Tarn Map, la Corne d'Abondance du Tarn
The most beautiful villages in France, vines, beautiful castles and little paths full of gurgling streams - this is what you will find in the Pays de Cocagne (Cockaigne) ! Here everything, or almost everything, is built on a puech (hill). The villages are situated at height so there are beautiful views and a chance to climb throughout the year. Don't forget your camera, your trainers and a shopping basket in order to go back home with all the goodies of the region.
One of the most beautiful villages in France, situated above the Vère Valley and the Grésigne Forest, Puycelsi rightly means "the hill with elevated height". The foundations of the town date back to the 10th century. Then a number of wars emptied the village, which was mostly abandoned until 1960s, this is when running water was finally connected. Life came back gradually to this lovely hillside. A third of the inhabitants are foreigners (English, Canadians, Dutch, Belgian). You can walk along the 800m of fortifications and defensive towers, visit Saint-Roch Chapel, Saint-James Chapel, Capitaines Gouverneurs Castle and Saint-Corneille Church.
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Near Puycelsi is another of the “most beautiful villages in France”, also built on a limestone promontory, the bastide of Castelnau-de-Montmiral.
On a corner of one of its lovely alleyways is the Church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption and the large Place des Arcades, which has been pedestrianized. During summer guided tours of the village are available ; check with the Tourist Office for more information. Don’t miss the beautiful panorama of the Vère Valley from the top of the village.
In Gaillac, the vine is very important but so is pastel (a plant used for blue dye). Go to this dynamic and festive place to see the beautiful Saint-Michel Benedictine Abbey, located on the banks of the Tarn River. It is the third town of the department, its economic growth is from wine making ; tourism is developing. Monks first cultivated the arable lands of this terrace of the Tarn. All types of vine thrive here.
Also look for Saint-Michel de Gaillac Church, Saint-Jean de Tartage and Saint-Pierre Church.
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Rabastens is in the Tarn, but is only about 30 minutes from Toulouse in Haute-Garonne. A lot of Toulouse inhabitants come to relax here for the weekend! What can be found ? A lot of churches, approximately 25, as the commune is very spread out. Do not miss Notre-Dame du Bourg, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site for its beautiful murals. The town is situated on the roads of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle : an alternative to the road to Puy.
There are many hiking and cycling paths from the town that go in all directions. Don’t get lost, ask for a map at the Tourist Office and follow the markings.
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Giroussens, in the Pays de Cocagne (Cockaigne), has always thrived thanks to the pottery production (painted terracotta) of its inhabitants since 16th century and its ceramic centre. This hilltop village offers interesting sights to see. To view the ceramics and glazed earthenware pieces of the great Giroussens period, go to the Musée du Pays Rabastinois, in Rabastens, which isn't far. The Giroussens Ceramic Centre, shows the techniques, work and influences of contemporary ceramicists.
There is a beautiful floral park, the Jardin des Martels, which covers 35,000 m2 (376,737 ft2), which has approximately 60,000 visitors per year. There are a variety of events organised too.
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Capital of the Pays de Cocagne (Cockaigne), Lavaur is proud of its natural and historic heritage. Built close to the Agout River, it is a dynamic city with lots of appeal for tourists and inhabitants alike ; in 2012 the town was listed the 11th most dynamic town in France ! A number of industries, trades and artisans were established here, including the cosmetic group Pierre Fabre which employs more than 700 workers.
A fruit and vegetable cooperative is in charge of the sale of apples and other produce grown in the region. This is the Pays de Cocagne (Cockaigne), the climate, the rich soils and the commitment of its habitants make it a productive land.
Explore the beautiful Cathedral of Saint-Alain and the amusing Jacquemart, a golden automaton which hits a bell to tell the time. Stroll round Lavaur and admire the beautiful architecture of the Hôtel de ville (Town Hall) located in a former Second Empire style courthouse. Close to the cathedral there is an English style garden, the Jardin de l'évêché, which has majestic cedar trees and a big statue. Go via Saint-François Church to one of the most beautiful remnants of the ancient fortifications of the town, the Tour des Rondes, built with pink bricks. Lavaur Hospital is also brick built and dates from the 17th century. Cross the Pont Saint Roch over the Agout River to see the Halle aux grains (dating from the end of 14th century) and the Lavaur viaduct.
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Graulhet, and its lovely small alleyways, is either a stopover or a very good place for your holiday ! Crossed by the peaceful Dadou river, the town is near major roads. In Graulhet, traces of human civilisations dating from the Gallo-Roman period have been found. This is because of the geographical and geological location of the town. It is in a valley, on a rocky plateau surrounded by wetlands. Economically, Graulhet was recognized for the expertise of its tanners. The leather of the region was famous for its colour, strength and price. Unfortunately, the town was affected by a big social crisis at the beginning of the 20th century, followed by the Great Depression of 1929 which weakened this once booming industry. Today, the town relies on its tourist attractions and the economy is more geared towards trade, craft and sustainable development. In Graulhet, you can see the Pont vieux (old bridge) listed as a Historic Monument. There is a lovely medieval quarter with narrow alleyways and half-timbered houses. Make sure you see the Hostellerie du Lyon d'Or.
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Lautrec is located in Pays d'Agout, another 'one of the most beautiful villages in France'.
Between Albi and Castres, it is a medieval village built on a hill, facing the plain of Castres, the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) and the Pyrenees Mountains. Obviously, you know this name very well... Lautrec, which comes from the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, an extravagant and prolific artist ! Lautrec is the town of his ancestors.
Explore Saint-Rémy Collegiate Church which has beautiful furniture. Some pieces are listed as historic heritage. In the main square of the town there is a stone covered market which houses the market. At the entrance to the town the Porte de la Caussade, dating from the 13th century, is what remains of the Middle Ages fortifications. Put your trainers on and tackle the narrow medieval alleyways, made from beautiful stone and bordered by half-timbered houses. At the top of the town you will find your reward for climbing - a breathtaking view at the Calvaire de la Salette (328 metres-1,076 feet high !) and its orientation table. Lautrec is certainly part of the Pays de Cocagne with its pungent and savoury pink garlic that you can buy in the market !
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As you approach Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) you will come to Puylaurens and, as its name indicates, it is built on a "puy", a volcanic plug.
The village was built in 1258 around the castle, the Cap de Castel. Today it is a quality hotel and restaurant. Have a stroll though the town and its surrounding following the discovery trail : "Châteaux et des églises du Puylaurentais".
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