About the Midi-Pyrenees Region
IMMEDIATE LOCAL AREA
The immediate area surrounding Le Pech du Fournel comprises wooded hills divided by valleys with small rivers: the Seye, Baye and Bonnette all of which feed in to the Aveyron. Though still prevalent, there is less agriculture than in the past. Beef cattle – Blond d’Aquitaine – predominate locally with a few flocks of sheep. Here and there are crops of barley, sunflowers, alfalfa, maize and sorghum.
As soon as you start to explore, you will find an area packed with sightseeing opportunities including medieval villages, hill top castles, chateaux, rivers and wild gorges. It is a very wooded area.
The deep Aveyron Gorge cuts into the chalk and is a wonderful scene as you travel from the house to the local town of St Antonin-Noble-Val. The Gorge is a paradise for nature lovers with canoeing, rambling and rock climbing on offer.
LOCAL PLACES OF INTEREST
St Antonin-Noble-Val is a small medieval town which is located about 12kms from Le Pech. It is set alongside the River Aveyron, beneath breathtaking cliffs, where it is joined by the River Bonnette. St Antonin was so styled by the Romans (nobilis vallis) because of its impressive gorges of the Aveyron which rise up on both sides with viewpoints atop each – well worth a visit. It is the oldest town in the region with old stone houses, narrow winding streets and it boasts the oldest City Hall in France.
The town has butchers, bakers, a garage with petrol, several restaurants and cafés/bars and two medium-sized supermarkets which are well stocked. The supermarkets are open every day except Sunday afternoon.
The town market is held every Sunday morning. It has a unique atmosphere and is well worth a visit. It is a renowned market selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meat, fish, wine, clothes, jewellery and local crafts - a must for all market lovers. A wander around the streets of the old town centre will reveal very few houses built after AD 1700.
Other activities available in St Antonin include canoeing, kayaking,fishing, cycling and hang gliding. The local tourist information centre (the "Syndicat d’Initiative") provides useful information on local attractions.
St Antonin was in fact the setting for the Hollywood film "The Hundred Foot Journey", starring Helen Mirren. The film "Charlotte Gray" starring Cate Blanchett was also set in the area.
Caylus is another small medieval town which is about 10kms away. It is also worth a visit for its characterful buildings, its couple of bars and restaurants, and its more modest Monday morning market. There is also a medium-sized food shop which is handy for fresh vegetables, bread, frozen/non-perishable food and wine.
Local Places to Visit
There are many wonderful "Bastide" villages to visit locally, such as Penne, Bruniquel, Najac and Cordes-sur-Ciel. All of these villages are within easy reach and are places of outstanding beauty, with marvellous architecture and historical interest.
Other local places well worth a visit are Villefranche du Rouergue, Cahors, Figeac, Gaillac (to visit the vineyards) and Montpezat-de-Quercy.
The Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world and is well worth a day trip. It is situated in a beautiful and dramatic valley. It was built in 2004, spans 2,460 metres and stands 343 metres high, being 19 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. The bridge was designed by Norman Foster.
Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France, with unique architecture, including the Basilica of St Sernin. It is known as the "Pink City" due to the terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings. It features the Canal du Midi and sits on the banks of the River Garonne. The space centre is well worth a visit.
This Region offers a huge diversity of scenery, cuisine and activities to suit all tastes. It is very rural and there are many birds and extensive wildlife in abundance, making this area a paradise for nature lovers, especially in May and early June before the long hot summers set in.
There are also activities for the whole family, including swimming, canoeing/kayaking and other watersports, fishing, horse-riding, golf (under an hour away), tennis, shopping (especially local markets), cycling, walking and, for the more adventurous, rock climbing and hang gliding.
French cuisine is of course served at local restaurants, with regional dishes of cassoulet, foie gras and regional cheeses. Due to the extensive agriculture in the region, local fruit and vegetables are available in the restaurants and shops. The local wine growing regions of Quercy and Gaillac just to the south are not far away, and some offer tours of their vineyards.