I want to express my delight and complete satisfaction with a recent pilot tour in the “province” of Aveyron, a relatively undiscovered jewel of France which contains an abundance of cultural and aesthetic attractions to please the seasoned traveler. For those with leisure to combine a cosmopolitan stopover in Paris with bucolic serenity and Medieval wonders—or for those who have already seen Paris—Aveyron has much to offer. The combination of sweeping natural beauty, indescribably picturesque villages, and ancient architectural treasures will provide a lifetime of happy memories and offers a welcome change from more-touristed itineraries. Véronique, our “hostess” (too bubbly and affable to be called a tour-guide), delighted to share the hospitality of her cheerfully renovated home and squire us through the length and breadth of Aveyron. The people are quite friendly and approachable: I recall one proud villager inviting us into his home to view his collection of antique motorcycles (he must have had more than 50).
Afternoons would be spent exploring other remarkable sites with dinner at around 7 or 8pm. Particularly alluring to me was the multitude of ancient churches, castles and village architecture which recalled both the simplicity and dangers of Medieval times. And while we saw about a dozen of these incomparable villages, there was ample variety and an assortment of other attractions. Museums, dinner at local farmers’ market, wine tastings, a comprehensive visit to a working farm and &mdash my personal favorite &mdash a tour of the Roquefort cheese caves are just a few of the treats in store for the Aveyron adventurer. My final thoughts: wear comfortable shoes, enjoy the local wines and try the aligot… this is a trip I will remember with pleasure."
~ Tom Mockler, New York, U.S.A.
Quelle belle visite en Aveyron!
My husband and I love international travel, and Véronique has found an ideal niche for people like us. Experience (my) France gave us the opportunity to explore the back roads of an unsung region of France with someone who knows the area intimately and could take us off the beaten path—in true French style!
Véronique, as host, was terrific. She not only knows the towns and countryside, but also many interesting people, like vintners and other local producers. She’s even related to one of them! It made such a difference to have her as our guide, translator and fellow traveller. She opened doors for us in a way we could never have experienced otherwise.
The towns we visited were incredibly picturesque, and often situated in beautiful or dramatic landscapes. From our base in Baraqueville (handily located in the centre of Aveyron), we were able to take day trips to every part of the region. We were struck by how varied the landscape was from one corner to the other. Every day was a new and aesthetically rich treat whether we were exploring medieval villages, ancient sites, artisans’ studios or natural wonders like the Roquefort caves.
And every day we ate and drank the best that the region had to offer. Most afternoons we stopped in a scenic place for a delightful picnic of local wines and cheeses, sausages and pâtés. In the evenings we would dine at a different restaurant, or occasionally gather with locals at a weekly producers’ market in a village square. The food was delicious, with many regional specialties. We made it our personal mission to try everything.
We have never been drawn to large organized group tours, so the idea of travelling with a maximum of six people was very appealing. It allowed for some flexibility and down-time in the itinerary, which was great. And one of the amazing things about this trip was how few other tourists we saw—and no tour buses!
We loved our visit to Aveyron, and we would whole-heartedly recommend it to any other independent-minded travellers."
~ Heather Walter and Patrick McCloskey, Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
My tour of Aveyron
I spent 10 lovely days with Véronique, exploring the Aveyron. Aveyron has 10 of the official “most beautiful villages of France” and we visited 9 of them—and several other villages that were at least as pretty. Old castles on the hilltops with stone houses clustered at the base, winding old streets, flower pots and hanging baskets, old bridges over small or large rivers, large and small churches…the Aveyron has lots of them!
It was interesting to cross the pilgrim’s path from time to time—we saw walkers with their sticks in the towns on the route from Puy to the Spanish Camino. Some towns like Conques have relied on tourists [called pilgrims!] for centuries. Apart from the pilgrims and an occasional busload, there were few other tourists on our track. There were plenty of people around, though, at the markets, an art fair, sitting in squares or street corners. In some towns there were quirky decorations described as “Land art”. Being in France, of course we ate well.
Véronique's house is simple but comfortable. Baraqueville itself is a rather ordinary town, but excellently placed for travel all over Aveyron. And on market day, the market comes right up to the front door of Véronique’s house.
Véronique grew up in the area and has explored it further, so her knowledge of places is amazing. She is a good driver and has an amazing ability to find her way along the twisting roads. she also seems to know the most interesting street corners in every town. The tour was altogether a great experience...
~ Effie Best, Adelaide, Australia
About the top banner photo: We chose this photo shot by Patrick McCloskey for a few reasons; Patrick himself told us he liked it as it looks like the Conques Abbey windows are overlooking the stone wall. We too chose it as a clin d'oeil, the new windows, instead of stain glass, were designed by Pierre Soulages an avant-garde world-known painter, for a close to a thousand years old abbey.