The Area

Things to see and do

St Nicolas de la Grave - Moissac - Auvillar - Montauban - Agen - Lauzerte - Lectoure - Nerac - Larressingle - Toulouse - Cahors - Saint-Cirq Lapopie - Carcassonne - St. Emilion - Albi - Cordes sur Ciel - Bordeaux - Rocamadour

St Nicolas
Chateau Richard Coeur de Lion, St Nicolas de la Grave

St Nicolas de la Grave

Au Château is set in the village of St Nicolas de la Grave, an ancient “Bastide” town, in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France. The village is situated where the rivers Tarn and Garonne meet, 8 km from the historic town of Moissac, 45 minutes North-West of Toulouse, 2 hours from Bordeaux and Carcassonne. The Nicolaïtes are especially proud of Richard the Lionheart’s castle and the Cadillac Museum - dedicated to the villager who founded Detroit city. Most everyday shopping requirements are catered  within the village and the weekly Monday market is especially worth a visit.

The Tarn-et-Garonne region is renowned for the pilgrim trail to Compostella. Canal boats often use the picturesque stretches of the “Canal des Deux Mers” to visit the historic towns of Montauban, Agen and Toulouse. The Véloroute, a former towpath running alongside this canal from Bordeaux to Sète, is very popular for walking and cycling tours.
www.stnicolasdelag.online.fr

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Moissac
8 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Nestling among the vineyards producing sweet Chasselas grapes, with the Abbey of St Pierre its undisputed highlight. Founded in the 7th Century by a Benedictine monk, the Abbey was ransacked by Arabs, Normans and Hungarians. By the 12th Century it had become the pre-eminent monastery in SW France. The 10th-Century South Portal created during this period is a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture depicting St John‘s dramatic vision of the Apocalypse.

You may choose to study the artistic highlights or take a stroll along the leafy walks of the river Tarn. A short walk leads to the impressive Napoleonic bridge, spanning the Tarn with canal scenes of the famous Canal du Midi, which connects the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean.

Visit the Abbey and, if time allows, the 11th-century Cloisters - regarded as the finest example in Europe. These exotic cloisters are lined with alternate double and single columns in white, pink, green and grey marble. In all there are 76 richly decorated arches.
www.moissac.fr

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Auvillar
Corn Market, Auvillar

Auvillar
14 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Named “one of the most beautiful villages of France“, it has a triangular market place with a circular corn market at its centre. Half timbered arcades line the cobbled roads and impressive views overlook the river Garonne.
www.auvillar.fr

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Montauban
35 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Being the capital of the 17th -century “protestant Republic” of southern France, this interesting town deserves more attention than it usually gets. The painter Ingres was born here in 1780, and the town’s greatest treasure is the Museum Ingres, an exceptional bequest of several paintings and 4000 drawings.

Above all, Montauban is a civilized shopping centre with a double-arcaded main square (Place Nationale) built in the 17th century. A few streets away lies the Cathedrale Notre-Dame, built on the orders of King Louis XIV in 1685 in the back lash against Protestant heresy. Enjoy the impressive river views of the ancient town and bridges.
www.montauban-tourisme.com

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Agen
39 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

A nice shopping area running down the main street with its old town centre containing a number of medieval buildings. The twelfth century Saint Caprasius Cathedral is one of the barest handful of large churches in France with a double nave. The Saint Hilaire church, dedicated to the theme of the Holy Trinity, is notable for its unusual statues in front of the church. The  museum, Musée des Beaux Arts, contains artefacts, furniture and sculptures. The painting galleries contain several hundred works including several by Goya, and others by Bonnard, Seurat. The collection also contains a large number of works by artists who lived locally. The Canal des Deux Mers, which joins the Mediterranean with the Atlantic, crosses the river Garonne at Agen via the town's famous canal bridge.

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Lauzerte
33 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

A “bastide town” hurriedly built by English and French, to encourage settlement of empty areas before the Hundred years war. They are the medieval equivalent of “new towns” with their planned grid of streets and fortified perimeters. A truly stunning example of a medieval town founded in 1241 by the Count of Toulouse. Formally a British outpost it now is one of the stops on the Road to Compostella.  In the church there are examples of painted panelling attributed to Joseph Ingres and his students.
www.lauzerte-tourisme.fr

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Lectoure 
49 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Once an important stopping point on the pilgrimage route to St Jacques de Compostelle, it is set in the heart of the Gers, the Foie Gras and Armagnac territory. Lectoure is the old capital of the Lomagne region, lying between the rivers Gers and Garonne, and was once the base of the counts of Armagnac. Though in 1472 Louis XI entered the town on false promises and proceeded to kill the count and damage the town.

Since Auch became the capital of the Gers, Lectoure is much quieter. It is an attractive town whose centre runs down one main street with a pretty hospital and the “station thermale” (spa) at one end and the Cathedral of St Gervais and St Protais at the other. The cathedral is from the 15th century, built after Louis XI destroyed the previous one during the fights of the French Revolution. Next to it are the tourist office and town hall, which was originally the Episcopal palace. Wander down below the town hall and there is the Fontaine Diane - a spring inside a little gothic building and at one stage the source of water for an active tannery industry in the town. Diana's Fountain dates back to roman times, though much of what you see now dates from the 13th century onwards.

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King Henry IV palace, Nerac
King Henry IV palace - Nerac

Nerac
70 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

A beautiful medieval town by the river Baïse, centred on Henri IV’s château. This used to be a magnificent site with four wings enclosing a courtyard. Unfortunately, three of the wings were destroyed during and in the fights after the French Revolution.      
The remaining wing, dating from the XV century and which is now restored, is open to visitors. 

The Royal Park invites for a walk to discover the old town of King Henry IV and the love story between him and Fleurette, a gardener’s daughter.

The area around it boasts with many independent château vineyards and Armagnac producers.

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Larressingle
83 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

“One of the most beautiful villages of France'“ is towards the northern edge of the Gers department. It is a small village, almost completely surrounded by heavy fortified walls dating from the 13th century. Almost 300 metres around, the village is entered by its only gate, across a pretty little bridge. Within the walls are a small church, Roman style and basic in implementation, a small chateau and various smaller buildings and houses, mostly set with their backs to the fortified walls.

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Toulouse
80 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

The most important town in all Southwest France and the country’s 4th largest Metropolis. Probably the most cosmopolitan city in all France, Toulouse is also famous for its aerospace industry (Concorde, Airbus and the Ariane space rocket all originated here), as shown by the new Cité de L’Espace just outside the city.
Founded, according to the legend, before Rome itself, the ancient city of Tolosa was capital of the Roman province of Narbonensia and later of the Visigothic kingdom.

Toulouse has two of the finest religious structures in the south of France, the Romanesque basilica of Saint-Sernin, and the church of the Jacobins, a masterpiece of southern Gothic style. Saint-Sernin was founded by the late 4th century as the burial site of St. Sernin (Saturninus), the apostle of the Languedoc and first bishop of Toulouse, who was martyred in 257 by being dragged behind a wild bull.

Best discovered on foot, Toulouse has fine regional cuisine, a lively street life with pavement cafés and a rose-brick Old Town, which, as the French say, is “Pink at dawn, red at noon and mauve at dusk”. This warm southern city has steadily expanded since its Roman origins and became a Renaissance town of Palaces, the grandest of which still survive in the Old Town, which has the Place du Capitole and the 18th century Hôtel de Ville at its heart.

Very interesting is the  Les Jacobins church, which began construction in 1229, and became the founding institution for Toulouse University. This Gothic masterpiece features a soaring 22-branched palm tree vault in the apse and a bell tower with no spire.

The Gothic chapel St. Antonin(1337) contains frescoes of the Apocalypse dating from 1341.

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Cahors
70 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Cahors is the préfecture (county town) of the Lot department. It is an important wine growing area and famous for its architecture. Places of particular interest include include the Pont Valentré, a bridge built in the 14th century to defend the west of the town and the 12th century Romanesque Saint-Etienne Cathedral. Today it is perhaps best known as the centre of the famous AOC 'black' wine known since the Middle Ages and exported via Bordeaux, long before that region had developed its own viticulture industry.

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Rocamadour
Saint-Cirq

Saint-Cirq Lapopie
93 km from St Nicolas de la Grave

Perched on a cliff 100 m above the river Lot and one of the major beauty spots of the Lot valley. In the middle Ages, Saint-Cirq was divided between four feudal dynasties. The village was dominated by a fortress made up of a number of castles and towers. Many historic houses have stone or half-timbered fronts going back to the 13th-16th centuries. Many painters came to live and work in Saint-Cirq and there is a good choice of shops selling Arts and Crafts.

Pre-historic caves of Peche Merle
The prehistoric galleries were discovered in 1922 by André David and Henri Dutertre, when they were 16 and 15 years old. The examination of the paintings and engravings was immediately begun by Father Amédee Lemozi, the priest of Cabrerets.
The cave has been open to the public since 1926. It is classed as a 'historic monument' and is the property of the commune of Cabrerets. It is more than two kilometres long. Visitors can see about the third part of the galleries, seven large halls open the way to discover the exuberant and fabulous riches of subterranean sceneries.

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carcassonne
Carcassonne

Carcassonne
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

The citadel of Carcassonne is a perfectly restored medieval town encircled by walls that provide stunning views on the walkways overlooking the surrounding countryside. Crowning a steep bank above the river Aude, it is a fairytale sight of turrets and ramparts. The strategic position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and on the corridor between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of Europe led to its original settlement, consolidated by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. It became a key element in medieval military conflicts.

After having falling into decline, the attentions of architectural historian Viollet-le-Duc led to its restoration in the 19th century. A truly magnificent site!

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St. Emilion
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

St Nicolas
St Emilion

Not only the appellation of one of the finest red wines of the Bordeaux region, but also a beautiful medieval town with steep hill cobbled streets running through ancient limestone buildings . The town is surrounded by vineyards of this large wine growing district. Its origins go back to the 8th century and even today medieval houses still line the narrow streets.

An absolute “must” for wine lovers who will appreciate the chance to sample the rich, warm wines.

“Cotes” St. Emilion covers the slopes from the town towards the South, and the plateau which surrounds the town. There is a wealth of different styles in this appellation, which the wine lover is assured will be a pleasure to discover.

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Albi
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

Definitely not a place for a ‘flying afternoon’ visit. Highlights include the vast red brick Cathedrale Ste Cecile built in 1265 as a reminder to potential heretics that the church ‘meant business’. From a distance its semi- circular towers and narrow windows give it an appearance more of a fortress than a place of worship.

The wonderful Toulouse Lautrec museum which celebrates the life of this most influential artist who was born in Albi in 1864. The museum contains the most complete permanent collection of the artist’s work in existence, including paintings, drawings and his famous posters for the Moulin Rouge which established lithography as a major art form. There are also canvases by Matisse, Dufy and Yves Brayer.   Many quality reproductions are available at the museum shop at excellent prices.

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Cordes sur Ciel
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

Situated at four hundred feet above the river Cerou where Albert Camus once wrote “Everything is beautiful there - even regret”. Visit the well preserved gothic houses including the 14th century  Maison du Grand Fauconnier with falcons carved on its façade, which line the steep cobbled streets.There are numerous curiosities and artistic perspectives abound from all angles.

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Bordeaux
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

The fifth largest town in France, which has been a major port on the river Garonne since pre-Roman times. The Garonne riverfront is lined with fine 18th century buildings from the days when the port was booming, including the Place de la Bourse, designed by Jacques Ange Gabriel, architect of Place de la Concorde in Paris. Also worth seeing are the vast esplanade des Quinconces, the Grand Théatre, the gothic Cathédrale St. André and the Hotel de Ville.

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Rocamadour
Rocamadour

Rocamadour
approx 2 hours drive from St Nicolas de la Grave

A beautiful cliff-hugging medieval village that was built 490 feet above the Alzou river. The name originates from St. Amadour, whose identity has never been firmly established, but whose body, supposedly, is buried underneath the rock. For many centuries, the village has attracted pilgrims from all over the world, who come to visit the celebrated sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The town also gives its name to Rocamadour, a small cheese made of unpasteurized goat’s milk that was awarded AOC status in 1996. In Loze, the Chamerois family is proud to show their farm where they produce the infamous Rocamadour cheese, as well as small goats cheeses Cabécou dAutan.

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THE ACCOMMODATION

Sumptuous B&B, Chambres d'hôtes accommodation in a secluded location.

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THE AREA

Explore the beautiful Tarn-et-Garonne region. Near to Toulouse and the Tarn Valley.

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