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AUVERGNE-RHÔNE ALPES REGION

Departments : Ain, Allier, Ardèche, Cantal, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône, Métropole de Lyon, Savoie, Haute-Savoie.

Population: 8 million

Prefecture : Lyon

Surface area: 69,711 km2

Specialities: Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhône and Savoy wines, Lyon specialities (quenelles, cervelles de canut, saucisson.), potée auvergnate, Savoy specialities (raclette, fondue, tartiflettes, diots, crozets), cheeses (beaufort, reblochon, cantal, bleu d'Auvergne, Salers, saint-Nectaire...), green lentil of Le Puy, waters (Evian, Thonon, Volvic) verbena, chartreuse.

Sports clubs: Olympique Lyonnais, AS Saint-Etienne, Clermont Foot 63, Grenoble Foot 38 (football). ASM Clermont, Lyon OU, FC Grenoble, Stade Aurillacois, US Oyonnax (rugby union), ASVEL Villeurbanne (basketball), Chambéry (handball), Brûleurs de loup Grenoble, Pionniers de Chamonix (ice hockey)

Competitions: women's football world cup, ski competitions (Première neige criterium in Val d'Isère), Tour de France mountain passes, Critérium du Dauphiné.

Economy: (8th European region) high-tech industries, automotive (Berliet), metallurgy, rubber, plastics, chemicals, electronics, agri-food, textiles, digital, banks, universities, public services, winegrowing. tyres (Michelin). Design. New technologies (Inovallée) Winter and summer tourism. 

Festivals: Fête des Lumières in Lyon, Nuits de Fourvière in Lyon, quais du polar in Lyon, biennale du design in Saint-Etienne, classical music festival in La Chaise-Dieu, etc.

Sights: Old Lyon and Croix-Rousse, Le Puy-en-Velay cathedral, Lake Annecy, Chambéry castle, winter sports in Isère, Savoie and Haute-Savoie, Cantal, spa resorts, Auvergne volcanoes. Caverne du Pont d'Arc. Château de Grignan. Grenoble Bastille. Vulcania. Parc des Oiseaux.

Website: www.auvergnerhonealpes.fr

CANTAL (15)

Population: 144,379

Prefecture: Aurillac              

Sub-prefectures: St Flour, Mauriac

Surface area: 5,726 km²

Specialities: 5 PDO cheeses (Cantal, Salers, Saint-Nectaire, Bleu d'Auvergne, Fourme d'Ambert), charcuterie (sausage, pâté, fritons, local ham....), truffade (made with potatoes and Tome du Cantal), pounti (a sweet and savoury flan with prunes), bourriols (pancakes), Cornet de Murat, Tarte à la Tome (desserts), Gentiane Couderc, Avèze, Salers, Le Birlou, Le Tonton (aperitif and liqueur), Croquants de Salers and de Trizac.

Sports clubs: Stade Aurillacois Cantal Auvergne (rugby, Pro D2), Football Club Aurillac-Arpajon (women's Ligue 2, men's CFA 2), Saint-Flour Handball (N1).

Competitions: Ultra Trail of Puy Mary-Aurillac, La Pastourelle (hiking, mountain biking, running), Marcolès International Cycling Criterium, l'Etape Sanfloraine (gran fondo) and L'Antonin Magne (gran fondo).

Heritage: Puy Mary, villages of Salers and Tournemire, St-Flour, 8 "small cities of character", Garabit Viaduct built by Gustave Eiffel, Chaudes-Aigues and the Par spring with water at 82°, Le Lioran ski resort, Châteaux of Val and Anjony, Lake Saint-Etienne Cantalès.

Festivals: International Street Theatre Festival in Aurillac, High Lands Festival (St Flour), Hibernarock, Madcow festival, Boogie-Woogie festival in La Roquebrou (7-11 August 2024), Chestnut Fair in Mourjou (October), Fête de l'Estive in Allanche (25 May), Les Européennes du Gout in Aurillac (5-6 July).

Economy: agriculture, 4-season tourism, spa tourism, agri-food industry, crafts, manufacture of furniture, plastic packaging, pharmaceutical products and umbrellas. Production and distribution of industrial and medical gases.

Websites / FB / Twitterwww.cantal.fr www.cantal-destination.comwww.lelioran.comwww.puymary.frhttp://www.caleden.comhttps://www.facebook.com/CantalDestination/?ref=hl / https://twitter.com/cantaldhttps://www.facebook.com/cantalauvergne/https://twitter.com/cantalauvergne     

Cantal is a land of many facets. Around its volcanic mountain range, the great glacial valleys create a varied landscape of high plateaux and breath-taking gorges. A land of terroir par excellence, it has managed to preserve its know-how over the years, particularly in cheese production: it is the leading French department in terms of the number of PDO cheeses. Cantal cheese, for example, is produced today as it was in the 18th century. As for meats and cured meats, they receive the utmost attention from rearing through to processing and sale. Here, time is given and respected so that quality can delight the most discerning taste buds with the many specialities on offer from the small bistro to the gourmet restaurant. Last but not least, Cantal is not just a region full of memories, it's also full of riches to discover and unusual places to visit (the Garabit Viaduct, châteaux, typical villages and old buildings with their robust architecture). It also has a rich cultural heritage, including the Aurillac Street Theatre Festival, which has gained international renown.

Km 0.1

YTRAC (POP: 4,320)

This town on the outskirts of Aurillac is known to cycling fans as the birthplace of Antonin Magne, twice winner of the Tour de France in 1931 and 1934.  

Antonin Magne (1904-1983)

Antonin Magne left his mark on French cycling for more than half a century. An outstanding rider in the phenomenal 1930s, a respected sports director for twenty-five years and a federal official for a further ten years, this son of Cantal tenant farmers earned the nickname Tonin le sage (Tonin the Wise). All those who witnessed the three acts of his career agree: he did not cheat, either in or out of the race, and he made his motto his own: "Glory is nothing without virtue". Rejecting doping, he encouraged his Mercier team riders, from Rik Van Steenbergen to Louison Bobet and Raymond Poulidor, to treat themselves with homeopathy. Never one to be fooled by the ways of the peloton, he also refused to buy or sell a race. An unusual profile in the devious world of the bunch. The white coat and black beret that he wore in all circumstances as team manager sum up his character. Brought up the hard way in France, he methodically built himself up to become a pioneer in dietetics and training. His consistency in the Tour de France was impressive. In ten participations, he finished nine times in the top ten and four times on the podium. There is no doubt that without the war, when he looked after the family farm in Livry-Gargan, his list of victories would have been even longer. His first podium in the Tour, in 1930, illustrates his upright character. While his leader, André Leducq, was adrift on the descent of the Galibier after two crashes, Antonin Magne rallied the forces of the French team to get him back on track: Leducq overtook his Italian rival Learco Guerra to win the stage and then the Tour. The following year, it was finally his Tour. Antonin Magne, who had broken away on the road to Luchon, took the Yellow Jersey and managed to hold off Italian Antonio Pesenti and Belgians Jef Demuysere and Gaston Rebry. He did not take part in the 1932 race, but went on to work for Georges Speicher, who won in 1933. In 1934, it was his turn to benefit from the sacrifice of his team-mates. Speicher gave his all, but even more so the young René Vietto, who gave him his wheel on the descent of Col de Puymorens and turned around to give him his bike on Portet d'Aspet, where Magne had suffered a technical problem. An exceptional rider, "Tonin" completed his victory by winning the first time-trial in the history of the Tour de France. The world champion title he won in Bremgarten, near Berne, in 1936 was the highlight of a brilliant career: attacking after fifty kilometres, he broke away with seventy kilometres to go to win solo. His career as a team manager was just as dazzling. At the head of the Mercier team, he won the 1955 Tour with Louison Bobet, and the greatest classics with Bobet and Belgians Rik Van Steenbergen, Raymond Impanis and Fred de Bruyne, before becoming Raymond Poulidor's mentor.    

Château de Lamartinie

Construction: 16th to 19th centuries.

Style: troubadour.

History: Château de Lamartinie served as a refuge for the inhabitants of Aurillac during the great plague that decimated the region. The manor was first mentioned in 1592. The castle was successively owned by the de Tournemire, Ollier, Cambefort, Legendre, Aragonnès, de Boschâtel, Bouygues and de Saint-Vincent families. The château was sold for the last time in 1652 to the de Boschatel family and has been passed down from generation to generation by descendants of this family to this day.

Features: the castle has been altered and the architectural styles of the various periods, from the 16th to the 19th century, are all represented. A dwelling flanked by a polygonal turret was added to the square dungeon on the south wing, probably dating from the early 16th century, towards the end of the 16th century. A north wing, symmetrical to the south keep, dates from the late 18th or 19th century. In 1895, a polygonal turret and tower were added to the east side. In 1895, the Bouygues family, from the Limousin middle class, had the château restored. The interior is decorated in the troubadour style.

Listed as a historic monument in 1989.

Km 4.7

SANSAC-DE-MARMIESSE (1,370 INHABITANTS) 

Château de Veyrières

Construction: 13th to 17th centuries.

Style: fortified castle.

History: there were two important seigneuries in Sansac, Marmiesse, which is the oldest and whose castle has disappeared, and Veyrières, which may have originated as a glassworks.

Characteristics: the castle is made up of several sections built of rough stone and covered in slate roofing. A main body with four square storeys serves as the keep (13th century). Its topping was modified in the 16th century with the addition of a parapet walk and four corner watchtowers, then refurbished in 1730 with the opening of cross windows and the creation of two large living rooms, one of which has a ceiling decorated with 32 caissons painted in monochrome. A second two-storey rectangular dwelling adjoins the first; flanked by two round towers at the outer corners, it features construction elements dating from after 1587. Another two-storey 17th-century building is attached to the south side of the first.

Current use: the interior of the château is not open to visitors, but walkers have access to the park and can take a tour of the building.

Listed as: historical monument since 1987.

OCCITANIE REGION

Departments: Ariège, Aude, Aveyron, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Gers, Hérault, Lot, Lozère, Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne.

Population: 5.9 million

Prefecture: Toulouse

Surface area: 72,724 km2

Specialities: foie gras, cassoulet, aligot, tielle of Sète, cod brandade, Tarbes beans, garbure, sweet onions, Céret cherries, wines (Pic Saint-Loup, Corbières, Cahors, Costières de Nîmes, blanquette de Limoux, Minervois, Tavel, Madiran). Perrier spring water.

Sports clubs: Stade Toulousain, Castres Olympique, Montpellier HR, USAP Perpignan (rugby union), Montpellier HSC, Nîmes Olympique, Toulouse FC (football), Dragons Catalans (rugby league), Montpellier Handball, Fenix Toulouse, USAM Nîmes-Gard (handball).

Competitions: Tour de France, Open Sud de France (tennis), Route d'Occitanie (cycling).

Economy: aerospace (Airbus, Ariane, Toulouse), defence, IT, nuclear, agri-food, agriculture (wine, cereals), tourism, pharmaceuticals. Universities (Montpellier, Toulouse).  

Festivals: férias in Nîmes and Béziers, Rio Loco (Toulouse), Radio France Festival in Montpellier (classical), Comédie du Livre book fair (Montpellier), Electro Beach (Port Barcarès), Jazz in Marciac, Cinémed (Montpellier), Circa Auch, Noir Novel Festival in Frontignan.

Sights: Cité of Carcassonne, Lourdes Basilica, Toulouse (Capitole, Saint-Sernin, etc.), Montpellier (Place de la Comédie, Écusson), Pont du Gard, Nîmes Arena, Cathar castles, Canal du Midi, cathedrals of Albi, Castres and Rodez. Millau Viaduct, Niaux and Maz d'Azil caves. Valentré Bridge in Cahors. Character villages. Beaches in Aude, Gard and Hérault. Ski resorts in the Pyrenees and Ariège.

Website: www.laregionoccitanie.fr

LOT (46)

Region: Occitanie

Population: 174,000

Surface area: 5 217 km²

Number of communes: 313 communes

Prefecture: Cahors (population: 21,000)

Sub-prefectures: Figeac and Gourdon

Specialities: Cahors wine, Coteaux du Quercy wines, Lot wine, Quercy saffron, foie gras duck from the South-West, Quercy melons, Quercy farm lamb, black truffles, Rocamadour cheese, walnuts, Quercy pastis (a cake, not a drink!), mique (thick leavened pastry cooked in stock with vegetables and a little salt).

Sport: International Urban Trials in Cahors, Easter Tournament in Cahors (football, youngsters from all over France), 2021 Motocross World Championship (Lacapelle-Marival), Vayrac criterium after the Tour de France (cycling), Dordogne Intégrale (extreme long-distance canoe-kayak race), Ultra Trail Causse et Vallées Lot Dordogne.

Economy: electrical engineering (Cahors group), aeronautics (Ratier Figeac, Figeac Aéro), mechanical engineering (Figeac/Saint-Céré industrial arc), agri-food (Andros headquarters in Biars-sur-Cère).

Heritage: Lot boasts 420 protected sites and monuments, including the Valentré Bridge in Cahors, the medieval town of Rocamadour, Padirac cave, Pech-Merle cave, and the villages of Saint-Cirq Lapopie (named one of France's favourite villages), Autoire, Loubressac, Cardaillac, Carennac and Capdenac-le-Haut, which are all listed as some of the most beautiful villages in France.

Culture and festivals: Saint-Céré festival (opera), Rencontres cinéma in Gindou, Cahors blues festival, Souillac en jazz, Ecaussystème in Gignac (contemporary music), Africajarc (world music), Figeac theatre festival, Lot of Saveurs in Cahors (gastronomy), Rocamadour festival (sacred music). Figeac is home to the Musée des Ecritures and a giant reproduction of the Rosetta Stone, deciphered by Jean-François Champollion (a native of the town), and Souillac, Automaton Museum.

Websites and social networks :

Department of Lot

https://lot.fr  / https://www.choisirlelot.fr/https://www.facebook.com/lot.departement/https://www.facebook.com/ohmylot / https://www.linkedin.com/company/departement-du-lot/

Lot Tourism

 https://www.tourisme-lot.com/https://www.facebook.com/destinationvalleeslotdordognehttps://www.instagram.com/destinationvalleeslotdordogne/https://twitter.com/tourismelothttps://www.choisirlelot.fr/

Km 36.6

SOUSCEYRAC-EN-QUERCY (POP : 1,330)

Created by the 2016 merger of the communes of Sousceyrac, Calviac, Comiac, Lacam-d'Ourcet and Lamativie. Sousceyrac has preserved its medieval past in the Carrayrat, a group of 15th to 17th century houses grouped around their church and once surrounded by a wall. There are still two monumental gates leading into the old town: the Notre-Dame gate, with its hanging chapel and two statues of the Virgin and Child and Notre-Dame du Portail, and the Saint-Antoine gate, restored in 1966. The village then developed around Place des Condamines, surrounded by a number of fine 18th and 19th century residences. The Calmont d'Olt feudal castle (four round towers topped with slate roofs), which passed to the barons of Castelnau and then to the Luynes family, was destroyed in 1876.  

Grugnac Castle

Construction: 17th and 18th centuries.

Style: fortified castle.

History: the feud of Grugnac is mentioned in 1334. The Narbonnès family had full jurisdiction over the feud. Jean de Narbonnès sold the fiefdom of Grugnac to Pierre Massip, notary at Sousceyrac, in 1593. The first mention of a "noble house" does not appear until 1643. The château then passed through marriage to the Scribes, bourgeois from Sousceyrac. It was looted during the French Revolution.

Characteristics: the castle is rectangular and fortified by three round towers. The building is covered by a thatch roof. A monumental staircase serves as the entrance to the building.

Listed as: historical monument since 1989.

Km 51.8

SAINT-CÉRÉ (POP: 3,440)

The origins of Saint-Céré go back to St. Sperie, who was born in 740 and died a martyr in 760. Her body was buried in a forest, where a chapel with a crypt was later built to protect her tomb. This chapel was replaced in the 11th century by a Romanesque church, around which the village grew. Saint-Céré was a stronghold of the Viscounty of Turenne. The small town still boasts a number of old mansions and timber-framed houses, the most famous of which is the Hose of Consuls. It was the birthplace of Pierre Poujade, the politician who defended small business owners and gave his name to "Poujadism", as well as being the last home of Charles Bourseul, the forgotten inventor of the telephone. Cyclist Kévin Besson, who turned pro at the age of 30 in 2022 and has already retired from the pelotons, was also born in the town.  

House of Consuls

Construction: 16th century.

Style: medieval.

History and characteristics: this private mansion was built in the medieval tradition. The timber-framed first floor rests on a corbel of machicolation-shaped joists. The stone ground floor was once occupied by stalls, the openings of which were modified in the 18th century. The living quarters are spread over the two upper levels. The first floor has a monumental fireplace and the second features 16th-century paintings. The ground and ground floors are now used as exhibition spaces, while the second floor houses an association. The frescoes are not accessible, but you can take a virtual tour of them.

Listed as: historical monument since 1991.

Km 55.9

SAINT-JEAN-LESPINASSE (POP: 410)

Château de Montal

Construction: 16th century

Style: Renaissance.

History: the estate was acquired in 1494 by Robert de Balzac, chamberlain to Louis XI. The building work was carried out by his daughter, Jeanne de Balsac d'Entraygues, who married Amaury II de Montal in 1496, after whom the castle was named. From 1519 to 1534, she transformed the pre-existing fortified castle in the Renaissance style. Widowed in 1510, she also lost her son Robert in the war in 1523, which explains the motto on the pediment: "No more hope". In 1858, the château was sold to a property dealer who dismantled it and auctioned it off in Paris, until aarts collector Maurice Fenaille rescued it from ruin before donating it to the State.

Characteristics: it comprises two wings framing the main courtyard and three round corner towers topped by pepper-pot roofs and a square tower. The sober facades are in keeping with the medieval tradition. The inner courtyard is characteristic of the early French Renaissance. The interior facades are decorated and the two main buildings are served by a grand staircase. A highly modern feature for its time, the straight staircase, imported from Italy, replaces the spiral staircase of medieval castles.

Special features: the ornamental programme makes Château de Montal unique. The frieze separating the ground floor from the first floor features mythological and allegorical figures. On the first floor, a series of high-relief busts topped by triangular pediments represent Jeanne de Balsac and members of her family.

Trivia: in 1943, the Mona Lisa was hidden in the Château de Montal before returning to the Louvre in 1945.

Listed as: historical monument since 1909.

Km 67.3

PADIRAC (170 INHABITANTS)

The village is world-famous for the Padirac cave. The village is also home to a zoo dedicated to reptiles and a small castle, as well as half a dozen dolmens.  

Padirac cave

History: 1 or 2 million years ago, after the Dordogne valley had been laid down, the rock began to be dug out by water seeping through a network of fissures. An underground river was created, carving through the rock from top to bottom. It flows north-west towards Montvalent, where it joins the Dordogne. The cave is a former underground chamber enclosed by a ceiling that has crumbled, and the chamber has opened up to the outside world. Known locally as the "Devil's Hole", it was inhabited in the late 14th and 16th centuries during the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of Religion. In 1889, speleologist Édouard-Alfred Martel discovered the underground river. It is likely that a flood in the 19th century enabled the chasm to be linked to the underground network by a practicable passage. Guy de Lavaur resumed exploration from 1937 to the 1970s, and since then a number of speleologist divers have been able to cover almost the entire known network, from the cave to the various exsurgences of the river.

Characteristics: the Padirac cave is the monumental entrance to a natural cavity approximately 35 metres in diameter. At the bottom of the chasm, 103 metres below the surface, flows an underground river that forms part of a vast network over 55 kilometres long.

Current destination: in 1897, Armand Viré was commissioned to fit out the chasm and install the metal staircase. The first tourist visits took place on 1 November 1898. Today, 2.5 km of the 42 km explored can be visited from late March to early November. Since the 1930s, access to the underground river has been by lift, with the rest of the tour on foot (around 1,300 m) and by boat (1,000 m). Padirac holds the attendance record for underground tourism in France, with a record 482,831 admissions in 2017.

Km 73.3

ALVIGNAC (POP: 690)

A spa town thanks to the waters of the Salmière spring, it is home to a casino, which has led to the improvement and creation of infrastructures, such as a health centre, to boost the town's shops and services.  

Salmière Spring

The Salmière spring is located approximately one kilometre north of Alvignac in the commune of Miers. The buildings and facilities occupy the valley floor at an altitude of 288 metres. The sodium sulphate waters of Alvignac-Miers have an effect on disorders of the digestive system and urinary tract. Most of the buildings were constructed at the beginning of the 20th century to accommodate spa visitors. The Water Pavilion, built between 1904 and 1906 in concrete, is shaped like a pagoda. Around it is a circular space where visitors could store their cups and come to taste the spring water. The bouillon kiosk is an open rotunda with a concrete structure and traditional wooden framework. This is where visitors would drink a herbal broth to supplement the spring water. The Grand Hôtel was built in the 1920s and welcomed famous guests such as President Albert Lebrun and writers Francis Carco and Pierre Benoît. The site operated from 1911 to 1981 before closing. After an abortive relaunch between 1998 and 2005, a restaurant-bar on stilts opened in 2015, while the Alvina company has undertaken to relaunch the spa in 2020.

Km 79.9

ROCAMADOUR

A veritable challenge to balance, set against a cliff face, the Marian city of Rocamadour welcomes visitors and pilgrims all year round. Rocamadour owes its fame to its pilgrimage. Its thousand-year history dates back to the first hermits who settled in a vast rock shelter. In 1166, the perfectly preserved body of Saint Amadour was discovered on the site where the shrine now stands. From the outset, this site has been dedicated to the Marian cult, and the statue of the Black Madonna can be admired inside the Notre-Dame chapel. Dating from the 12th century, the Black Madonna or Our Lady of Rocamadour is made up of two pieces of wood, with the Child glued to her left knee. Rocamadour was the sumptuous setting in 2022 for the Tour de France's final time trial (40km), where Jonas Vingegaard completed his victory in the event while his team-mate Wout van Aert won the stage.  

Basilica of Saint-Sauveur

Construction: 11th century, then 15th and 19th centuries.

Style: Romanesque and ogival

History: the Marian pilgrimage to Rocamadour has been one of the major sites in the Christian world since the Middle Ages. Following the discovery in 1166 of the intact body believed to be that of Saint Amadour, the entire religious complex was built. Although the sanctuary was in a serious state of disrepair and the church of Saint-Sauveur was still in use, the bishops of Cahors decided to restore the site from 1842 onwards. In March 1913, the church was made a minor basilica by Pope Pius X.

Characteristics: Saint-Sauveur church was built at a time of transition between Romanesque and Gothic art (Romano-Gothic style), in limestone ashlar and with a flat-tiled roof. The 12th-century lower church is a crypt that once housed the relics of Saint Amadour. Access to the basilica is via a staircase from the second level of the town square. Its two naves lean against the cliff faces on the west side.

Special feature: a new boat-shaped organ built by organ builder Jean Daldosso was inaugurated in November 2013.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 2000  

Notre-Dame Chapel

Construction: 11th century, then 15th and 19th centuries.

Style: Flamboyant Gothic

History: the original chapel was destroyed in 1476 by a rock detached from the cliff. A plaque affixed to the south elevation indicates that it was rebuilt in 1479 by Denis de Bar, Bishop of Tulle. It was subsequently sacked during the Wars of Religion and the Revolution. Between 1863 and 1864, the Notre-Dame chapel was largely rebuilt and extended by Abbot Chevalt.

Characteristics: the Notre-Dame chapel backs onto the cliff to the west and the south elevation of the Saint-Sauveur basilica to the north. The building has an elongated, single-span plan with a ribbed vault and a gable roof covered with flat tiles. The flamboyant Gothic southern doorway bears the coat of arms of Bishop Denis de Bar. On the other side of the forecourt, two monumental murals, The Annunciation and The Visitation, date from the 12th century.

Special feature: Above the altarpiece, Notre-Dame de Rocamadour or the Black Madonna of Rocamadour is a reliquary statue from the fourth quarter of the 12th century. Standing 76 cm high, it is made of two pieces of walnut wood, with the Child pegged on her left knee. It used to be covered in silver. It was restored after the Second World War and again in 2003.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 2000

Km 109.3

GOURDON (POP: 3,950)

It is the third largest town in Lot, behind Cahors (Pop: 20,000) and Figeac (Pop: 10,000). Gourdon is built on a remarkable acropolis that dominates the surrounding Bouriane countryside for more than twenty kilometres around. It once held the keep or dominium of one of the most powerful feudal families in Quercy, the Fortanier de Gourdon. A member of this family, Bertrand de Gourdon, known as a troubadour, is said to have killed Richard the Lionheart with a crossbow shot at the battle of Chalus in 1199. Gourdon was a key centre of the Resistance to the Nazi occupiers and was awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1948. The town has many monuments to its prestigious past, including Château de Costeraste, the Renaissance house of the Cavaignac family, the church of Saint-Pierre and several chapels. 

Cavaignac House

Construction: 13th to 17th centuries.

Style: Renaissance.

History: the mansion was modified around 1700 with the addition of a doorway framed by fluted pilasters and a triangular pediment with a bull's eye opening, and a leaf with panels carved with allegorical motifs representing the Vices and Virtues. This is the birthplace of Jean-Baptiste Cavaignac (1762-1929), deputy of Lot to the Convention and of his younger brothers Jean-Baptiste de Lalande, Baron of the Empire (1765-1845) and Jacques-Marie Cavaignac (1773-1855), general and aide-de-camp to the King of Naples.

Special features: the door to the Cavaignac house has three panels sculpted in the round. They represent the course of life in a transcription of the Greek Fates.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1929, and the gate in 1932.

Km 123.6

SALVIAC (POP: 1,200)

Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur Church

Built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Style: Gothic.

History: it was probably built in the second quarter of the 13th century, in a single block. By choosing to place it under the patronage of Saint James the Greater, the community wanted to make it a stopover on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, on a secondary branch starting from Figeac and passing through Rocamadour. The decision to build the church in the French Gothic style was perhaps a consequence of Guillaume de Gourdon's allegiance to the King of France. The church was used as a Temple of Reason during the French Revolution. Restoration work was carried out after the church was listed in 1913. The wooden framework of the nave was replaced by a reinforced concrete structure in 1962. A restoration campaign was completed in 2007.

Characteristics: the church has a single nave with three bays and a false transept. It is entirely rib-vaulted. It is unusual in having a polygonal apse covered by a ribbed dome. The church originally had three portals: the west portal, which still exists, and two others overlooking the second bay, one to the north and the other to the south, which were closed when the sacristy and a chapel were built.

Special features: the church has stained-glass windows from the early 16th century, commissioned by the Durforts. With their warm colours, facial expressions and architectural motifs, they belong to the early Renaissance.

Listed as: historical monument since 1913.

Km 134.2

MONTCLÉRA (POP: 260)  

Château de Montcléra

Construction: 15th century.

Style: medieval.

History: a fief of the de Commarque family since 1336, the lordship of Montcléra passed to the Gironde family through marriage and was made a marquisate by Louis XIII. The castle remained in the hands of this family, whose coat of arms can still be seen in the church, until the early 19th century. The current configuration dates back, for the most part, to the period between the 15th and 16th centuries, with additions in the 17th century. The unfinished postern, or barbican, was built around 1600 using ashlar from a quarry in the neighbouring parish of Marminiac. The current slate roof of the central building dates back to 1870, when the machicolations and the parapet walk of the towers, which had been dismantled at some undetermined time, were restored.

Listed as: historical monument since 1929.

NEW AQUITAINE REGION

Departments: Charente, Charente-Maritime, Corrèze, Creuse, Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne, Haute-Vienne.

Population: 5.9 million

Prefecture: Bordeaux

Surface area: 2 011 km2

Specialities: Bordeaux wines, Cognac, Armagnac, Espelette chilli pepper, Périgord walnuts, Marmande tomatoes, oysters from the Arcachon basin, Salers meat, Aquitaine cows, Bayonne ham, Pauillac lamb, Bordeaux canelés. Goose, duck, pommes sarladaises, poulet basquaise, garbure, lamprey. Black truffle.

Sports clubs: Girondins de Bordeaux (football), Stade montois, Union sportive dacquoise, Aviron bayonnais, Union Bordeaux Bègles Atlantique, Stade rochelais, CA Brive Corrèze Limousin, Section paloise, Biarritz olympique, SU Agen (rugby union), Elan Béarnais Pau-Orthez, CSP Limoges (basketball).

Competitions: Tour de France, surfing at Lacanau (Lacanau Pro) and Biarritz. Tour du Limousin.  

Festivals: Bayonne festival, Dax festival, Madeleine festival in Mont-de-Marsan, Francofolies festival in La Rochelle, Angoulême comic book festival, Brive book fair, Nuits de nacre in Tulle, Grand Pavois in La Rochelle, Garorock in Marmande, Cognac crime film festival.

Economy: Bordeaux wines, Cognac and Armagnac, aerospace industry, biotechnologies, chemicals, scientific research. Image and digital sector. Agri-food industry. Port of Bordeaux. Tourism. Universities.

Sights: Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion, La Rochelle, Biarritz, Bassin d'Arcachon, Dune of Le Pilat, Lascaux caves, Futuroscope Poitiers, Lacanau beaches, Biarritz, Biscarosse, Hourtin, Carcans, Soulac-sur-Mer, mouth of the Gironde, Bordeaux vineyards, Dordogne châteaux, Château de Pau, Pyrenees, Ile d'Oléron, Ile de Ré.  

Websites and social networks: www.nouvelle-aquitaine.fr

LOT-ET-GARONNE (47)

Region: New Aquitaine.

Population: 331,230

Surface area: 5 361 km²

Number of communes: 319 communes

Prefecture: Agen

Sub-prefectures: Marmande, Nérac, Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

Specialities: Agen prunes, kiwis, hazelnuts and strawberries. Duras, Buzet and Côtes du Marmandais wines. Cèpe du Périgord, tourtière (cake), chasselas de Moissac (grape).

Sport: SU Agen (rugby union, football), Agen Kayal club, Léopards d'Aquitaine (rugby league), Ping Pong club villeneuvois (D1), Villeneuve Basket Club (N3), RC Villeneuvois (rugby union). US Marmande (rugby union). Land of the Games 2024. Route d'Occitanie (cycling).

Heritage: Saint-Caprais cathedral in Agen, Museum of Fine-Arts in Agen, Episcopal palace, Jacobins church in Agen. Ancient site of Eysses, towers of Pujols and Paris, Gajac Museum, Château of the Dukes of Duras, Château de Bonaguil, Monflanquin Village. Lastournelle cave. 

Economy: in the south-east, winegrowing dominates (Armagnac), as well as in the far north, where the Côtes-de-Duras are an extension of the Bordeaux vineyards. North of the Garonne, crops and livestock are combined. The valleys are home to market gardening and fruit growing (Agen prunes). The main industrial sites are Marmande, Tonneins, Fumel and Agen. Lot-et-Garonne is France's leading producer of kiwis, hazelnuts and strawberries. Tourism.

Culture and festivals: Festival of Humour in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Grand Pruneau Show (August), Fêtes d'Agen (August), Healthy Days in Agen (November), Quinzaine occitane (October), Prairie d'Agen Festival (September).

Websites and social networks: www.lotetgaronnne.fr, www.tourisme-lotetgaronne.com, www.nouvelle-aquitaine-tourisme.com

Km 162.6

FUMEL (POP: 4,720)

The iron and steel industry in Fumel dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until 1847 that it gained in importance, setting up on the banks of the Lot under the name Société minière et métallurgique du Périgord. Fumel's location is due to the presence of open-cast iron ore and the hydraulic power of the Lot. During the 1914-1918 war, the factory expanded and began manufacturing shells. After the wars, the factory specialised in the manufacture of pipes, cast-iron plates and automotive parts. For a long time the spearhead of the Saint-Gobain group, the site employed more than 3,500 people before falling victim to the first relocations in the 1970s. After filing for bankruptcy in 2013, the plant ceased trading in 2018. The Pompidou Centre in Paris was partly built using steel from the Fumel plant. Fumel is the birthplace of architect Jean Nouvel, designer of the Arab World Institute, the Philharmonie de Paris and the Abgar Tower in Barcelona, as well as several rugby union internationals (Jean-Pierre Razat, Michel Courtiols and Hugues Miorin). Born in Fumel, Georges Lachat took part in the 1938 Tour de France. Also based in Fumel, Jacques Bianco took part in the 1957 Tour.  

Fumel Castle

Construction: 14th to 17th centuries.

Style: fortified castle.

History: a keep was built in the 12th century. The de Fumel family belonged to the entourage of the Counts of Toulouse and were abbots of Moissac Abbey. At the end of the Hundred Years' War, the castle was taken several times, and Louis XI authorised Bernard de Fumel to fortify the town and the castle. He built the dwelling to the east of the keep. The medieval castle disappeared under a new one built in the 16th century by François I de Fumel, Baron of Fumel between 1551 and 1561, but the project remained unfinished and the castle was completed over the following centuries, particularly in the 19th century. 

Special features: the château has an outdoor theatre, where some of the greatest names (Francis Huster, Michel Galabru, Francis Weber) have performed as part of the Bonaguil festival.

Current use: the château has housed Fumel town hall since it was bought by the town in 1951. 

Listed as: historical monument since 1951.  

8 km away : Bonaguil Castle

Construction: 13th to 16th centuries.

Style: medieval fortified castle.

History: when it was completed around 1510, it had already been overtaken by the arrival of the Renaissance, which led to medieval fortresses being transformed into pleasure residences. Apart from the loss of its framework during the French Revolution, Château de Bonaguil is in a good state of preservation today. It was never attacked and was inhabited until the French Revolution.

Special features: a festival has been held every summer in the castle moat since 1962. Initially devoted to music, it gradually turned to theatre from 1985 onwards; since 1997, the programme has been almost exclusively theatrical. Several films, including Robert Enrico's Le Vieux fusil, have been shot at the château.

Current use: the château is owned by Fumel town council and is open to visitors (around 70,000 a year).

Listed as: historical monument since 1914 and 1963.  

Km 165.8

MONSEMPRON-LIBOS (POP: 2,080)

Monsempron is an ancient fortified monastic village that grew out of a Benedictine priory belonging to the Abbey of Aurillac, established on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Lémance and Lot rivers. Libos (Arribos in the 13th century) is a former river port whose settlement expanded in the second half of the 19th century as a result of the development of the Fumel steelworks. Monsempron is the home village of Tino Sabbadini (1928-2002), who took part in seven Tours de France and won the 5th stage between Versailles and Caen in 1958, sprinting to victory ahead of Louison Bobet and Gastone Nencini! Tino Sabbadini also finished second in Paris-Roubaix in 1960 behind Pino Cerami.

Km 181.9

MONFLANQUIN (POP: 2,350)

Set on a pech overlooking the Lède valley, Monflanquin bears witness to the struggle for influence between the kingdoms of France and England in the Middle Ages. Founded in 1256, Monflanquin is one of some 50 bastides created by Alphonse of Poitiers, brother of Saint-Louis and Count of Toulouse. Often destroyed and then rebuilt, the village, listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, still offers visitors a wealth of evidence of its medieval past. The village has preserved its bastide layout: around Place aux Arcades, the right-angled streets are lined with stone, half-timbered and sometimes brick facades covered with round tiles. To its strong architectural identity, Monflanquin adds a taste for creativity. In the heart of the bastide, alongside the artists and craftspeople who bring the village to life throughout the year, Pollen, a regional artistic and cultural centre, welcomes artists in residence from all over the world and offers exhibitions and themed activities. A photography festival, book fair and baroque evenings round off a packed programme of events. Monflanquin is the birthplace of tennis player Pascal Portes, who was a close friend of Yannick Noah in the 80s before his career was cut short by health problems. 

Château de Roquefère

Built in the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Style: medieval and gothic.

History: the feud was granted to Edward I, King of England, in 1279. He gave the castle to his seneschal, Jean de Grailly, whose family occupied it until the Hundred Years' War, while his descendants kept it until the beginning of the 18th century. It then belonged to the Anglars family. 

Characteristics: the oldest parts are to the south, with a two-storey Gothic manor house above a vaulted lower hall, flanked by a small square keep measuring 4 m on each side with pointed arch openings that could date from the late 13th century. The east wing also dates from the Middle Ages, but the large mullioned windows on the courtyard side were rebuilt in the 15th century. A turret with a spiral staircase was added to the corner of the two wings at this time. Modifications were made to the château in the 17th century.

Current use: private property.

Listed as: historical monument since 1963.

Km 191.2

 LA SAUVETAT-SUR-LÈDE (POP: 630)  

Saint-Sulpice Castle

Construction: 17th century. 

Style: neo-classical. 

History: the château belonged to the La Borie family from the 17th to the 20th century. Jean-François de La Borie (1760-1843), Lord of Saint-Sulpice, was Mayor of Villeneuve-sur-Lot between 1800 and 1813. The La Borie family was very attached to the First Empire.

Characteristics: the castle is made up of main buildings arranged in a T-shape. The oldest part is the north-south facing main building, with its inner courtyard and a defence tower at its north end, built in the 17th century and whose portal bears the date 1621. At the beginning of the 19th century, a second main building was built perpendicular to the first at its southern end. It is in the neo-classical style, with a pedimented forecourt. The ground floor features stuccoed door tops evoking country life, with its work and leisure activities.

Special feature: in the music room, the stucco decoration celebrates the First Empire with an imperial eagle, a mask of Napoleon and an allusion to Napoelon II.

Listed as: historical monument since 2007.

Aurillac

Aurillac, das vom beeindruckenden Château Saint-Étienne überragt wird, ist eine einladende Stadt in der malerischen Landschaft der Auvergne.

Die engen, verwinkelten Gassen der Stadt säumen viele interessante Geschäfte und mittelalterliche Häuser prägen das Stadtbild. In der Umgebung von Aurillac gibt es zahlreiche historische Denkmäler, aber die Stadt ist bis heute ein lebendiges Kulturzentrum mit einem Tanztheater und jährlichen Straßentheater- und Gastronomie-Festivals.
Naturliebhaber können von hier aus der Straße durch die Flusstäler von Jordanne und Authre folgen und im Sommer die Schluchten der Jordanne erkunden. Das Schloss beherbergt ein Vulkanmuseum. Der Vulkanpark der Auvergne ist ebenfalls nur wenige Autominuten entfernt und bietet atemberaubende Aussichten und Landschaften.

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Villeneuve-sur-Lot

Auf der anderen Seite des malerischen Flusses Lot bietet Villeneuve-sur-Lot historisches Flair und schöne Landschaften.
Schlendern Sie über die gut erhaltene Brücke aus dem 13. Jahrhundert und entdecken Sie die äußerst sehenswerte Altstadt.

Zu den Höhepunkten gehören die Kirche Sainte-Catherine, die aus einem modernen Gebäude mit Glasfenstern aus dem 14. und 15. Jahrhundert besteht, und die verbleibenden Türme der historischen Stadtbefestigung. Der zentrale Place Lafayette lädt mit seinen Seitenstraßen zum Flanieren ein.

Landwirtschaft hat in der Stadt lange Tradition und dieses reiche Erbe erlebt man am besten auf dem zweimal wöchentlich stattfindenden Markt. Die Kapelle Notre Dame spielt in der Geschichte von Villeneuve-sur-Lot ebenfalls eine wichtige Rolle. Für Kulturliebhaber ist das Kunstmuseum in der Gajac-Mühle interessant.

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