The French Midi-Pyrénées is one of the largest and most varied regions in France, exploring it on a recent trip allowed me to become familiar with an area that I knew very little about.
Saint Antonin Noble Val is situated on the Aveyron River and next to the impressive gorge of the same name. It is one of the4 main towns and has a long history which dates way back to the 9th century. It was involved in the war with the English in the 14th century and played an important role as a Protestant stronghold in the Wars of Religion. It has been besieged on more than one occasion by armies, the nearby flooding river and a movie company for the production of Charlotte Gray in which Cate Blanchett starred.
Many of the buildings date back to the early beginnings of the town, some are Romanesque in design and line the extremely narrow streets. Wandering through these streets it is easy to imagine them bustling with merchants trading in leather or cotton goods and their customers.
The remnants of the industries are still visible with the tannery and communal washing facilities easily discoverable with a short wander through the town.
The Midi-Pyrénées is a great region for those that like adventure and activites that raise the adrenaline level. Walking is very popular with Grande Randonnées (walking routes) throughout the area of outstanding beauty. The granite plateaus of Causses and the Cévennes were also included on the UNESCO World Heritage sites in June 2011. Climbing is another very popular activity with thousands of routes in the gorges and many more first ascents yet to be made. Via ferrata is becoming increasingly accessible with new routes being added and maintained.
With so many rivers weaving their way through this region there is not any great surprise that kayaking is one of the most popular activities here. The rivers looked quite low and calm during the summer but I feel sure that there is a little more whitewater in winter for more experienced paddlers. Parapenting, bungee jumping, microlighting and even BASE jumping are all possible in this adventure playground for adults and chiuldren alike.
It is not all high octane adrenaline sports in The Aveyron region of Southern France. Boules is a popular pastime with all age groups within the French community. Young and old often make their way down to their favourite corner of town which has a small patch of gravel, especially set aside for playing boules. It is as much a social occasion as a sport, but do not even think of mentioning it is anything less than serious!
The pace of life in the Aveyron region of the Midi-Pyrénées is probably slower than most of us are used to. Being late is normal, it does not matter there is not any reason to be on time, because there is plenty of time. This dog taking a mid-morning nap in Ste Eulalie de Cernon typifies the attitude, seems to me this is the right way to live, no stress, no worries. It’s a dogs life!
I am not totally sure why but when this lone carousel near the tourism office of Montauban was spotted I could not help but smile. It appears a little out of place with nothing else around and never actually saw it working but for some reason it brightened my day, possibly subconsciously thinking back to my childhood. It was a particularly pretty and intricate carousel but then maybe that was just the way I wanted to see it.
Najac in the Aveyron is justifiably very proud of its lovely castle, however even without this famous landmark in view it is easy to see why this village is considered one of the most beautiful in the whole of France. The village is even included on Les Plus Beaux Villages de France which is a prestigious list of the most lovely villages in the country.
The village is dominated by its castle which is also known as the royal fortress of Najac. It dates back to 1253 and was built by the villagers themselves and has been listed as a monument historique since 1925.
The Millau Viaduct is just so photogenic, I never tired of snapping away at it. This is a view from a boat of the Bateliers du Viaduct from the River Tarn. It has even more of an artistic perspective from this angle.
It is certainly worth taking a boating trip down the Tarn River and under the amazing Millau Viaduct.
The Bateliers du Viaduct run a small group cruise tour on the river, there is plenty of scenery and wildlife to see, but in this case it is the man made constructions which take pride of place.
The viaduct is the obvious highlight, dominating the landscape for miles around and is the tallest bridge in the World. It has also recieved an IABSE Outstanding Structure Award in 2006.
The cruise takes place in the Grands Causses regional park and another major highlight is the picturesque village of Peyre built into the steep hillside with its troglodyte church.
The guides English can vary but they manage to convey the information and make the cruise of maximum interest and it does not appear rushed in anyway.
A pleasant way to spend a few hours in the Aveyron.