (Notre Dame de l’Assomption), home to a 14th-century reliquary and a 15th-century altarpiece, came as a bit of a surprise, hemmed in as it was between dwellings and other buildings.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

There is no lack of space though in the glorious vistas to be seen from the village itself. Overlooking the river Vère and the nearby forests of La Grésigne, the views were beautiful, unfortunately, I don’t seem to have any photo’s of my own.  The photo below is by Amanda.

Castel-de-Montmiral, Tarn department, Midi-Pyrénées region, France.

All photos are either by Amanda or moi.

Thank you for coming along to take a look, hope you enjoyed it.

Puycelsi Village, France – Day 3

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

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

Friday 21st April 2017 and ‘Day 3′ of our travels.

A little bit of background on Puycelsi:

Puycelsi is in the north-west of Gaillac in the Tarn department of Midi-Pyrenees, France.  It’s a medieval walled village surrounded by ramparts and the beautiful Tarn countryside.

Its narrow streets are edged with charming 14 and 15th century stone houses with terracotta tiled roofs and wooden shutters. Unfortunately, my photos don’t do it justice but take it from me, it really is worth visiting if you’re in the area.

O.K. back to the post…

So on the 21st April, I decided to be brave and have a go at driving in France.  This was a fairly major thing for me to do but I really wanted to give it a go and I’m so glad I did.

Driving in France meant I’d be driving on the right-hand side of the road, in an area I’m not familiar with, in a car I’ve never driven before, with signs I can’t read, but I did it. Actually, I/we did it ALOT.  We covered over 2,500 km in the 18 days we were away and had a fantastic time.

After crossing myself and saying a little prayer, I tentatively set off driving in the directions of Bruniquel, the first of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France on our list. Disappointingly, we didn’t end up walking through the village as the parking was further away from the village than my poor injured knee could cope with.  I do regret that I didn’t just go for it, as the place looked lovely from the online photos I’d seen.    Anyway, we took a couple of photos of the village from a distance and carried on to our next destination…’ Puycelsi’.

Puycelsi Village nestled in the beautiful scenery in the Tarn Department of France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

The drive was really pretty, made more so by the beautiful weather we were having.  It was a delight to drive through the wonderful hilly scenery dotted with pretty towns and villages. old stone bridges and stand alone beautiful historic buildings.

We were lucky enough to see a few deer and red squirrels.

Above us was just as interesting.  The sky seemed to be full of birds of prey, which particularly thrilled Amanda, who’d intermittently let out squeals of delight that made me jump out of my skin and slam my foot on the brake a number of times.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi is set high on a plateau overlooking stunning scenery but it was the village itself that won both our hearts.  It became the benchmark for all the other villages to live up to, so much so that Amanda coined the phrase ‘it’s no Puycelsi’ when visiting other villages that didn’t meet the Puycelsi standard.

Everywhere we looked was picture perfect.  Golden stone buildings against blue skies and the lush green surrounding hills.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

View from Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

View of Puycelsi Village from a distance.
This photo is borrowed from the Internet but I can’t find the original source of the photo to accredit them.

Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

The cobbled streets were adorned with stone pots and borders filled with flowers and plants.  It was early in the season but I bet within a couple of weeks the place would be ablaze with colour.

Thankfully for me, there was also plenty of seating dotted all over the place.  This was a God send and meant I could rest my very painful, injured knee whenever it became too much. I know, suck it up, Adele!

In some of the videos I’ll be sharing from this trip, you’ll hear me huffing and puffing and generally being a feeble wench. I was in pain and struggling to walk, this wasn’t helped by the steep gradient of some of the tiny streets and that I’m so unfit. 😀

Puycelsi was a gem of a place and I really want to return with my family sometime in the future.

My travelling companion, Amanda, in Puycelsi Village, Tarn Department, France.

Bruniquel from a distance. We decided to go straight to Puycelsi and not stop here.

 

 

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

Thanks for reading.