The Lure of Southwest France

The old Pont Vieux bridge over the Tarn and Sainte-Cécile Cathedral - © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

Southwest France is an ideal choice for a holiday to enjoy a pleasant mix of scenic landscapes and outdoor activities, historic villages, beautiful rivers and soaring mountain vistas.  We thought the Tarn River valley would make a perfect central location in a peaceful area, where they say you’ll likely notice more sheep than tourists. Of course, that’s exactly what you would expect on the home ground of famous Roquefort cheese.

On a significantly loftier note, the spectacular Millau Viaduct, the world’s tallest bridge, spreads across the valley in a monumental bow to skillful engineering – simply a breathtaking sight!

In the heart of Southwest France, Toulouse anchors the region as the largest city.  The Mediterranean is just 2 hours away, and the Tarn region lies between the Pyrenees mountain range and the Massif Central.

For our weekend sojourn, we opted to stay at the Hostellerie les Magnolias.  Located in the ultra-charming village of Plaisance, just 20 miles from Albi, the inn has gorgeous terraces, authentic fireplaces, comfort and hospitality – a 3-star hotel with 22 unique rooms. Families might prefer one of the many vacation rentals available in the region to enjoy more space and the full conveniences of home.

We especially enjoyed the range of cultural, natural and historic discoveries. We visited Albi’s Toulous-Lautrec Museum, home to the largest single collection of his works. Henri was born in Albi and generously bequeathed his collection to the village.

The lush Tarn River Gorge – © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

From a far different perspective, we were fascinated with the many prehistoric wall paintings in the Dordogne caves near Lascaux and Rouffignac.  Saint Cyprien drew us into its’ serene medieval commune.  Narrow, winding lanes climb the hill to the 12th century bell tower and the Saint Cyprien Abbey.  Cordes-sur-Ciel is an equally beautiful hilltop village, a bastide – fortified town – with some exceptional 12th and 13th century buildings. When Albert Camus visited the town, he was said to observe, “In Cordes, everything is beautiful, even regret”.

Like so many enchanted travelers before us, we let our spirit lead the way to one after another of beautiful scenes, lively markets, quiet riverside banks and quaint, friendly villages. It is pleasure to explore, and one we hope to revisit.

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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