Within the newest of his guides to mild nature and tradition breaks in Occitanie, Justin Postlethwaite heads to Revel and the Canal du Midi heartland.
Few French summertime experiences are fairly so exhilarating because the second one emerges from a tranquil, shaded side-street of a bastide city into the sun-kissed buzz and great thing about a Saturday morning market in full stream.
Within the attractive most important sq. at Revel, named Place Philippe VI de Valois after the king who based the village again in 1342, so begins my ‘gradual tourism’ weekend jaunt taking in Haute-Garonne’s very good vary of easy-paced tourism gems and back-to-nature choices.
The market at Revel, which sits on the foot of the Montagne Noire (Black Mountain) about an hour southeast of Toulouse, counts among the many 100 most stunning in France. As if shopping its high-quality array of fruit and vegetable stands, charcuterie, bread and cheese purveyors – all framed by shaded arcades with cafés, eating places and boutiques – weren’t sufficient, extra magic (and respite from the late-morning solar) awaits inside the iconic lined Les Halles at its epicentre.
This stunning picket development, measuring 39m on either side, and supported by 79 oak pillars, is topped by a high-quality (and uncommon for this a part of France) Neo-Classical belfry from 1834, whose 83 steps I climb within the firm of a wonderful information known as Marie – you should definitely guide her insightful providers prematurely by way of the vacationer workplace, housed inside the belfry constructing itself (excursions depart at 11am each Saturday).
The 360-degree views from atop are chic: first, there are the purple canvas stalls instantly under, a snake of keen buyers queueing alongside every; then, past, the neatly divergent grid of streets so acquainted in bastide cities; and at last the sprawling countryside of the Pays de Lauragais past the city limits. However equally spectacular up listed here are the smells.
Wafting up from traiteur vans under come whiffs of cassoulet (we’re within the heartland of this iconic meaty, beany speciality), roasting meats and different ready-to-eat sizzling goodies. An on-high deal with for all of the senses, certainly.
Identified to me is the home at Quantity 5, the place a sure Pierre-Paul Riquet lived from 1648. The driving power behind that monumental feat of engineering, the Canal du Midi, was based mostly right here as he ventured out into the Montagne Noire Massif and the Lauragais Plain to develop an progressive hydraulic community consisting of two rigoles (diversionary water channels) and reservoirs. At the moment these water sources function idyllic gradual tourism hotspots for outside lovers (extra of which later).
Keep cool and cultured
Cultural establishments serve two functions on a sizzling summer season’s day in southern France: to counterpoint the thoughts, and to offer solace from the scorching warmth. So after a hearty and conventional Occitan lunch (sure, the duck gésier salad was scrumptious) at Bistronome on close by boulevard de la République, I head to the MUB (Musée du bois et la Marqueterie), a really elegantly offered celebration of not solely Revel’s grand custom of woodworking, but additionally the city’s continued position as a hub of artisanal excellence and pupil abilities improvement. In broad phrases, the museum’s a number of flooring invite guests alongside on a chunk of wooden’s journey, from tree to furnishings. Alongside the best way, a ‘wooden library’ showcases 200 species of wooden, whereas the trades space options a big assortment of craftsmen’s instruments. There are movies and fashions to encourage and educate and I discovered the museum informative and restful – what could possibly be extra ‘gradual’ and measured than a tree’s progress or a woodworker’s meticulous artisanship? Add to this an insightful delve into the painstaking wonders of marqueterie – ornamental veneer patterns – and you’ve got the right approach to spend an couple of hours within the cool.
Late within the afternoon I head to a different one of many very important items in Riquet’s magnificent puzzle: the Saint-Férreol lake, which was dammed and constructed over 4 years from 1667 to offer water energy for the Canal du Midi’s locks throughout the dry season. At the moment it’s a leisure and outside pursuits magnet, with small sandy seashore areas and all method of actions, from pedalos and bathing to household orienteering enjoyable (decide up the Koh Férreol sport pack from the Revel vacationer workplace). The cool waters are most welcome, even for a dip-your-toes second.
Lac to the long run
That night, after driving ten minutes west of Revel, I wind my method as much as fringe of the hilltop magnificence, Saint-Félix-Lauragais, the place I enjoy a chic eating expertise on the très stylish hotel-restaurant, Auberge du Poids Public. Not solely is the delicacies distinctive (the tempura sardines with inexperienced bean salad are a marvel; the just-pink magret de canard with cherry jus discount all one might hope for), however the rear terrace views and impeccable service mix to make for a memorable meal. I promise to return, maybe in a cooler season, to pattern their very extremely rated cassoulet.
Subsequent morning, a remnant of Monsieur Riquet’s undertaking presents me with a very pleasant Sunday escapade: considered one of his two aforementioned little rigoles, the Rigole de la Plaine, is ideal for following on foot or bike, alongside a well-maintained pathway that ribbons via a cover of timber. It could be man-made however for the outside lover, the delights of this mild babbling waterway are Mom Nature’s personal: the tweeting of birds and chirrup of bugs; geese pootling alongside en famille; and the occasional canine on a stroll, bounding into the water for a refreshing dip. Cute outdated stone bridges, completely nonetheless golden wheat fields and a couple of dreamy stream-side property present extra eye-pleasing distraction.
My place to begin is Lac de Lenclas, from the place I observe the watery path all the best way over to Saint-Férreol and again once more, a round-trip of about two hours and quarter-hour.
It’s largely flat, after all, however the possibility of an electrical bike rent from the great folks at Station Bee was irresistible. They drop off the bike earlier than after which gather it once more after the experience, the place they discover me fortunately nursing a pre-lunch pression on the splendid guinguette close by. Had I engaged my bike’s electrical battery turbo at any level to relaxation my wearying limbs? That’s between me and the geese, I’m afraid… After lunch, there’s time for one remaining shot of chilled-out tradition, so it’s again up the hill to Saint-Félix-Lauragais. When you enter the pristine village sq. of this medieval charmer, its colombage (picket) homes, elegant restaurant terrasses and spectacular picket market corridor could have you questioning if the fashionable world actually exists in any respect.
I head for the panoramic viewing submit to soak up wide-reaching vistas of the Montagne Noire and, on a transparent day like this, the Pyrenees, earlier than heading to the village’s show-piece constructing, the château. It has stood sentry over the Lauragais plateau for greater than seven centuries and is residence to a dynamic array of latest artwork exhibitions. And who must be there to supply historic titbits on the fortress? Marie the information, after all. It dates from 1035 however was largely razed by Simon de Montfort throughout the Albigensian Campaign, earlier than medieval reconstruction. Additional enhancements by personal house owners reveal themselves like time journey as you progress via the handful of rooms open to the general public – don’t miss the Florentine mosaic room. The commune lastly bought the château to make sure its future as a public constructing at a value of round €3m.
In in the present day’s hectic occasions, gradual tourism-the mild artwork of French dwelling mixed with the seductive energy of nature with a deal with sustainability – actually is one thing to be embraced. If you need off-the-beaten-track escapism and the perfect of French hospitality, tradition and outside pleasures, Pays de Lauragais within the south-eastern tip of Haute-Garonne comes with a five-star suggestion.
Fly to Toulouse airport from a variety of UK airports or Paris. Revel is about an hour away, taking the A61-D38-D2
The place to remain
The 17-room Logis Hôtel-Restaurant du Midi in central Revel provides comfy rooms and a shaded backyard, best for an out of doors petit déjeuner.
Haute-Garonne Tourism: www.hautegaronnetourism.com
Revel Vacationer Workplace: tourism.auxsourcesducanaldumidi.com
From France At the moment Journal
Lead photograph credit score : Saint-Felix © Tourisme Occitanie
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