Tarn & Tarn-et-Garonne
The departmental capital, Albi, is well worth a visit, with plenty to fill a day out, including the Cathedral, the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, and boat trips on the River Tarn.
Following the Tarn westwards, and you will come to Gaillac, an attractive town surrounded by vines, which produce very highly regarded wines. A tour of the vineyards is highly recommended.
Head north and winding country roads take you through scenic countryside, passing picturesque hilltop towns such as Puycelci, Monestiés and Cordes sur Ciel. This latter is a superbly preserved walled bastide with narrow cobbled streets winding their way up to the tree lined square at the top from where you are afforded a spectacular far reaching view.
The Tarn-et-Garonne countryside varies from the high limestone plateau – the Causse – covered with rocky outcrops, vast oak forests and vineyards famous for the production of the fruity Cahors wine, to a more dramatic landscape of gorges carved out by meandering rivers.
The principal town is Montauban, which has a delightful old centre and a museum dedicated to one of its most famous ‘sons’, the artist Ingres.
The department also includes a number of lovely small towns and villages, including the hilltop town of Bruniquel. This latter is one of France’s official ‘most beautiful’ villages, known since the 14th century for its saffron, and for its two châteaux which tower above its cobbled streets.
Festivals and Events
A number of exhibitions are held throughout the summer at the château in Bruniquel, as well as their annual festival at the end of July/of beginning August. The programme consists of concerts and performances of works by Offenbach.
Montauban holds an annual jazz festival in early July, with a varied programme also embracing swing, blues, gospel and reggae.
Also in Montauban, ‘Les Quatre-Cent Coups’ is a week-long festival held in early September, with concerts, balls and street parties to commemorate the failed attempt by Louis XIII to besiege the town.
The ‘Fête du Grand Fauconnier’ in Cordes sur Ciel in July is a medieval festival with wonderful costumes and traditional crafts.
Activities to enjoy
The dramatic gorges cut by the River Aveyron are perfect for walking, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking. Adventure pursuits such as rock climbing, via ferrata and caving are also possible.
The area around Carmaux was known for mining in the past, and this heritage can be discovered at the Mining Museum in the town. However, a former open pit mine at Le Garric now has a new lease of life as a multi-activity centre called 'Cap découverte', offering watersports, a funpool with waterslides, cycling, rollerblading, and dry ski slopes. There is also a lakeside theatre where shows, concerts, laser light shows take place throughout the summer.
Carmaux is also the gateway to the Viaur valley gorge, which is great for hiking and mountain biking.
A popular thing to do in Albi is to take a trip on the River Tarn in a 'gabarre’, a traditional flat-bottomed boat.