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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
Surface area: 72,724 km2
Specialities: foie gras, cassoulet, aligot, tielle from 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: aeronautics and space (Airbus, Ariane, Toulouse), defence, IT, nuclear, agri-food, agriculture (wine, cereals) tourism, pharmaceutical industry. 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 de Carcassonne, Lourdes basilica, Toulouse (Capitole, Saint-Sernin, pink city), Montpellier (Place de la Comédie, Écusson), beaches, Pont du Gard, Nîmes amphitheatre, 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.

TARN (81)

Population: 384,474
Prefecture: Albi
Sub-prefecture: Castres
Surface area: 5758 km2
Specialities: Lacaune salt meats (IGP), Lautrec pink garlic (Label Rouge), Gaillac wines (AOC), veal from Ségala, croquants from Cordes, Pumpet from Sémalens, etc.
Sports clubs: Castres Olympique (Top14), Sporting Club Albigeois (Pro D2), ASPTT (women's 1st division football), Albi Rugby League XIII (men's Elite 1 13-a-side rugby).
Events: Albi Automobile Grand Prix (September), Route du Sud cycliste (June), European Motocross Championships (April), Albi Marathon (April), Montagne Noire Automobile Rally (July), French Petanque Championships in Carmaux (July), 2017 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi.
Main sights: Albi and the Episcopal City, Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Castres and Goya Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Gaillac vineyards, bastides and villages, the Sidobre, Martels Garden and Tarn Tourist Railway, Black Mountain, Sorèze Abbey School and Dom Robert Museum, Ambialet and the Tarn Valley.
Festivals: Pause Guitare in Albi (July), Musiques des Lumières festival in Sorèze (July), L'Eté de Vaour
Economy: Pierre Fabre Laboratory, Verrerie ouvrière d'Albi, food industry, tourism
Websites and social /

Km 1.6


Castelnau-de-Lévis Castle
Built: 13th century.
Style: medieval.
History: from the top of its promontory, its impressive 40-metre tower dominates the Albi region, yet its history remains little-known. Castelnau de Bonafous castle, named after the hill on which it stands, was built in the 13th century by Sicard Alaman. The minister and friend of Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, dreamt of building a powerful city. Raymond VII, for his part, had a desire for revenge: most of his possessions had been confiscated at the end of the Albigensian Crusade and, above all, he was forbidden to build a stronghold. He gave Sicard Alaman the Puy de Bonafous on condition that he build a stronghold there. The castle was built between 1235 and 1256. Over the centuries, the site passed through the hands of a number of prominent families until the French Revolution, when it was destroyed. In 1818, it was sold to become a quarry. It was finally bought by the commune in 1991. For more than 20 years, volunteers took it in turns to consolidate the remains in collaboration with the architect for French Monuments.
Listed as: historical monument in 1909.

Km 12.1


Church of Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption in Roumanou
Construction: 11th to 13th centuries.
Style: Romanesque.
History: the architectural style is clearly early Romanesque, an art in vogue in the 11th and 12th centuries in the territories belonging to the Trencavel family. The hamlet of Roumanou is recorded in 1070, when Pope Gregory VII confirmed the possessions of the Abbey of Saint-Victor in Marseille. A priory was established there. In 1368, the church came under the responsibility of the Abbey of Saint-Benoît Saint-Germain in Montpellier. Restoration work became necessary in the mid-19th century, as the building had fallen into disrepair. In the 21st century, restoration work uncovered medieval wall paintings. They were hidden by plaster.
Listed as: Historical Monument in 1988.

Km 22.3


Cordes-sur-Ciel is the first and most visited bastide town in Tarn. It was founded by the Count of Toulouse, Raymond VII, in 1222 at the height of the crusade against the Albigensians. Its foundation provided a focal point for the populations of neighbouring towns. The town's first aim was to meet military requirements, and to this end it was built on the summit of the Puech de Mordagne. Cordes enjoyed a period of great prosperity at the end of the 13th century, with 6,000 inhabitants (as many as in Albi at the time) working in leather, weaving cloth and braiding rope. It was at this time that the town began to adorn itself with the Gothic-style mansions that, 700 years later, still make its reputation and earn it a place among the Most Beautiful Villages in France. No fewer than twenty-six of the town's buildings are listed as Historical Monuments.

Saint-Michel Church
Construction: 13th to 15th centuries.
Style: Gothic.
History: the first construction is thought to have taken place between 1263 and 1281. The building subsequently underwent major alterations. In 1345, it was in danger of falling into ruin. The consuls obtained authorisation from the Albi judge to demolish it and rebuild it slightly larger. The nave dating from the middle of the 14th century was in turn replaced by another in the 15th century. In 1452, the local consul decided to enlarge the church. The contract was signed in 1455 and the first stone laid in 1460. In 1568, the roof was redone after the building was burnt down by Protestants.
Characteristics: the right chevet could date back to the original 13th-century building. It consists of a large vault and two chapels forming the arms of the transept. The openings are divided by a mullion that ends in speckles. There are four chapels to the north and three to the south. On this side, the entrance door takes the place of the fourth chapel. The bell tower and its flying buttress must date from between 1369 and 1374. The square base then becomes an octagon, with an ogival bay on each side. A 15th-century rose adorns the western façade. The original doorway, which was located on this façade, was closed after the square was lowered and opened on the south side.
Listed as: historical monument in 1922.

Maison du Grand Veneur
Construction: 14th century.
Style: Gothic.
History: Cordes' Gothic houses date back to the town's period of prosperity, in the first half of the 14th century. They are concentrated along the Grande Rue. The lower part of the Maison du Grand Veneur was modified in the 17th century (rectangular openings).
Characteristics: the street facade features a sculpted fresco depicting a hunting scene. The ground floor opens onto two inner courtyards and the rear sections via a series of doors and arcades. Inside, the layout of the long single room is repeated from the first to the third floor. These rooms feature French ceilings, niches and openings from the Gothic period, as well as painted wall decor (chequerboard decorated with fleurs de lys; faux appareil; unfinished battle scene).
Listed as: historical monument in 1922.

Charles Portal Museum of Art and History
It is the collective memory of Cordes-sur-Ciel and the surrounding area. More than just a tribute to Charles Portal, the great archivist of Tarn and the man behind its foundation in 1904, the museum is an evocation of the various periods that have contributed to the development of Cordes. From prehistory, including a typical series of pottery from the late Bronze Age, to the Middle Ages and up to the 17th century, via the archaeological excavations (20th century) of the famous Cordes well (113.47 m deep).

Km 24.6


Tour des Cabannes (Cabannes tower)
Construction: 13th century.
Style: medieval.
History: originally, the Cabannes Tower was most likely an outbuilding of the former Château de Corrompis, serving as a signal tower and perhaps even forming part of a fortification system. It is thought to date from the 13th century, which is also the century in which the castle was built.
Characteristics: Square-shaped and six metres on each side, it currently has four storeys, the last of which is truncated. It is almost fifteen metres high, although it is impossible to know its original size because the upper storeys have disappeared.
The building is made of local schist stone, with alternating rubble stone and flat slabs, forming walls 1.30 m thick.
Listed as: Historical Monument in 1974.

Km 27


This charming little village was originally a fortified outpost before Cordes-sur-Ciel. In the church, with its 17-m-high bell tower and porch (listed in 1927), you'll find a beautiful 17th-century altarpiece. Right next to the church, the château once belonged to the Tapié de Céleyran family, related to the Toulouse-Lautrec family.

Km 45.3


Castelnau-de-Montmiral, listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France, stands on a promontory jutting out from the chain of hills along the left bank of the Vère. This position, with its ability to watch over a large part of the river basin from upstream and downstream, was perfectly suited to a medieval castle and village. It was Raymond VII, the last Count of Toulouse of Occitan origin, who ordered its construction in the 1220's. There was no doubt an earlier settlement, perhaps of Gallo-Roman origin, scattered around the area. Raymond VII granted the inhabitants of Castelnau-de-Montmiral privileges and franchises to encourage the settlement of the new village: permission to graze in the nearby forest, exemption from tolls in the Albi region, etc. ...  

Reliquary cross of the Counts of Armagnac A veritable masterpiece of religious goldsmithery, this treasure is one of the finest in France and was included in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. It was the object of great devotion for the people of Montmiral, as it contains a piece of the Cross of Christ and various relics of the Apostles. It was therefore involved in the religious and civil life of the community. Until 1840, the cross was also used in the solemn procession commemorating the defeat of the Protestants in 1586. At the time of the Revolution, the cross was in the care of a priest; initially hidden in a shed, it was later deposited, lying on a bed of plaster mortar, in a silo dug at the foot of the castle walls. It was there, after the revolutionary turmoil, that a pig looking for food found it with a truly providential snout!

Km 49.1


Although Puycelsi is not a bastide town, its fortified appearance completes the introduction to the history of bastides. Built in the Middle Ages, the ramparts have seven defensive towers and two gates that still exist today: Porte de l'Irissou (the portcullis) and Porte de la Navistour (the shuttle-shaped tower). The village was built around a former Benedictine monastery, of which all that remains today is the imposing church dedicated to Sainte Corneille. Puycelsi (the mount of heaven), retains traces of its religious past with the chapel of Saint Roch, built in 1703 following a vow against the plague, the chapel of Saint Jacme, which belonged to the Templars of Vaour, and above the entrance doors of some houses, the monogram of Christ IHS, indicating that a small religious congregation was present.


Population: 260,669
Prefecture: Montauban
Sub-prefectures: Castelsarrasin
Surface area: 3718 km2
Specialities: Fruit (Chasselas de Moissac PDO, Reine Claude red label, Moissac cherry, Lomagne chestnut, Laguépie chestnut); Caussade black chicken; Quercy black truffle and saffron; Quercy lamb; Lomagne white garlic PGI; Quercy melon PGI; duck and goose foie gras, wines (Fronton PDO, Coteaux du Quercy, Saint-Sardos, Brulhois, etc.).
Sports clubs: Union sportive montalbanaise USM (rugby, Pro D2), Avenir valencien (rugby, Fédérale 1), Cercle athlétique castesarrasinois (Cycling), Montauban Natation 82 (8th largest club in France), Montauban athlétisme (Nationale 2)
Sports events: Montauban Marathon; annual USM rugby matches; French men's and women's triplet pétanque championships, etc.
Festivals: Voix des Lieux et des Mondes festival (Moissac, June); Montauban en scènes (July); Estivales du Chapeau (Caussade, July); Garlic Fair (Beaumont de Lomagne, July); Festival des Châteaux (Bruniquel, August); Nuits de Lauzerte (August); Médiévales de Belleperche (September); Gastronomy Festival (Moissac, September).
Economy: Agriculture (orchards in the south-west, organic farming, cattle rearing, poultry farming)
Websites / FB / Twitter:Facebook / Twitter / / Facebook / Twitter / Google+ / Instagram / YouTube / Tourisme Tarn-et-Garonne

Km 81.8


Villebrumier Castle
Construction: 1820 to 2001
Style: neoclassical
History and characteristics: Pierre Gerla, a retired MP, had the château built between 1809 and 1815 on a large plot of land on the banks of the Tarn. He reused the foundations of an older building. His heirs added a second storey and two towers, as well as numerous interior and exterior improvements. In 1877, the château was sold to Jean, count of Marigny, who carried out extensive embellishments, in particular by ceramist Gaston Virebent. The Count became close to sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, who stayed at the château many times. From 1996 onwards, the new owners, the Laporte family, restored the château and carried out major extensions. The park has been enriched with a number of rare species.
Current use: the château has become a sought-after venue for events such as concerts, scientific seminars, weddings and family reunions.
Listed as: historical monument in 2002.

Km 85.7


Saint-Saturnin Church
Built: 13th century
Style: Gothic
History: dating from the 13th century, only the façade and the base of the walls have been preserved. Initially ruined during the Hundred Years' War, it became a fort and lost its vault and part of the southern walls during the Wars of Religion, which were particularly intense in the region. It was restored in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The choir vault was rebuilt in the 18th century, and the nave vault was redone in 1862. A new restoration of the church is planned from 2021.
Characteristics: built of brick with buttresses, it has a three-bay nave flanked by two 18th-century vaulted chapels and a bell tower-wall with five semi-circular openwork bays, two of which house a bell. An octagonal turret, located near the south-west corner of the west facade, contains a staircase giving access to the attic.
The entrance door is decorated with an escutcheon of the Order of Malta and the coat of arms of Victor de Tholon de Sainte-Jalle, Commander of Fronton in 1523. The interior, particularly the choir vault, was decorated in the 19th century by the Pedoya brothers, painters based in Ariège.
Listed as: Historical Monument in 1913.


Population: 1,400,039
Prefecture: Toulouse
Sub-prefectures: Muret, Saint Gaudens
Surface area: 6,309 km²
Specialities: cassoulet, Toulouse sausage, foie gras, duck breast, Toulouse violets, 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, caving, white water sports on the Garonne (canoeing, kayaking, hydrospeed, rafting), aerial sports (paragliding, gliding, microlighting), winter sports (skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding), mountain biking (FFC Pyrénées Comminges), sailing.
Major sports clubs: Stade Toulousain, Toulouse Football Club, Fénix Toulouse Handball, Toulouse Métropole Basket, Spacers Volleyball, TOXIII, Union Sportive Colomiers Rugby
Major competitions: Luchon Aneto Trail (the town of Luchon has the Station Trail© label), Trail du Mourtis, Trail Toulouse Métropole, Trail du Cagire
Festivals: 31 Notes d'Eté, Jazz sur son 31, Television Creation Festival in Luchon, Printemps du rire, Rio Loco, Comminges Festival in Saint Bertrand de Comminges, Toulouse les Orgues...
Economy: Aerospace, tourism, 4 ski resorts, winegrowing (Fronton)
Remarkable sites: Aurignacian Museum, Saint Bertrand de Comminges listed as one of the "Most Beautiful Villages in France"; Martres-Tolosane and Revel awarded the "Villes et Métiers d'Art" label; Lac de Saint Ferréol; Unesco-listed Canal du Midi with its greenway; Lake Oô in the central Pyrenees; Cité de l'Espace, the most visited tourist site; La Piste des Géants Saint Sernin Basilica, one of the largest Romanesque basilicas preserved in Europe...
Haute-Garonne, a cycling destination:
50 sites with the Accueil Vélo label.
Route des cols Pyrénéens (Pyrenean mountain pass route) with specific signs (altitude difference, altitude...)
This department is crossed by the Canal des 2 Mers à Vélo, with a greenway running alongside the Canal du Midi.
3 cycle routes, including one along the Garonne, from Carbonne to the Pyrenees, which will soon link up with Spain (Trans Garona).
Websites and social networks:

Km 93.7


In the 12th century, with the protection of Pope Calixtus II, who came to consecrate the church in 1119, the vineyard became the property of the Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The Order built the village around the church of St John the Baptist, built on the site of the present-day church. Pious donations poured in and the Order created a commandery in Fronton. The village was built in the shelter of moats and ramparts, and life was organised under the protection of the seigniorial castle. This vineyard, one of the oldest in France, was to make Fronton's fortune. The reputation of the wines did not reach its peak until the 18th century, when the protectionism enjoyed by Gironde wines came to an end and the wines could be exported via Bordeaux to the whole of Europe. This prosperity did not last long, however, until phylloxera broke out at the end of the 19th century. Thanks to the tenacious efforts of generations of winegrowers, the wines of Fronton regained their letters of nobility by obtaining the appellation d'origine contrôlée in 1975. The renown of Fronton wine was also recognised when the INES cuvée won the prize for the best rosé wine in the world in 2008.

Km 102


A stopover in Castelnau-d'Estréfonds includes visits to the following historic monuments that are emblematic of this small town:

Castelnau-d'Estréfonds Castle
Construction: 16th to 19th centuries.
History and characteristics: The castle was first documented in 1159. It was once owned by the Counts of Toulouse. Renaissance wings: 16th century, by Nicolas Bachelier; Other parts of the château and outbuildings: 18th century, 19th century, by A. de Lescalles. Extensively altered from 1865 by the Comte de Cambolas. The building is laid out in a U-shape around a central courtyard, enclosed by a gate.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1992.

Km 106.9


The town was founded in 1290 by the Cistercian monks of Grandselve Abbey, who had also founded Beaumont-de-Lomagne a decade earlier. The town has a historical significance as it was the subject of a parage agreement between the monks and the seneschal representing the king. During the Battle of Toulouse in 1814, troops from the Anglo-Hispano-Portuguese coalition stayed here.

Church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption
Built: 1376.
Style: Languedoc Gothic.
History and characteristics: Construction work on the church of Notre-Dame de l'Assomption began in the year the town was founded and was completed in 1376. It houses some fairly large paintings, almost all of them by the knight Rivalz (Pierre Rivalz), from the Grandselve abbey, which has now been completely destroyed. There is also a Cavaillé Coll organ, as well as rich Baroque furnishings including sculptures, altarpieces, and gilded wooden pulpits.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1951.

Km 110.6


In 1734, the Marquis Henri-Auguste de Chalvet-Rochemonteix acquired the seigneury of Merville. He ambitiously reclaimed land, bought houses, and acquired the entire fortified enclosure to build a new castle, completely transforming the appearance of the village. The fort's church was the only remaining structure, but it accidentally burnt down in 1807. The château was constructed between 1743 and 1759, and later, a boxwood park with a labyrinth was built to complement the building, which is still standing today and listed as an 18th-century historical monument.

Château de Merville
Construction: 1743 to 1759.
History: Henri-Auguste, Marquis de Chalvet Rochemonteix, seneschal of Toulouse, designed the plans for his residence on the site of the old castle with its fortified walls. The château boasts great architectural sobriety and has retained its original furnishings, making it one of the town's most remarkable sights.
Characteristics: The château exemplifies the classical Toulouse style of its era and houses a succession of ceremonial rooms with rich Flemish tapestries, including the Chinese room. The windows offer splendid views over the Garonne valley and the château's grounds. The current owners, Mr and Mrs de Beaumont, have undertaken a major restoration program to showcase this unique ensemble, which is a rare example of 18th-century furniture and ornamentation.
Special features: Château de Merville is renowned for its boxwood garden designed by the Marquis de Chalvet. The park, in addition to showcasing the residence, offers a delightful place for a stroll. The boxwood avenues form a veritable 6-kilometre labyrinth, dotted with roundabouts, green rooms, and a pond, all creating a perspective designed in relation to the château. The garden is a unique innovation in the style of 19th-century English gardens.
Listed as: Historical Monument since 1987. Remarkable garden.

Km 116.6


Château du Percin  Château du Percin dates back to the 14th century. It was part of the fiefdom of Cluez or La Tricherie, which belonged to the Guizot family. Part of it was sold in 1509 to the Sire Pierre de Buisson, who donated it to the Saint-Jacques hospital in Toulouse, with the stipulation that the inhabitants of the commune be treated free of charge. This privilege was not abolished during the French Revolution. It now houses a public school. Excavations carried out in the vicinity of the castle since 1940 have revealed the presence of a vast enclosure dating from the Neolithic period, probably abandoned following a fire.