On the road

OCCITANIA 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
Area: 72,724 km2
Specialities: foie gras, cassoulet, aligot, tielle sétoise, brandade de morue (cod brandade), haricots tarbais (beans), garbure (soup), sweet onion, Céret cherries, wines (Pic Saint-Loup, Corbières, Cahors, Costières de Nîmes, blanquette of 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: aeronautics and space (Airbus, Ariane, Toulouse), defence, information technology, nuclear, agri-food, agriculture (wines, cereals) tourism, pharmaceutical industry. Universities (Montpellier, Toulouse).
Festivals: Nîmes and Béziers férias, Rio Loco (Toulouse), Radio France Festival Montpellier (classical music), Comédie du Livre (book fair, Montpellier), Electro Beach (Port Barcarès), Jazz in Marciac, Cinémed (Montpellier), Circa Auch, Noir Novel Fesrtival Frontignan.
Sights: Cité de Carcassonne, basilica of Lourdes, Toulouse (Capitole, Saint-Sernin, ville rose), Montpellier (place de la Comédie, Écusson), beaches, Pont du Gard, Nîmes ampthitheatre, Cathar castles, Canal du Midi, cathedrals of Albi, Castres and Rodez. Millau Viaduct, Niaux and Maz d'Azil caves. Valentré Bridge in Cahors. Villages of character. Beaches in the Aude, Gard and Hérault. Ski resorts in the Pyrenees and Ariège.
Website: www.laregionoccitanie.fr

AVEYRON (12)

Population: 279,595
Prefecture: Rodez
Subprefectures: Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Surface area: 8735 km².
Region: Occitania
Specialities: Aligot, Estofinade, Roquefort, Fleur d'Aubrac (meat), Aveyron veal, spit cake, Farcous, Truffade, Fouace, Marcillac sun, Tripous, cheese soup, Flaune aveyronnaise...
Main sports clubs: Rodez Aveyron Football (D2), CSO Millau, Team Focus Aveyron VTT, Vélo 2000 Onet, Vélo Club Laissac
Sports events: Roc Laissagais (27th edition), Trans Aubrac (trail and ultra-trail),
Rallye du Rouergue (45th edition), La marmotte d'Olt (grand fondo, 22nd edition), Natural Games, Course Eiffage du Viaduc de Millau en Aveyron, 100 km de Millau (long distance running), Festival des Templiers (trail), L'Aveyronnaise Classic (enduro)
Economy: Cattle market in Laissac Séverac l'église (2nd largest market in France), University in Rodez, Bosch (1600 people), RAGT (1261 people), Caves de Roquefort (1210 people), etc.
Heritage: Soulages Museum, Millau Viaduct, Conques Abbey, Roquefort cellars, Lévézou Lakes, Aubrac Plateau.
Festivals: Les nocturnes de Conques (May to October), Pueblo latino in Arvieu (12 and 13 June), Fête du Roquefort in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon (13 and 14 June), Sylvanès Music Festival (sacred music, 14 July to 25 August), Jean le Fol in Séverac d'Aveyron (sound and light, 30 July to 7 August), Hier un village in Flagnac (soound and light, 23, 24, 30, 31 July and 1, 6, 7 August), Millau en Jazz (12-18 July 2020), Estivada à Rodez (Occitan Culture International Festival, 23 to 25 July)
Websites / FB / Twitter: www.aveyron.fr / www.tourisme-aveyron.com / https://twitter.com/dept_aveyron / https://twitter.com/tous_en_aveyron / https://www.facebook.com/departement.aveyron / https://www.facebook.com/TourismeAveyron

Km 2.3

LUC-LA-PRIMAUBE (Pop: 5,940)

The château de Planèzes, located near the lake, was built in the 15th century and today belongs to the de La Malène family, one of whose members, Christian, was a minister in the 1960s. It was listed as a historic monument in 1992.  

In the commune of Sainte-Radegonde (10 km away) Fortified Church of Inières

Foundation: built in the 13th century.
Style: Gothic.
History: in 1356, the Count of Armagnac, royal captain and seneschal of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, ordered all the villages to "keep watch day and night and to protect themselves".  The transformation of the church began around 1360 with the erection of a tower above the entrance, the addition of flat buttresses to reinforce the church walls, and a brattice to defend the door. The church was fortified in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Characteristics: three towers encircle the building. The bell tower, a square keep surmounted by a room containing the bells, whose spire, covered with conical slates - four watchtowers on corbelled bases are distributed over the corners, with imposing machicolations running from one to the other. The north tower ends in a dome and is the highest of the three (29 m). The south tower, the smallest, has machicolations and a modern roof. A medieval fresco (late 13th-early 14th century) depicting the Earthly Paradise and a pilgrimage scene were discovered during a restoration in 1937
Listing: Historical monument since 1925.

Km 5.4

CALMONT (Pop: 2,000)

A 15th century keep is all that remains of the castle of Calmont-de-Plancatge, once a fief of the Barony of Arpajons, which held a prominent place in the life of the Province. The keep dominates the ramparts and the narrow streets leading down to the Nauze stream. Once renowned for its fairs and its hemp cultivation, the village is today distinguished by its old timber-framed houses dating from the 15th century.

Km 13.7

COMPS-LA-GRAND-VILLE (Pop: 620) 

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bonnecombe

Foundation: Cistercian abbey founded in 1162 (consecrated in 1167) by Raymond V (1134-1194), Count of Toulouse, and by Hugues, Bishop of Rodez.
History: in 1470, it was run by 30 abbots who gave it an influence over the whole of the western part of Rouergue, the north of Albi region and part of the canton of Cassagnes. Like many abbeys, it fell into decline with the arrival of the commendatory abbots who had their interests elsewhere and did not reside there. Very imposing, it was the victim of numerous degradations during the Revolution, before being restored by Trappist monks from 1889. These Trappist monks left Bonnecombe in 1965. Since May 1998, it has been occupied by a charismatic community (the Beatitudes) and can be visited.
Characteristics: The square-shaped St. Bernard's Tower (at the same time the entrance door) was built during the Hundred Years' War. The abbey with the choir and the two side chapels, the vaults of the transept and the entire nave date from the 12th century.

Km 20.1

CASSAGNE-BEGONHES (Pop: 1,000)

The village was the seat of one of the four castellanies of Rouergue. Until the middle of the 15th century, life was organised around its castle, which burned down in 1584. Its church, Saint-Julien, whose bell is listed.

Km 39.3

REQUISTA (Pop: 2,000)

Réquista being the first sheep canton in Europe, a festival of the ewe is organised there every year, on the first Sunday of June. A statue of an ewe and her lamb is set up in front of the town hall.  

In Brousse-le-Château (10 km away):Brousse Castle

Foundation: erected in the 10th century.
History: belonged to the Counts of Rouergue and then to the powerful Arpajon family from the 13th to the 17th century.
Characteristics: the castle of Brousse occupies an elongated platform resembling the prow of a ship, where the waters of the Tarn and the Alrance come together. The castle dominates the valley of the Tarn and has kept its fortified enclosure as well as a large part of its covered way.
Current destination: many temporary exhibitions of paintings and photos are held each year. Some works are there all year round, such as the menhir statue of Crays, whose origins date back to prehistoric times, or the sculptures on the theme of the almond tree or Sylvistructures, donated by Pierre Leron-Lesur.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1943.

TARN (81)

Population: 389,844
Prefecture: Albi
Sub-prefecture: Castres
Area: 5,758 km2
Specialities: Lacaune salt meats (IGP), Lautrec pink garlic (Label Rouge), Gaillac wines (AOC), Ségala veal, Cordes crisps, Pumpet of Sémalens.
Sports clubs: Castres Olympique (French Top 14 rugby champion), Sporting Club Albi (Pro D2), ASPTT (women's football 1st division), Albi Rugby League XIII (men's Elite 1 rugby league). Events: Albi Automobile Grand Prix (September), Route du Sud (June), European Motocross Championships (April), Albi Marathon (April), Montagne Noire Automobile Rally (July), French Petanque Championships in Carmaux (July), UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi
Economy: Pierre Fabre Laboratory, Albi glassworks, food industry, tourism
Main tourist sites: Albi and the Episcopal City, Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Castres and the Goya Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Gaillac vineyards, bastides and villages, Sidobre, Jardin des Martels and the Tarn Tourist Railway, Montagne Noire, Abbey-School of Sorèze and Dom Robert Museum, Ambialet and Tarn Valley
5 UNESCO listed sites: Episcopal city of Albi, Mappa Mundi of Albi (unique medieval map in the world), Les Cammazes (Rigole of Montagne Noire, its waterfalls as well as the Vauban Vault), Notre-Dame du Bourg in Rabestens, Dom Robert Museum and the 20th century tapestry museum
Festivals: Pause Guitare in Albi (July), Musiques des Lumières festival in Sorèze (July), L'Eté de Vaour
Websites and social networks: www.tarn.fr / www.tourisme-tarn.com

Km 64

AMBIALET (Pop: 440)

The site is the result of the whims of the Tarn. The river meanders for 3 kilometres. On the isthmus thus created, probably the narrowest in Europe, it separates the village in two. This peninsula is attached to the valley by a thin string of rocks.

Ambialet le bas
The Gothic church of St. Gilles was burnt down in 1568 and restored in 1994-95. Above it is the Priory and its church, Notre-Dame d'Oder. The Porte de l'Holmière protects the village from the flooding of the Tarn and allows access to the right bank by means of a footbridge. The first dam was built in 1291 by the monks of the priory, who at the same time built a mill on the site of the current power station.

Ambialet le haut
Opposite the chapel of Notre-Dame de l'Oder, the majestic ruins of a castle stand, the birthplace of the Trencavel family who opposed the Counts of Toulouse during the Albigensian War.  

Km 74.2

VILLEFRANCHE-d'ALBIGEOIS (Pop: 1,250)

Villefranche dates from the 13th century. Its creation was an indirect consequence of the Albigensian Crusade (1198-1229). At the end of this crusade, the Tarn, in this region, became the border between what remained until 1249 the possession of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, to the north of the river and what had passed, since the Treaty of Paris in 1229, under the royal authority to the south around the lordship of Castres entrusted to Philippe II de Montfort, known as the Young, the grand-nephew of Simon, leader of the crusade.

Km 95

REALMONT (Pop: 3,500)

It was on 12 March 1272, under Philip the Bold, that Guillaume de Cohardon founded a royal bastide which he named Réalmont. The territory on which the town was established had belonged to Bernard de Boissezon, a rich lord of the Albigensian region. He was dispossessed of it because of heresy. Moreover, the King of France needed to increase his prestige in the region where the authority of the local lords was great. This is why Philip the Bold decided to clear the forests that covered the Réalmontais and to found a new bastide in which the defenders of the Catholic faith and of royal power against the Cathars would gather. In 1629, the Prince of Condé ravaged the town in reaction to the Protestants taking up arms. Réalmont is a stronghold of rugby league. In the 1980s, the town was on the route of the Route du Sud.  

Church of Notre-Dame-duTaur

Foundation: built in the 17th centurye.
History: erected in 1609, Notre-Dame du Taur is a former Protestant temple that became a Catholic church. Its name comes from the Latin taurus which means hill. Inside, its Treasure Chapel, a Baroque altarpiece and numerous listed or classified objects.

Km 105.6

LAUTREC (Pop: 1,550)

This pretty medieval village owes part of its fame to the Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa family, one of the oldest families in France, one of whose members was the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, famous for his post-impressionist paintings and his key role in the emergence of art nouveau at the end of the 19th century. Victim of a bone disease, pycnodysostosis, which prevented him from growing, he became the "soul of Montmartre", leading a bohemian life that took its toll on his health. Alcoholism and syphilis took his life at the age of 37. It is less well known that Toulouse-Lautrec was a cycling fanatic who produced a hundred or so posters for the Simpson chains or the great velodromes of the time. He was very close to Tristan Bernard, who was the director of the Buffalo velodrome, and accompanied him everywhere, drawing sketches of riders which he used for his posters.  

Château de Malvignol

Foundation: built in the 12th and 16th centuries.
Style: Renaissance and classical.
History: this building was part of the Catholic barrier, along with Soual and Vielmur.
Characteristics: established on a promontory, the estate consists of the castle, a smallholding built on the old square tower, and a barn, a Languedoc dovecote and an old tile factory. All the buildings date from between the 12th century and the 19th, with the castle mainly dating from the 16th and 17th  centuries.
Listing: listed as a historical monument in 1988.  

Windmill of La Salette

Foundation: built in the 17th century.
History: the Salette windmill dates back to 1688 and was restored in the 1990s by a carpenter from Lautrec. It is one of the few windmills still producing flour in the Midi-Pyrénées. Current destination: open from mid-April to mid-October, the miller will show you the interior of the mill with an explanation of its history and operation.  

Km 116.2

VIELMUR-SUR-AGOUT (Pop: 1,400)

It is the birthplace of explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, who skied to the North Pole on his own.

Km 128.5

PUYLAURENS (Pop: 2,900)

At the gateway to the Montagne Noire, the village is built on a puy (puech or puèg, in Occitan). A Cathar stronghold, it was occupied by Simon de Montfort and his crusaders in the 13th century. It is located in the "Pays de Cocagne" and prospered thanks to the pastel industry. These famous pastel cacanhas, which gave this famous "blue" to all of Europe, made the region rich and famous. The pastel mills, conducive to the spread of ideas, encouraged the development of Protestantism. During the Wars of Religion, almost all the inhabitants of the walled city were followers of Calvin. In 1660, it became "the Geneva of the Haut-Languedoc" when the Protestant Academy of Montauban was transferred to its walls. For 25 years, nearly 200 students came to be taught there. In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes led to the closure of the Academy and the destruction of the temple. Guillaume Lavabre, a troubadour shoemaker, was born and lived in the village. In October 1792 he named the young republic Marianne. His song La Garison de Marianna is therefore a milestone and allows the village to claim to be the "Occitan cradle of the Republican Marianne". It is also the birthplace of George Frêche, former mayor of Montpellier and president of the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  

Notre-Dame-du-Lac Church

Foundation: built in the 13th century.
Characteristics: the base of the bell tower and the nave are from the 17th century (1658), the vaults and the bell tower from the 19th century, wooden pedestal from the 15th century. It has the particularity of having two bell towers.  

HAUTE-GARONNE (31) 

Population: 1,400,039
Prefecture:
Toulouse
Subprefectures :
Muret, Saint Gaudens
Surface area:
6,309 km².
Specialities:
cassoulet, Toulouse sausage, foie gras, duck breast, Toulouse violet, AOP Fronton wine, AOC Cadours garlic, IGP des Pyrénées lamb, AOC Bigorre black pork, Label Rouge Lauragais veal.
Sports:
mountaineering, horse riding, climbing, hiking (new in 2017: Via Garona GR861, GR10, GR46, GR653, GR86), rugby, speleology, white water sports on the Garonne (canoeing, hydrospeed, rafting), aerial sports (paragliding, gliding, microlighting), winter sports (skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding), mountain biking (FFC Pyrenees Comminges area), sailing
Sports clubs:
Stade Toulousain, Toulouse Football Club, Fénix Toulouse Handball, Toulouse Métropole Basket, Spacers Volley, TOXIII, Union Sportive Colomiers Rugby.
Competitions :
Luchon Aneto Trail (the town of Luchon is labelled Station Trail©, Trail du Mourtis", Trail Toulouse Métropole, Trail du Cagire.
Economy:
Aeronautics and space, Tourism, 4 ski resorts, wine growing (Fronton)
Remarkable sites: Aurignacian Museum, Saint Bertrand de Comminges listed as "Most beautiful villages in France"; Martres-Tolosane and Revel labelled "Villes et Métiers d'Art"; Saint Ferréol Lake; Canal du Midi listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with its greenway; Lake Oô in the central Pyrenees Cité de l'Espace, the most visited tourist site and its 2019 exhibition "Moon: episode 2" to celebrate the 50th anniversary of man's first step on the moon; the Piste des Géants with "la Halle de la Machine" and "l'Envol des Pionniers" which opened at the end of 2018; Saint Sernin Basilica, one of the largest preserved Romanesque basilicas in Europe...
Festivals:
31 Notes d'Eté, Jazz sur son 31, Festival des créations télévisuelles de Luchon, Printemps du rire, Rio Loco, Comminges Festival in Saint Bertrand de Comminges, Toulouse les Orgues...
Websites and social networks:
http://www.haute-garonne.fr/ / http://hautegaronnetourisme.com / https://www.facebook.com/TourismeHG/ / https://twitter.com/TourismeHG / https://www.instagram.com/tourismehg   

Haute-Garonne, a cycling destination
- 50 sites with the Accueil Vélo label.
- Route des cols Pyrénéens (Pyrenean passes) with specific signs (gradient, altitude...)
- Department crossed by the Canal des 2 Mers à Vélo, with a greenway that runs alongside the Canal du Midi.
- 3 cycle routes, including one along the Garonne, from Carbonne to the Pyrenees, which will soon link with Spain (Trans Garona).

Km 141.7

REVEL (Pop: 9,800)

Built in the 14th century under Philippe VI de Valois, Revel is the largest bastide in France. The huge central hall, supported by a forest of wooden pillars, is crowned by a belfry. Surrounded by half-timbered houses which overhang the garlandes (arcades), this square is the heart of the town. Although the company left Revel in 1991, Get 27 remains one of the jewels of Revel, where this mint cream was invented in 1796 by a distiller from the town, François Pons. Initially employees of this distillery, Jean Get, who married the boss's daughter, and his brother Pierre Get took control of the company in 1853. Thanks to his success, Jean Get even became mayor of Revel in 1858 and remained at the town hall for twenty years. The former Get factory in Revel is now a cultural centre: it houses a media library, a dance school and a cinema, the Ciné-Get. The famous bottle adorns the façade of the building, which once gave off its characteristic smell in Revel. The Tour de France has stopped in Revel nine times since 1966. The last winner in town was Michael Matthews in 2016.  

SIGHTS 

Canal du Midi Museum & Gardens
From 1660 to 1680, Revel was the headquarters of Pierre-Paul Riquet, builder of the Canal du Midi. Located near the Saint-Ferréol dam, the Canal du Midi Museum & Gardens retraces the life of this engineer of genius and the different stages of the construction of this work. The Saint-Ferréol dam, built by Pierre-Paul Riquet in the 17th century on the Laudot stream, has become a huge dam, an essential reservoir for supplying water to the Canal du Midi. Today, this basin offers visitors a preserved setting as well as numerous summer activities: supervised swimming, water games, sailing, walking, fishing, lazing under the pine trees...  

Wood and marquetry museum 
Wood and its secrets, the excellence of the gesture and the transmission of the passion: three areas to discover in this museum. The Xylotheque lists and explains the characteristics of hundreds of species. The history and work of the Great Masters of Art are told. Workshops for young and old alike offer an introduction to the crafts.

AUDE (11)

Region: Occitania
Population: 374,070
Prefecture: Carcassonne
Sub-prefectures: Narbonne, Limoux
Number of municipalities: 436
Area: 6,139 km2
Specialities: cassoulet from Castelnaudary, bourride of eels, lucques (green olives), limos (brioche), fricassee from Limoux, oysters from Leucate (shellfish), truffles, rice and apple from Marseillette, écu du Pays Cathare (goat's cheese), Limoux nougat (confectionery), Aude wines (7 AOP), Limoux blanquette (wine), micheline (liqueur), cartagène (liqueur), Caunes-Minervois marble, boudegue (Occitan bagpipes)
Sports clubs: rugby union RCNM Narbonne and USC (Carcassonne), rugby league (Lézignan-Corbières, Limoux, Carcassonne), volleyball (Narbonne, Gruissan), women's handball (Narbonne).
Competitions: Mondial du vent (Leucate), Défi Wind & Défi Kite (Gruissan), Junior Kitesurf World Cup (Saint-Pierre-la-mer), Grand Raid des Cathares, Cross de la Cité (Carcassonne), Grand Fondo l'Audoise (Villeneuve Minervois), VTT Cap Nore / Déval' Nore (Aragon), Criterium of Quillan (Cycling) Abbey
Culture & heritage: Les citadelles du vertige, Canal du Midi, Lagrasse Abbey, Fontfroide Abbey. Carnival of Limoux, Montolieu book village, Scènes d'enfance (all the department), Artistes à suivre, Cassoulet festival, Limoux brass Festival, Jazz in Conilhac, Festival d'été (Lézignan-Corbières), Barques en Scènes Festival (Narbonne), festival de la Cité (Carcassonne), Temps de cirque (Circus Time, all the department), Sortie de case (all the department).
Economy: viticulture, fishing, agriculture, livestock farming, maritime trade, seaside tourism, mid-mountain tourism, thermalism, cultural tourism, wine tourism and truffle tourism
Websites and social networks: www.aude.fr / www.audetourisme.com / www.payscathare.com / www.payscathare.org / citadellesduvertige.aude.fr / www.facebook.com/departementdelaude / www.instagram.com/citadellesduvertige /

In the heart of the Occitanie region, Aude is a territory with varied landscapes. Between mountainous massif, plains and coastline, the department is undeniably one of diversity.
The cultural and environmental variety is marked by medieval castles, these "citadels of vertigo", the Romanesque abbeys and cloisters, the medieval city of Carcassonne, Narbonne la Romaine, the prehistoric caves or the Canal du Midi planted with hundred-year-old trees. Aude also has a rich natural heritage as regards plants and wildlife... It has one of the richest biodiversities in France, which the department protects and promotes through 17 sensitive natural areas and trails and two regional nature parks. In the field of sports, this translates into a wide range of outdoor activities which are both an element of quality of life for the population and an undeniable tourist attraction.
Aude is a territory where the locals and visitors cultivate an art of living, a taste for authenticity. Prosper Montagné's homeland still asserts itself as a land of choice for Languedoc cuisine. The great chefs of Aude remain in the wake of this gastronomic tradition. It is not by chance that, with 11 Michelin stars, the Aude is the most starred department in Occitania! The diversity and richness of the products and wines of the Aude department are based on the authenticity of the land on which they are rooted; here, food and wine are at their best.
Aude Pays Cathare, the South has its history!

Km 163.8

SAISSAC (Pop: 950)

Situated in the foothills of the Montagne Noire, within the natural region of the Cabardès. The village itself is set at an altitude of some 450 metres, overlooking the Lauragais plain and the Canal du Midi.  

Castle of Saissac

Foundation: built in the 10th century.
History: part of the dense network of Cathar castles, built from the 10th century onwards, its vocation was to watch over the plain and the axis linking Castelnaudary to Carcassonne. The lords of Saissac rallied to Simon de Montfort at the beginning of the Crusade against the Albigensians (XIIIe ), then the imposing fortress was remodelled at the beginning of the 16th century to house a comfortable residence.
Current use: now owned by the municipality, the castle has been secured and opened to the public since 2000. The rooms have been reconstructed in the spirit of the 16th century. The building houses a museum dedicated to the "treasure" unearthed in 1979: a collection of 2,000 coins dating from the end of the 13th century.
Listing: Historical Monument since 1926.         

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