Just because you haven’t heard of an area, doesn’t mean that it’s not spectacular. I’ve been going to the Aveyron, in the middle south of France, for 30 years because my sister has had a home there since 1987. This is a place where the French go on holiday and is filled with Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France). If you like discovering a hidden gem that hasn’t been overwhelmed with tourists, this is the place for you.
This Aveyronaise a contrast in richness having both an extraordinarily beautiful countryside, historic hill-top villages as well as the ancient and awesome city of Albi, home to Toulouse Lautrec. We’ll visit cutting edge modern museums, experience centuries old traditional recipes and walk through 1000-year-old architecture. We’ll walk and discover the secrets of this fairytale land rich with foie gras, rolling fields, hearty red wines and Roquefort cheese.
Arrive, in Toulouse via train from Paris where we’ll pick you up at the train station. After a short 1-hour drive to Albi, we’ll check into our exceptional centrally located hotel, Hotel Alchimy allowing time to rest before we meet for drinks. Dinner is in town at a restaurant conveniently located right in our hotel. We’ll drink superb local wines and toast to our arrival in France dining alfresco on excellent modern French food.
Optional: Jet lag rejuvenation massage
Today we’ll discover the charming ancient city of Albi, situated on the river Tarn and dating back to the Bronze age. We’ll walk across its bridges, some of which are nearly 1000 years old, and then trip Albi’s 13th century cathedral. After, we’ll lunch at a neo-bistro* in town. Then in the afternoon, we’ll trip the Toulouse Lautrec Museum and its stunning formal gardens.
Time back at our hotel for rest and relaxation.
Dinner tonight will be at a highly rated family run bistro in central Albi.
* A Neo-bistro can be defined as a small restaurant run by a chef with a vision. These chefs are classically trained, and have gained recognition at grand, Michelin starred venues, in France and abroad. Then they stepped away from the constraints of the star system, to forge their own culinary paths. -Karen Kane, Paris by Design
Today we head out on an adventure to historic Najac, situated on a bend on the river Tarn and considered one of the most beautiful villages in France with its charming half-timbered houses.
On the way to Najac, we’ll stop to explore the Bastide town of Cordes sur Ciel built in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse. We’ll lunch here alfresco on local delicacies.
Upon arrival in Najac, we’ll walk the length of the town until you come upon the magical view of the Najac castle, dating from 1253. During our stroll we’ll stop to taste and buy some organic locally-made sweets. For those who wish, you can make the climb up to the ruins of the castle where you’ll enjoy an expansive view over the former Kingdom.
Time back in Albi for rest, shopping or reading outside whilst sipping a tea or rosé wine.
Dinner tonight will be at a delightful Modern French Wine Bar across the river.
This morning after breakfast we check out of our hotel and head off towards the east, arriving in the Aveyron department. We’ll be staying for the next part of the trip at the exquisite Chateau LaBro, just outside of the city of Rodez.
Thanks to our location near Rodez, we’ll explore the capital of the region and visit its newest, most important museum. Here we will discover the work of the area’s most famous artist, Pierre Soulages in a superbly designed building dedicated to his art. We’ll have a private, guided visit with the founder of the board of this organization. After lunch at the celebrated Cafe Bras located within the Soulages museum, we’ll have time to hit the small but charming gift shop. In the afternoon we’ll take time to relax by the pool at our exceptional Chateau hotel.
For our dinner ce soir, we’ll head to the pizza place in Rodez which is exceptional. After a fancy lunch, you’ll be ready for some simple tasty food.
Today we’ll head off down the road to Espalion, a charming Aveyronaise village, which is a stop on the road to Compostelle, the 1000-year-old pilgrimage to Spain. Espalion is situated on the Lot river and boasts an 11th century bridge. Here’ll we’ll have a simple homemade lunch followed by some shopping and exploring.
Next we’ll visit the tiny but spectacular village of Estaing to visit the Chateau at the center of this historic town. This Chateau has been in the family of the former President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, for 400 years. There is also a lovely church directly across from the Chateau which you are welcome to visit afterwards.
In the late afternoon we’ll make a pit stop at the stunning Pottery museum and shop in Le Fel, which specializes in some of the most incredible ceramic art you’ve ever seen…and they ship!
Tonight, after a short trip of the Ferme Mejanneserre, we’ll feast on whole pig, duck or whatever they choose to roast for us over their spit in their gigantic fireplace. They make or grow everything on the menu and they even throw the pottery on which your meal sits. Inevitably you’ll try the region’s speciality, Aligot, which is mashed potatoes whipped together with local cantal or tomme cheese. Leave it to the French to find a way to make mashed even more delectable. This is hyperlocal organic French food at its very finest – down to the digestifs they make in house. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the world mainly because they serve just one special house-made meal on the few nights they are open each week.
Today we’ll make our pilgrimage to Lagouile, the area and town famous for its beef and its handmade knives. En route we’ll stop off to see the nuns at the Abbaye de Bonneval. Hopefully we’ll hear them chant their morning prayers and then taste and buy some of the delicious chocolate they make by hand.
After we’ll head to the Laguiole factory designed by Philippe Starck for those who want to buy a souvenir wine opener, country knife or a set of horn handled steak knives which will be keepsakes forever. I own them and use them at each of our abodes and they will last a lifetime.
Then we’ll sit down to our 3-hour lunch at the3 Michelin star restaurant Bras, created by Michel Bras, one of the most important chefs in France. Included in this experience is a visit to the kitchen to meet the chef. This culinary experience will do nothing less than completely blow your mind.
This afternoon and evening will be set aside for relaxation, free time and will end with dinner on your own. For those who want, we’ll take a short ride to the Lebanese restaurant in town, and others might prefer to have something simple at the hotel. (Tonight’s meal is not included because often people are still full from your magnificent lunch).
Today we’ll visit Conques, a holy site since the 7th century. We’ll have the pleasure of a visit to see the unique stained-glass windows designed by Pierre Soulages for the 11th century abbey. We’ll then spend some time exploring on our own this seriously charming town, popping in here or there to pick up a souvenir or two. After, we’ll lunch nearby on a lovely terrace and outdoor restaurant manned by a talented chef.
We’ll head back to our Chateau hotel for rest and relaxation or a pop into the pool to refresh.
Tonight, we’ll have our farewell dinner at the Chateau’s beautiful restaurant starting with celebratory drinks first outside on the terrace so we can watch the sunset. We’ll toast to a glorious week with new memories and new friendships created.
Breakfast and then depart via Rodez airport.
GG2P always reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability as well as exciting opportunities that might crop up!
NOTE -> Not to worry – Vegetarians will be well fed in all cafés and restaurants as well as those allergic to seafood or gluten. Options are plentiful.
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If you’d like to come, press the Reserve Now button above. You will be prompted to complete a form with your pertinent details, put down a refundable $250 deposit, and schedule a time to speak with a GG2P representative. We like to speak with everyone before they embark on their first trip with Girls’ Guide to Paris & Beyond. This allows you to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have. These are intimate, small group trips; a quick yet personal conversation allows you to get to know how our trips work and make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, we’ll immediately refund your $250 deposit.
If it’s a Go! after your call, we’ll bill you for a non-refundable deposit, usually 35% of the trip’s cost (less the $250 place-holder deposit, if you already paid it) and your place is reserved. At this point, you’re committed to the trip, so we recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance to protect you in case your plans change unexpectedly. The balance will be due approximately 2 months before the trip.
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