So, after having left Estonia, we settled for a bit at Xavier’s parents in Toulouse, which is a marvelous city and we’ll talk about it a bit later. Our life here started slowly turning into non-stop resort, so in order to interrupt our bohemian laziness we decided to have a small week-end trip to the neighboring department of the region Midi-Pyrénées – Aveyron.
160 km, 2.5 hours of driving, and here we are – Roquefort village.
Of course we hadn’t chosen this village by accident. When living or simply hanging around in France, one can quickly get why the French are so famous for their cuisine in entire world. Especially considering french cheese, and especially – french cheese from South-West. One of our most favourite cheese is definitely Roquefort, that despite its smell and quite unattractive look with generous green moisture, takes you directly to the heaven. Apart from its fantastic taste Roquefort is also special due to its origin as it can be made only from the milk of sheep that come only from Roquefort village and the territory in 120 km around. Then it must mature minimum 3 months in the caves of the village and get its delicious moisture which is developing due to special bacteria that lives in these caves only. Too many « only », huh ? Because of these limits, there is not sot many companies producing Roquefort cheese, but the ones which exist propose visits to their caves, where the cheese is blown by the air-currents full of this super-bacteria. If the entrance to Papillon and Gabriel Coulet is free, the visit of Société caves, which are the oldest ones and authentic whereas the others are restored, costs 5€, but considering that the price includes a guided tour and and degustation of all types of Roquefort with ginger bread, it is quite fair. Also available in English!
The tour lasts one hour, it is quite well done, with funny animation and clear explanations, but the most important is that we could actually see the cheese in its maturing process. By the way, Société caves are opened every day including the week-ends, so we would really recommend you to visit these ones. Though, you can still pick some cheese from degustation tables in the other shops :) The caves are really impressive – the caves strongly remind Moria from « The Lord of the Rings », but instead of dwarves it is Roquefort that lives there.
The village itself is far from being either interesting or simply beautiful, actually it is totally empty – it is explained by the fact that the companies bought almost all houses in the village to use their caves, but nobody takes care to maintain the exterior part and it is sad. Apart from caves and non-stop cheese degustation one can make a small 6km hiking tour on the cliff and admire idyllic scenery with mountains and sheep.
Peyre & Viaduc Millau
It took us around 30 minutes to get to our next point – the village Peyre which is included to the list of the most beautiful villages in France. However, it is still extremely empty, though very authentique. Peyre is interesting to visit as it is built on the cliff, the infrastructure for tourists is also well made : free parkings, free eco-toilets, thematical routes, there is even a small space for camping with the view on the awesome Viaduc of Millau. Even though it hadn’t built too long time ago, it is close to become the symbol of entire department of Aveyron. It is gorgeous and huge, the Eiffel Tour could be easily placed underneath. But still it is very delicate – you can feel some touching elegance in its fineness and the way it changes colours from white to grey if there are some clouds passing above. There is even a tourism office that proposes guided tours in the columns of the Viaduc ! We installed our tent in this camping area and fell asleep with the view on the Viaduc which is beautiful at any part of the day and night owing to its magnificent illumination.
Several hours of walking in Peyre are enough to enjoy it, actually it was as empty as Roquefort. Maybe during the hot season it’s a bit more lively, but this time we found no restaurant opened, and for those which were opened the reservation was required. By the way, if you want to take great pictures of Peyre, visit it early in the morning while the sun still covers it, because around 14-16.00 depending on the season the sun will be hidden by the cliff. No light – no pictures.
Gorges du Tarn
The second day of our small trip we decided to devote to outdoor activities, and namely to do some rafting on the Tarn-river. And it was a brilliant idea. At Aveyron-Rafting for 38€ for two of us we got a raft, all necessary equipment like costume and helmet as well as a waterproof container in order to stock our cameras, but the most significant is that we were almost not limited with time – we could keep the material till the end of the working day which means till 18.00.
So we were taken 9 km up the current and there we started. And it was fan-tas-tic. There is definitely no other way to enjoy these sceneries as full as we did, mainly because walking around or driving don’t let to see this beauty from inside. The descent was not boring at all – rough zones equally alternated with the calm ones and it was difficult to realise that we were still in France as personally I imagine Montenegro to be like that and definitely not France.
The coast is full of small picturesque beaches, so we made a little picnic and swam naked in the cold waters of Tarn – an idyllic episode from Blue Lagoon ! On the cliffs we could see a lot of medieval castles ruins or lonely troglodytic houses and we were told that it is possible to rent one even though they are accessible only by boat or with the help of zip-line.Anyway, Gorges du Tarn must be visited if you ever happen to be in departments Aveyron or Lozère. 14 km more up the river and we made a stop at the cliff complex Pas de Soucy and for 0,50€ we could get to the sightseeing platform. The view is completely breathtaking. Even despite the tables telling us the stories of people who died for some reason in the waters of Tarn.
At this final point we came back to Toulouse and this way was too gorgeous to be true. Under the rays of the sunset the hilly valleys looked like a green sea with its own green waves, the ground became clearly red and it was quiet, beautiful and peaceful nature that fills all of you. The one thing was very clear – if it was possible to continue discovering just this one department, we could spend there another week or two as the department is quite big and full of great things to see.
2 days / 1 night
And have you ever travelled in Aveyron ? What else must be seen there, share your thoughts !