The city of Gaillac is located in the Tarn department, formerly of the region of Midi Pyrenees. When Midi Pyrenees joined Languedoc Roussillon, becoming Occitanie, it also became the region of France which produces the most wine.  Gaillac is known as one of the oldest vineyards of France (4th century BC).

The area produces a lot of quality wine, both red and white as well as a lightly sparkling white called Gaillac Perlé. Gaillac wines, less well known than some other French wines exported overseas, are definitely worth discovering. There are quite a few biological wines produced here. You will find unusual grape varieties too, such as ‘loin de l’oeil’.

The city is located about 50 kilometres north of Toulouse.  It is an easy 40 minute drive from the city and could be a perfect day trip, or an overnight destination. Most of the year, the best reasons to visit the city are to experience the local wines, or to visit the Abbey Saint-Michel and its museum. Just next to the Abbey you will find the tourism office. One side is dedicated to tourist information and the other is a boutique where you can taste and buy wines (without obligation).

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Jacques (wine taster)

In a pretty location on the river Tarn, in the gardens behind the Abbey, the city hosts concerts on Friday evenings in July and August with wine included in the ticket price.

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At this time of year the best reason to visit Gaillac is the Festival of Lanterns.  This is the second year that the city has put on the show which has attracted a huge number of spectators.  The mayor of Gaillac has some personal connections to and an affinity for China which has led to the development of certain ventures between the two countries, notably the stunning Festival of Lanterns, from 1st December until the 6th February.

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After a stroll in the old town of Gaillac and a bit of wine tasting we arrived in good spirits at the Parc Foucaud, just before 18h when the exhibition opens. Yesterday was a beautiful winter day with a brilliant blue sky that turned gradually navy blue and then black; the perfect background to the illuminated silk sculptures.  At night the lucid air showed off the naked branches of the many trees that live in the park.

The music, gentle plucked strings and flutes playing softly, enhanced the illusion of walking through an enchanted garden somewhere in China. It seemed to go on forever, each sculpture more beautiful than the next.

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The sculptures are of traditional Chinese street scenes, dragons, bamboo trees, pandas and the largest lantern ever constructed outside of China, a temple from the Tang Dynasty.

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There is also a Sichuan artisanal market, selling calligraphy, paintings, etc. There are some acrobats (the ones who make you feel very uncoordinated), performing here and there. There are a few stands selling spring rolls and thankfully hot drinks but most of the food is found at the Place de la Liberté, about 500 metres from the park.  There you will find a wine bar, beer hall and other food halls.

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The exhibition costs 16 euros if you book 48 hours in advance and twenty euros for an open ticket.  Children under 11 can go for free.

I can recommend the Festival of Lanterns to anyone of any age.  It is a magical, creative unusual event to be best enjoyed on a clear night! It is on until the 6th February 2019. Hopefully there will be a Festival of Lanterns next year as well.

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I hope that you enjoyed this post about Gaillac and the Festival of Lanterns.  Follow me to keep up with me on my travels around beautiful Occitanie.  A bientôt Christina……………




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