More Les Plus Beaux Villages de France which I have visited so far, this time in the South..and the appetite is growing…
I think my introduction to Les Plus Beaux Villages de France would not be completed if I didn’t write about one of my favourite one so far! It is Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert – the village I visited while on holidays in Languedoc-Roussillon region.
So what is so special about it? Well, this is an ancient village located among stunning scenery in the Gorges de l’Herault, in the Gellone Valley, not far away from Lodève and Montpellier. St Guilhem is regarded as one of the prettiest villages in France and has been attracting visitors across the South of France for centuries and it is now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. So you see, I have a good taste! Thanks to the abbey which was established in the 9th century Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert was an important stopping point for pilgrims, and the village actually developed around the abbey. The Gellone Abbey is now one of the main highlight of a visit to Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert and it’s a perfect example of the perfect Roman church. What I felt in love with about Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert are the houses! There are many traditional stone houses and buildings in the village, many carefully restored and taken care of by people who decorate them well. There are many other architectural highlights which I liked. The most spectacular are the Maison Lorimi and the Maison Sandonato, with their facades containing many beautiful stone arches. I have also discovered an impressive (dated 12th century) Tour des Prisons. It is located just in the centre of the villages next to the Place de la Liberate (dated 160 years old) – a quiet square surrounded by ancient houses and dominated by a plane tree. And what I would recommend is that if you have a chance have a look at the Chateau du Geant which is situated in the hills above the village. It used to be a part of the village fortifications. Its pretty impressive and stunning!
While you are visiting St Guilhem le Desert I would also highly recommend checking out very impressive attractions nearby. You should see Clamouse Caves which are well known for theirs spectacular ‘cathedral room‘.
And the one that cannot be missed, it is a very famous and impressive Pont du Diable. This is an old bridge situated in a steep-sided gorge, about 4 km north-west of Aniane in the Hérault département. It was built by Benedictine monks in the first half of the 11th century, it provided a link between the abbey at Aniane and the Gellone Abbey. The bridge has been listed listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. It is impressive, isn’t it? But you will be overwhelmed when you see it in real, trust me! I got speechless and this is not happening very often 😉 But moving on, next village on my list which I have visited down there in the South of France, is La Couvertoirade.
Couvertoirade is located just 20 kilometres north of Lodève in the Aveyron department and it played an important role in this part of the Midi-Pyrenees since the 13th century. La Couvertoirade has preserved castle’s ramparts and towers of the fortified village in very good condition. It is also known as one of the finest medieval fortified villages that can be found in France. The castle itself dates back to the end of the 12th century and the Saint-Christophe church has been constructed in the 14th century. The fortifications are said to be built a few decades later. Nowadays you can appreciate La Couvertoirade for its very picturesque stone houses which it has many, its small and charming streets eventually leading to the central square. What you will probably notice while walking there is that within the walls is the number of houses that have an external stone staircase leading to the first floor. It was originally used by people, while the ground floor was kept for livestock. So yes, La Couvertoirade was ok, very small not that overwhelming for me but what is interesting..it was very mysterious…the first thing that surprised me a lot was the fact that when being in the South of France in February, with the temperature above 10 degrees and the sun shinning, I got to the La Couvertoirade to see snow and the temperature dropped significantly. I didn’t spend there too much time as it was freezing…having said so I wanted to explore more as the views were impressive but anyway I was also a bit scared as to be honest, there were no one! The village seemed totally death…uff…scary that was as I love to be around people…but on the other way it was a quite magical…and a new experienece
But back on track with the other villages I visited, well actually and sadly the last one for now. It is called Les Plus Beaux Villages de Franceand it’s located 20 km south of Avignon in Provence.
I loved this village very much! Not only for its impressive location in the Alps mountains, for its great views across the plains that stretch to the south, and on to the Mediterranean beyond, and not only for its attractive rocky landscape of the Alps themselves but also and mostly for its steep cobbled streets which lead you through the village medieval stone houses, many with ancient staircases or interesting architectural features, and eventually you reach the highlight of the – the castle.The village has a long and colourful history, dating back some 8000 years. It was the scene of many troubles during the Middle Ages, resulting at one stage with Cardinal Richelieu ordering that the castle be demolished as a punishment for harbouring protestant insurgents. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is a typical ‘Provence perched village‘ dated from the 15th-16th centuries. The drive up to the village is also very scenic. I needed to stop few times for photos 😉 Parking is just outside the northern edge of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France with the tourist office also here just next to the entrance. And why do I mention the parking, cause I think this was one of the few places that asked us to pay. Anyway it was worth it really! For a small village, there is actually a lot to be seen, It starts with the parts of the ramparts that are still in place and the Porte d’Eyguieres. Other interesting thing to see there is (obviously and no surprise here) the church, this time it is 12th century Church of Saint-Vincent – beautiful and impressive. I also liked 16th century hotels: the ‘Hotel de Porcelet on Place Francois de Herain and the Hotel de Manville (now the mairie at the southern end of the Grand Rue). There are many attractive viewpoints when you walk though the village. I particularly liked the one from the Place Saint-Vincent next to the Penitents Chapel. Another monument which I liked in the Chateau of Baux-de-Provence was its ruined castle. It is located on top of a rocky outcrop above the village. You can visit it properly but it will take you time so unfortunately I didn’t go into details with this. But you can do a tour of the ruins of the castle, then relax and enjoy the views that stretch as far as the Mediterranean. There is also a series of recreations of medieval weapons and siege machines that is popular with children. So many attractions to explore! What I had time for was a nice coffee in a nice cosy café …there are too many of them and so they have successfully tempted me …I liked it but I didn’t like the fact that there are too many (even for me – the one that loves shopping) gift shops. I think it went to far away, sometimes I was confused on what I do visit…is that the village and monuments or the gift shops…too many! But anyway it is still very good village and place to go! And at the end a very interesting fact which I can belive in ..it is that the Les Baux-de-Provence has no native industry and only about 20 residents! Can you imagine? I would feel so lonely living there but on the other hand there are many visitors so actually its contrary to being lonely..you can be too busy and crowded with so many people visiting…anyway 20 inhabitants..this is a little
Ok, so I think I reached the end of my discovery of Les Beaux Villages de France (for now anyway).
I have planned more when the weather is nicer…so soon and I would recommend for you as well. Have a look what is nearby you or on the way to somewhere in the France where you want to go and just drive in, leave a car and have a nice walk and feel like in the other century…