Enjoy the lovely covered terrace at Saint Marty
- a focal point of the house, with its large wood oven, the huge stone arches through which you can see the pool, not forgotting the table tennis there. A perfect place to escape the heat of the summer sum, or indeed the rain from the occasional storm.
The children will love the large grounds to play in,
the swings and table tennis, the big pool and the ponds in the fields below. The adults will no doubt appreciate the lovely setting - the rolling hills, the ivy covered house and the well cared for gardens full of flowers and plants.
It is feasible to walk into the village of Castelnau-de-Lévis
along the country road, and have either a good simple meal at the Restaurant Caramel or, for a more refined, gastronomic experience, a meal at La Taverne. Be aware that the walk back to Saint Marty is slightly uphill and so a bit more of an effort, especially after some food and drink!
You can actually visit the ruins of the château
& its tower you can see from the garden. For a far reaching view, climb the 200 or so steps up to the top of the Tour de Guet (watch tower).
If you are in the area around the 21st June,
head into Albi for the evening. The whole of France celebrates the 21st June and it is known as Fête de la Musique - all the villages, towns and cities come alive to the sound of music throughout the day. Albi will no doubt put on a good show with lots of open air concerts.
Gaillac to the west of Castelnau-de- Lévis is famous
for the wine produced from the vineyards in the area. The rows of vines stretch as far as the eye can see, and the area is one of the oldest wine producing regions in France, dating back to the 10th century. Visit the tourist office in Gaillac to pick up more information about the wine and the map for the Route de Vin. And finally, don't forget to buy some of the local produce!
Whether you are 7 years old or 77 years old,
you will enjoy 'Cap découverte' at Le Garric, about 17km away. A former open pit mine, this huge space (about 1600 acres in total) has been turned into a place where you can do just about any sport - watersports, funpool with waterslides, cycling, rollerblading, dry skislopes. There is also a lakeside theatre where shows, concerts, laser light shows take place throughout the summer. And finally, not to forget its past, there is a mining museum. A fun day out for everyone.
Visit a local market to really appreciate why the French take their food so seriously
- Friday morning in Gaillac, every morning except Monday in Albi (place Lapérouse).
With Albi being so close,
you will have ample opportunity to spend some time wandering its streets. There is plenty to do in the town for quite a few trips so don't cram everything into one morning. It is a beautiful town, dominated by its red brick cathedral which is of course the first thing you should visit. Some facts - it took 200 yrs to build, is 113m in length, 35m wide, 40 m high and has a tower that is 78m high! Open all day until 18.30 between June & September. The rest of the year, it closes for lunch!
Forget the car and take the bus
into Albi for the day. The orange bus leaves from Castelnau about 8.30 am & returns around 6pm. For a Euro per person each way, you're right in the centre of things!
Take a boat ride on the River Tarn.
La Mirandole is a flat bottomed boat called a 'gabarre' which will take you along the Tarn from the foot of the Palais de la Berbie in Albi. Trips last 30 mins or there is a longer one of 2 hrs that goes from Albi to Aiguelèze and back.
Spend the day at Aigueleze (about 8km away towards Gaillac)
- a large leisure complex where you can waterski, sail, jetski, canoe, play tennis or gold, go horse riding.
Albi was also home to the famous French painter, Toulouse Lautrec.
A museum dedicated to his works and his life is in the Palais de la Berbie, it has the largest collection of his paintings in the world. Afterwards, have a wander through the French gardens at the back of the Palais, bordering on the River Tarn.
For some peace and quiet,
visit the small medieval church of Saint-Salvy, in the shade of the cathedral and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the old XIIIth century cloister.
Why not spend a day in Toulouse (76km),
easily accessible by the motorway, and wander through its streets, stop for a coffee and watch the world go by. This beautiful 'ville rose' or 'pink city' so called because of the warm coloured bricks used for many of the buildings is a lively and bustling place. Do not forget to visit the 'Cité de l'Espace' - Space City.
...should not miss the gallery Les Abbatoirs in Toulouse which houses more than 2,000 examples of modern and contemporary art from World War II to the present day (www.lesabbatoirs.org)
On your bike!
Find your way around Toulouse by bike. Cycles can be hired next to the tourist office at Place Charles de Gaulle. Rental is 2 euros per day or 1 euro for half a day. A 260 euro deposit is required.
Cordes-sur-Ciel, a beautiful bastide town
perched proudly on top of a hill, is about 23km away, perfect for a leisurely visit. Classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, you will understand why when you approach it. However, it does get very busy so go early or late to miss the crowds. A unique place.
Cordes-sur-Ciel is not the only bastide in the area
make time to visit the following - Vaour, Bruniquel, Larroque, Puycelsi, Castelnau de Montmiral, Cahuzac-sur-Vère are just a few. Prettiest by far - and most spectacular castle - is Penne.
Go buy some pink garlic in Lautrec, to the south.
The area around the town is famous for its production of garlic, with over 380 producers and at least 4000 tonnes being produced a year.
About 65 km in the Castres direction,
you will come across a completely different landscape - an area that retains a sense of mystery - the Sidobre plateau overlooking the Castres plain. Here you will find huge granite bolders shaped by the weather into weird and strange forms - find the one called Roc de l'Oie (Goose Rock) or Les Trois Fromages (the Three Cheeses). Underground rivers and grottos complete the picture. Difficult to describe but worth the visit.
Or simply do nothing at all,
apart from swim, read a few novels, swim in the pool, sunbathe, eat some good food, try the local wines and relax for the whole of the holiday.
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