The Most Beautiful Villages of France posted: 2012-07-20 10:17:00
"Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" is an official selection process of the most beautiful villages in France. These villages have been selected for the quality of their heritage, their architecture and their environment. Obtaining this classification involves a rigorous selection process and retaining it requires constant efforts. We have created a page on our website hosting all the villages that are found while walking the Camino de Santiago. Take a look at some of these beautiful villages below with links to the official website.
The village of Auvillar, is a hilltop village, largely built of local red brick. Auvillar enjoys an imposing view over the Garonne Valley. Auvillar is revealed through one of the three gateways that cuts through its fortifications and leads to the square where a circular corn exchange can be admired - the only one of its kind in Southwest France. The people of Auvillar ('Auvillarais') are well known for their hospitality. They like to welcome tourists and any visitors.
It is known that Auvillar was the site of an ancient community and was possibly rebuilt in Roman times. Auvillar has always been a magnet for artists and creatives walking the Camino. During the 12th century, Macabrun, a poet, and a musician, was born and lived in Auvillar. Later a number of Occitan poets lived there. More recently, the elaborately decorated ceramics of Auvillar were another important part of a long tradition. A remarkable collection of ceramics made in Auvillar during the 18th and 19th centuries is to be found in the Auvillar Museum of Art. Today, Auvillar is still a very attractive village for artists looking for inspiration. Painters like to spend awhile quietly appreciating the calm and serenity of the village.
Lauzerte has been listed since April 1990 as one of the "Most Beautiful Villages of France". Perched above the valleys and hills of Quercy Blanc, this fortified village founded in the 12th-century by the Count of Toulouse. It is located on the "via Podiensis", one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Many traces of its historical and religious past still remain intact, including the main square and its cobblestones, stone-built or half-timbered houses, and the pilgrim's garden.
One of the must-dos in Lauzerte is to visit Church of Saint Barthélémy. Located in the heart of Lauzerte, the church will make for a great visit. It is also recommended to take a guided tour of the village, that way you get to fully experience the history and the culture of the village. Make sure you stop at a restaurant and try the Coteaux du Quercy wines, which are the local vintage of wine.
The town of Montcuq, is a vibrant agricultural community famed for its gourmet treats such as meringues and waffles. Lying in the beautiful Quercy countryside, Montcuq is a town that has considerable charm, with its old stone buildings, a 13th-century tower and dungeon, and traditional street market. Like many towns in south-west France, Montcuq was caught up in the Cathar tragedy, having its strongholds violated and its defenders massacred on more than one occasion. The town, whose history also dates back to Roman times, has been taken by the English and ransacked by the Huguenots, giving it a turbulent and interesting past! Montcuq still has an old tower and dungeon, marking its place in history.
Montcuq has a super street market every Sunday morning, and nothing beats a leisurely stroll through the streets, browsing the colourful goods on offer and chatting to friends. A town with a Sunday market has an added advantage too, as in rural France it is unusual to find shops that are open on Sunday, so a market is a boon if you have forgotten to buy some vital ingredients for your Sunday dinner! The town is also equipped with a good selection of local shops and a couple of supermarkets. All other everyday facilities such as schools, banks, health care etc. are also easy to access here.
The town of Lectoure itself is essentially calm, with its buildings being attractive examples of old Gascon architecture, built in the distinctive pale stone of the region, there is plenty to do. A lively and warm atmosphere pervades the town centre, which offers a good selection of shops, restaurants and cafes. Located in the region of Gascony, Lectoure is no exception to the hospitality of the region that has a proud gastronomic tradition. In Lectoure, you will find plenty of bars and restaurants offering Gascon hospitality and cuisine at its very best. Local specialities include duck, Foie Gras and, of course, Armagnac. It may not be the best place to be if you are on a strict diet, but if you enjoy excellent French cuisine then Lectoure is superb.
The town of Lectoure has been officially designated a town of art and history by the French minister for culture and communication, offering some interesting museums, including an archaeological museum and a museum of religious art, and there is also much of historical interest in the town itself. Once an important military town in Gallo-Roman times, Lectoure was a strongly fortified town, and it is possible to find parts of the ramparts still existing today.
The one thing that makes Moissac a household name in the history of art is the cloister and porch of the abbey church of St-Pierre, a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture and the model for hundreds of churches and buildings elsewhere. Indeed, the fact that it has survived countless wars is something of a miracle. During the Revolution, it was used as a gunpowder factory and billet for soldiers, who damaged many of the sculptures. In the 1830's it only escaped demolition to make way for the Bordeaux-Toulouse train line by a whisker.
The famous south porch, with its magnificent tympanum and curious wavy door jambs and pillars, dates from this second phase of building. It depicts Christ in Majesty, right hand raised in benediction, the Book of Life in his hand, surrounded by the evangelists and the elders of the Apocalypse as described by St John in the Book of Revelation.
The adjoining cloister is entered through the tourist office, and if you want to experience the silent contemplation for which it was originally built, get there first thing in the morning. The cloister surrounds a garden shaded by a majestic cedar, and its pantile roof is supported by 76 alternating single and double marble columns. Each column supports a single inverted wedge-shaped block of stone, on which are carved with extraordinary delicacy all manner of animals and plant motifs, as well as scenes from Bible stories and the lives of the saints. An inscription on the middle pillar on the west side explains that the cloister was made in the time of Abbot Ansquitil in the year of Our Lord 1100.
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