From Toulouse, a visit to the vineyards and bastide towns of the Tarn is an easy day trip which will leave you relaxed and chilled out in no time.
Known as a wine producing region, scattered with picturesque bastide towns, le Tarn is the department where the episcopal city of Albi is located. Albi is lovely, sitting on the banks of the river Tarn, home to the museum of Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec, the city’s most famous artist.
Gaillac is even closer to Toulouse than Albi, accessible in about 45 minutes via the A68. It doesn’t take long, once you’ve left Toulouse to feel like you have escaped to the country. Bucolic pastoral beauty replaces the electric buzz of the city as soon as you get out of the suburbs.
Lisle-sur-Tarn is a pretty bastide town with a couple of nice restaurants, in la place Paul Saissac. The Museum Raymond Lafage is just beyond the square, showing various art exhibitions. There is also a chocolate museum, which was closed when we visited (monday), which was probably a blessing in disguise as the effects of lockdown are still showing a little around my middle. Monday is a quiet day in the country, but as calm and tranquility is what we were after it wasn’t a problem.
A bastide is a fortified town. These towns were mostly built in the south of France during the Middle Ages. Most bastides were built between 1229 and 1373, between the Albigensian Crusade and the Hundred Years’ War.
Today, there are around 400 bastides distinguished by a central square, and a rectangular street layout. On the market square, the houses all have arcades.
Château Lastours is an old family winery located between Lisle-sur-Tarn and the city of Gaillac, in the heart of the Gaillac appellation. A must if you’re in the area. 🍷
Gaillac is just a few minutes further on up the road. There is plenty to do in Gaillac, which you can read about here.
If you decide to bypass Gaillac, as we did on this occasion in search of quiet villages you will find Castelnau-de-Montmiral.
Castelnau-de-Montmiral is typical of the bastide towns in the South West. The square is surrounded by covered walkways and sits in the centre of the village which was founded in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse.
There is a panoramic view of the countryside where you can get a little perspective.
Puycelsi is another lovely village, built on a rock overlooking the Vère river. You can visit the governor’s castle, the St Roch chapel and admire the 16th century houses.
These are just a few of the villages on the touristic circuit or discovery roads known as ‘des Bastides Albigeoises’ (Albigensian fortified towns).
The most famous is probably Cordes-sur-Ciel, a very pretty town with a modern art museum and stunning views of the local countryside.
Bruniquel is another beautiful village which is famous for its castle, and 12th century keep. You can visit the castle and admire the gothic and renaissance architecture. It is also famous for having been the set of Le Vieux Fusil, a film starring Romy Schneider and Philippe Noiret set during WWII.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post about the bastide villages of the Tarn region. I look forward to adding more pictures as I visit more of the bastide towns in the area. “Follow” me to keep up with me on my travels around Occitanie….…………….à bientôt Christina