How Moissac became exotic

In the heart of Tarn and Garonne, you can discover the town of Moissac and one thing is for sure, you won’t get lost! It has to be the most well signposted place in all of Occitanie, if not the world !

Spring is nearly here, the cherry blossoms are exploding. The bleakness of winter is being replaced by hope and the pastel colours of springtime.

The Medieval town of Moissac is around 72 kilometres northwest of Toulouse.  On the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela nestled between the Bas Quercy hills and the banks of the Tarn river in the department of Tarn-et-Garonne.

The town is known for the Abbey of Saint Peter with its world famous cloister and porch. You can stroll along the canal, the Tarn river and through the alleyways of town and admire the art deco buildings, abundant due to a horrible flood in the 1930’s which destroyed an entire neighbourhood. Luckily the Abbey was not damaged during the flood. I suppose, one could say, that it is also lucky that the town was flooded in the 30’s and not the 60’s or the neighbourhood could have been rebuilt with soulless colourless concrete high-rises. 

The Moissac Abbey of Saint Peter was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery with a fabulous Romanesque sculpture around the entrance.

The Abbey church entrance and cloisters are from the early 12th century. It is considered one of the most beautiful cloisters in the world with 76 marble columns and fine carvings on the capital stones, surrounded by a courtyard garden. The porch entrance, with intricate carvings portraying Christ and the Elders of the Apocalypse served are also something to behold. The interior is also very beautiful.

It leads to the main square Place Durand de Bredon where, laws during the time of Covid aside you can enjoy a café or glass of wine.

Le Chasselas de Moissac  local grapes

The cultivation of vines in this region dates back to Roman times. Chasselas was introduced to Moissac in the Middle Ages.

Grown on the clay and limestone plateaus of the appellation area of the north of Tarn-et-Garonne and the south of Lot, the Chasselas de Moissac grape, which has benefited from a Appellation of Controlled Origin since 1971, is popular among refined gourmets for its sweet aromas and its firm flesh.

There are all kinds of products made from this grape variety which you can find all over town, but the time for ‘degustation’ is at the end of the summer. I am sure that it is a coincidence and undoubtedly not related but I did have the best “pain aux raisins” of my life here in Moissac. 

Spring may be in the air but it was fairly chilly last week when we strolled around town on the Pont Canal du Cacor route and the back along the Tarn and through the art deco neighbourhood. Like a lot of places in France it has an air of past glory, somewhat faded but maintaining its charm all the same. Maybe it is just because I grew up on the other side of the Atlantic or perhaps because I have been unable to travel for a year, but I find the past very present here, resting comfortably and resisting the future. I mean this in a positive way. Nobody seems to be in a hurry in Moissac. Having spent numerous weeks this past year limited to strolling within one kilometre from my home, then 20 kilometres and now no longer restricted to such limits but being on curfew from 6pm every night, a day trip to Moissac was nothing short of exotic.  How lovely to walk along a different stretch of canal, then along a different river and to admire different buildings. Definitely because I grew up in Canada, I appreciated the wider sidewalks with fewer people walking on them. There were decidedly fewer electric scooters zooming past and fewer cyclists warning me from behind of their imminent passing no more than 3 millimetres to my left. Wait a minute….is it because I am Canadian or because I am getting older? One way or another I loved the peace and quiet of Moissac and the friendly vibe. I look forward to discovering more of Tarn-et-Garonne. I hope that you have enjoyed this post about Moissac.

Follow me on my travels around Occitanie……………….à bientôt Christina.

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