Buy some fresh croissants for breakfast at the local patisserie in the main square in Castelnau-de-Montmiral
(a 5 min drive away). If you are keen, it opens at 7.30am! Enjoy them over a prolonged al fresco breakfast outside under the wisteria-covered terrace.
If you are feeling energetic, there are tennis courts
at the bottom of the road to La Palfessière at Place de Gresignes (open July & August). It is advisable to book in advance if you know when you would like to play. This is done by calling in at the Bar and booking with the girl there. Non tennis players can have a gentle paddle round the leisure lake on pedaloes or canoes.
The market at Castelnau-de-Montmiral is every Tuesday and is a must for all your fresh fruit and veg
and also a wide range of charming local pottery and craft. You can relax after your shopping with a drink in the square and watch the world go by whilst a pianist plays!
A visit here would not be complete without a canoe trip down the Aveyron.
Drive to Najac to hire your canoes. If you take a picnic with you there are lots of lovely spots to draw in at as you go down the river. There are a couple of steepish shoots/rapids, which are easy to navigate but you will probably get wet!
Visit the towns that make up the 'Golden Triangle' of this area
- Gaillac, Cordes-sur-Ciel and Albi are not very far away and are well worth a visit or two.
Gaillac is the nearest town to La Palfessière.
It is well known for the wine produced from the vineyards in the area. Rows of vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. 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 of course don't forget to buy some of the local produce! There is a very good Cave on the right just over the railway crossing into Gaillac from Palfessiere.
- a true bastide town that rises majestically from the land around it. You will have to park and walk to the top - and it is a very steep walk - but the stunning view form the top is worth it all. Then there are a host of hotels and restaurants there. In the square there are artists who will willingly draw an amazingly perceptive and vital portrait of your loved one/s to cherish forever!
Whilst in Cordes, visit some of the museums:
a fascinating museum that shows the development of Cordes over the centuries is tucked down a side street off the main square; a beautiful sugar making factory, but beware you might not get past the tempting creations in the shop at the front! And of course, there are some beautiful craft shops here too. Best to take restricted funds with you if you don't want to spend too much, and at least the walk back to the car with your purchases is down hill!
Albi and its awesome Cathedral is a must
and the tour of the choir cloister is worth it for the extra 2 euros. The peace and cool of this building is very moving. From the Cathedral you can take a selection of 'walks' around the town that take you up charming back streets and across the River Tarn. It is fascinating to see the old mills that flank the River and bear witness to the milling history of the area.
Of course, if you are keen on art, a visit to this area would not be complete without a trip to the Museum of the famous French painter Toulouse Lautrec.
The museum in the Palais de la Berbie (Albi) has the largest collection of his paintings in the world!
To get a better riverside view of Albi you can even take a trip in a flat bottom boat down the River Tarn.
You have a choice of a half hour trip or two hours! Trips depart from the foot of the Palais de Berbie, returning for a leisurely meal that you can eat outside in the shadow of the Cathedral or beside the River itself.
Quieter Bastide villages in the area are also hidden treasures in their own right!
Nearby Puycelci has beautiful views and a choice of outdoor eating areas that have shaded terraces. Throughout the summer outdoor concerts are held on the lower terraces and the music filters through the quiet streets.
Bruniquel and Najac are other bastide villages worth a visit.
Bruniquel has been described as 'one of the most beautiful villages in France'! You can visit the chateau these unaccompanied or guided (every day in July and August). Najac has lots of shops that the children adore and several first class restaurants&.
Spend the day at the Cite de L'Espace,
just outside Toulouse - perfect for adults and older children. Exit 17 from the Toulouse ring road (part of the A62 Bordeaux to Montpellier Autoroute) and follow the signs. Here is a showcase for the space technology that happens in Toulouse. There are some excellent interactive exhibitions and shows with guided tours and lectures available. You can spend a day here or combine it with a visit to the Airbus factory; Europe's largest aircraft factory. Here guided tours take 1 ½ hours and must be booked in advance. It is great for older kids and the extended tour includes Concorde.
For younger children, take them to L'Azinet,
near Sarrant where there are lots of donkey rides and horse drawn carriages to go on. After a brief explanation you are left to ride your donkey round a short track at your own pace! Older children can ride in a horse drawn carriage. There are also more animals to see at the small farm.
If the children are interested in animals,
the African Safari, 18km west of Toulouse on the south side of the D82 between Fonsorbes and Le Salvetat Saint Grilles, will keep them amused. There are over 500 animals to see including ostriches, zebra, rhino and lion! You drive through the first part of the reserve.
Take the children to the Walibi Theme Park,
at the Chateau de Cadouin just outside Agen. It is open 1st May until the end of October. It even has rides for younger children so the whole family is catered for! It has traditional theme park rides and some lovely water based rides. Go early to make full use of it. And plan a quiet day at La Palfessière afterwards to rest your weary legs!
If you would like a day of walking,
simply leave the house and walk up the hill where you will soon have spectacular views of Castelnau-de-Montmiral nestled on the opposite hillside. You can follow the road up to the woods, Foret Gresigne. Outside the hunting season you can walk here for hours, just be careful to remember which track you take so you don't get completely lost!
If you are a keen artist,
the semi-Tuscan landscape of the area with its warm, Mediterranean light and undulating hills will be an inspiration, especially when the sunflowers are in full bloom. Simply take the car and have a drive around, stopping to paint when you feel like it. Driving out towards Salvagnac along the D28 road there are a host of breath taking views you will long to capture on canvas!
Visit Les Abbatoirs in Toulouse
This art gallery houses over 2,000 pieces of modern and contemporary art from World War II to the present day. Admission is around 7 euros (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.
From the markets you can buy a wide selection of delicious fish,
(fish is sold on the square in Castelnau-de-Montmiral on Friday mornings from 9 - 10, through July and August). In the autumn there is an amazing range of mushrooms (cepes), which it is great fun to buy and taste at leisure. The youngsters however do zero in on the pizza stall, at the market! They do at least make an easy evening meal.
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