The General Area: Midi-Pyrenees / Tarn Region
The Tarn is situated in the foothills of The Pyrenees (Midi-Phyrénées) and is known as the land of milk and honey due to its verdant terrain. Characterised by rolling hills, working farms and medieval market towns, this is still “The Real France”. It’s geography and climate is defined on three sides by The Black Mountains (near) , The Auvergne Mountains ( about 90 minutes) and The Pyrenees (two hours).
The region has a rich Cathar history much in evidence everywhere. It boasts an impressive and detailed architecture, with many grand properties built on the wealth of the much coveted blue dye of the pastel plant. To acquire an insight into the history of this Cathar region while reading an enjoyable (if far-fetched) tale, read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.
Nearby Toulouse is a vibrant city of rose coloured brick and is known as the Paris of the south. It has a vibrant nightlife and masses of shops, fine restaurants and museums. And a great orchestra.
The beautiful Canal du Midi runs from Toulouse through Castelnaudry, Carcassonne and all the way to Sète. It is possible to rent bikes from two hours to the length of your stay and go on one of the lovely bike routes in the area. They range from very easy to more demanding.
During the warmer months there are many festivals, free concerts and fairs throughout the region, the dates of which change annually. It is best to pick up the free brochures for current dates at the tourist office in each town you visit (different towns cover different areas).
There are numerous sports centres in the various mountains for canoeing, kyaking and so forth. Quad biking is also popular. The brand new multi-leisure Cap’Découverte is under one hour from the house in Albi.
The weather is generally sunny and Mediterranean from May to August (average 28C) peaking in July in the mid 30’s. April, September and October are pleasant (average 22C, but can be unpredictable) and the light is beautiful for sightseeing. It can be cold in the winter, but also very warm. Last year we had a white Christmas and the year before we were sunbathing on New Year’s day!
The Immediate Vicinity: Lavaur / Teyssode / St Germier area
Our village is a ten minutes drive from the town of Lavaur which benefits from two cathedrals, several supermarkets including bio ones, a health food store (English spoken), a hospital, numerous restaurants and all modern day facilities. It has a wonderful Saturday morning market. Other particularly noteworthy Saturday markets are in Revel and Castres, but in addition there is always a market somewhere six days a week.
The views from the house are really lovely. You can see The Black mountains, including its highest peak, the Pic de Nore, and if the conditions are right in the winter you might catch a view of the snow capped Pyrenees.
3 km away from our home is Viterbe with an acclaimed gourmet restaurant Les Marronniers. Opposite the restaurant is an excellent traditional bakery. There is also a beautiful golf course with pool and restaurant (great at lunchtime!) next to Viterbe called Golf de Fiac
The area has many biking and walking trails, including a 30 km roman road near the house – well worth walking, and you can choose just bits of it if you prefer.