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 …

Cordes-sur-Ciel, France – Day 4

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel

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

A bit of background on  Cordes-sur-Ciel:

Cordes-sur-Ciel is located in the Tarn department in the Midi-Pyrénées region of southern France.  It’s approximately 1 hour 15 minutes north-east of Toulouse and 30 minutes north-west of Albi.

If you’re in the region, Cordes is an absolute must, just be prepared that it’s very steep and can be very busy in high season.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Day four and we were on the move again to our next location but not without wringing every drop of sightseeing that we could in the process.  Painfully aware that not only was it a Saturday and so market-day but also a blissfully sunny day, we headed into the small hilltop town of Cordes-sur-Ciel expecting to be crushed in our first French crowds.  Instead, though it was undeniably busy, it was cordially so and we were easily able to drive to the very pinnacle and admire the once again glorious views before exploring the town itself.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

I honestly feel that our fleeting visit did not do Cordes-sur-Ciel justice.  More ‘touristy’ than the places we had seen so far, this was nonetheless very tastefully done with a greater emphasis on local crafts and artisanry than the usual grockle bait.*

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Amazingly well-preserved, it was one of the larger bastide’s we were to visit and consequently there much to see and many narrow roads to explore.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Established in the early 13th century, Cordes quickly became prosperous on the back of its cloth, silk and leather trades and the stunning architecture reflects the success of its merchants. Gothic arches abound and almost everywhere you turn there are beautiful sculptural touches to the buildings in an array of differing styles.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Much of the towns surrounding walls are also intact and we would often turn a corner to see a grand and imposing gateway framing a picture-perfect view of the skies and valley beyond.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel is a must see in the region and we were very lucky to see it in such glorious sunshine and relatively calm. It is noted for its crowds once the season starts in earnest.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

*Grockle bait. A phrase is taken from the south of England where ‘grockle’ refers to the migratory tourists that flood into the more popular coastal towns of Devon and Cornwall the minute the sun so much as peeps out from behind a cloud. ‘Grockle bait’ therefore refers to those products and/or stores which cater almost exclusively to said, tourists. Usually overpriced, under-appointed and thoroughly scowled upon by the natives. We saw the same brand of pâtés de Foie gras being marketed as produced locally in just about every town and village we visited…

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn Department, Midi-Pyrénées, France.

Special thanks to Amanda for her wonderful photographs and words for this post.

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.

Château Labistoul (Our Accommodation) – Day 2

Château Labistoul – View as we approached our accommodation.

After collecting the hire car from Enterprise in Carcassonne we set off for the next leg of our trip.  We were heading two hours north to Campes close to Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn department, southern France.

Amanda was the first to try driving here and did a brilliant job.  We were lucky enough to be given a car with an inbuilt sat nav.  It also helped that we’d paid extra for an automatic car as it gave us one less thing to be worrying about..gears.

The journey from Carcassonne to Cordes-sure-Ciel was lovely, as was the weather.   We pulled over on the way to eat a quick sandwich overlooking vineyards and the dwindling view of the breathtaking Pyrenees we’d left behind.

We arrived at our accommodation around 5 pm and were met by one of our Dutch hosts, Marjo.  Marjo was really attentive, helping us with our luggage and getting us settled into our extremely spacious accommodation set in an 11th-century property.

Prior to arriving we’d booked to have dinner on the evening of our arrival, so while we were waiting we took the opportunity to walk around the property and take a few photos.

Dinner was delicious, unfortunately, the photos I’d taken were all blurred so I couldn’t add them.  At dinner, we also got to meet Jacques, Marjos’ husband who was equally attentive and great company. They’re a really lovely couple and helped make our stay a truly wonderful experience.

We spend two nights in this magical property and hope to return for longer as there’s so much to see in this beautiful area. I’ll be writing further posts about the other wonderful places we visited in this area sometime soon.

We paid €196 + taxes for the two of us for two nights, breakfast was included in that price. We paid an additional €25 each for our three-course meal that we had on the evening of our arrival.

Château Labistoul – Front View / Parking / Entrance

View of the separate rentable Gite situated next to Château Labistoul.

Château Labistoul – Side of building after coming through the main gates.

Wonderful Château Labistoul and the beautiful grounds surrounding the property.

Château Labistoul – View looking back to the side of the property & the gated entrance.

Château Labistoul – View of the entrances to both our private Living Room (door to the right) & Bedroom (left). Plus private Outdoor Seating Area.

Château Labistoul – Private Living Room with sofa bed and coffee & tea making facilities.

Château Labistoul – Bedroom With double doors leading out to the private outdoor Seating Area.

Château Labistoul – Same Bedroom but looking towards the Hall.

Château Labistoul – Private Bathroom leading onto Hall / Stairs / Bedroom & private Living Room.

Château Labistoul – The sink area in the Bathroom with slit window to the left of the sink.

Château Labistoul – Bathroom window is a small slit in the thick, stone wall.

Château Labistoul – Hall & Stairs from our rooms.
You go via the Hall to get to the Bedroom, private Living Room, private Bathroom & shared upstairs Dining Room.

Château Labistoul – Upstairs shared Dining Room.

Château Labistoul – Upstairs Dining Room with old loom, set right above our rooms. We weren’t disturbed by any noise during our stay.

Château Labistoul – Antique sideboard in the Dining Room.

Château Labistoul – Hall leading to Bedroom, private Living Room, private Bathroom, Stairs & double doors leading out to the back of the property.

Château Labistoul – Back view of the property. Double doors leading out from the Hall.

Château Labistoul – The beautiful grounds surrounding the property.

Château Labistoul – Beautiful Outdoor Seating / Dining Area / Courtyard.

Château Labistoul – The beautiful grounds surrounding the property.

Château Labistoul – Wall enclosing the outdoor Seating / Dining Area.

We booked via booking.com, see the following link.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/chateau-labistoul.en-gb.html?aid=311076;label=chateau-labistoul

This is the owners’ website:

http://www.chateaulabistoul.fr/new/index.php/en/

All photos are either the property of Amanda or moi.  I hope you enjoyed them.