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Why not take advantage of the warmer, brighter days and visit some of the pretty villages in our region. These are sure to put a spring in your step.

CHANCELADE in Dordogne is well worth a visit. Founded in 1129, the Abbey is stunningly beautiful despite the damage it sustained by English troops in the Hundred Years’ War, and by Protestants in the French Wars of Religion. Thankfully it was fully restored in 1623.   The “Chancelade Man” is the skeleton of a man buried around 15,000 years ago. It was found below three layers of rock in 1888 in the Raymonden rock shelter, a prehistoric cave just north of the town. The original skeleton can be seen in nearby Périgueux at the Musée d’art et d’archéologie du Périgord.

Located between Castera-Verduzan and Auch, LAVARDENS is home to one of the most impressive castles in Gers. As an original fortress, Chateau Lavardens dates back to the 12th-century and is steeped in history.   Big windows, magnificent walls and no less than 19 fabulous stone mosaic floors, an echo room, and art exhibitions make it a fascinating place to visit. Listed as an historic monument, it has seen many a battle and was rebuilt at the time of Henry IV. Several parts were never completed but renovation work is still ongoing.

If pottery is your thing, a visit to the museum at SADIRAC in Gironde will definitely inspire you. La Maison de la Poterie includes exhibits of Gallo-Roman ceramics, pottery from the 14th to 19th-centuries, and a contemporary collection. You could even take in a workshop whilst you are there. Or why not taste some of the many wines available from the local chateaux such as Le Grand Verdus, Landereau and Farizeau. At only 14km from Bordeaux, it is also 8km away from the ancient Roman ruins of the Abbey of La Sauve-Majeure, a UNESCO world heritage site at La Sauve.

Voted the favourite village by French TV viewers in 2012, the historic SAINT-CIRQ-LAPOPIE in Lot is a true medieval gem. Sitting 100 metres high above the river Lot, the town itself is built around ancient, picturesque streets lined with artisan shops, artist galleries and cafés. Boasting 13 Historic Monuments, it winds down to the river with paved lanes, gothic buildings and fortified gates. A must see is the ornamental garden and exhibits of modern, fine and contemporary art at the Musée Rignault, and why not take a walk along the towpath nestled into the cliffs to its nearby port, Bougies.

Left to right:  Saint Cirq Lapopie, Chancelade, Lavardens

Left to right: Sadirac, Grisolles, Penne d’Agenais

PENNE D’AGENAIS in Lot et Garonne is a gorgeous village with a clear Gallic origin, its name being taken from the Celtic word Penn, meaning mountain ridge. Still showing traces of several Roman villas it is now recognised as a “Station Verte” (nature-orientated) destination. Sat on the edge of the river Lot, it has stacks of architectural charm and can be recognised from some distance by the silver dome of the elegant Byzantine-Romanesque Notre-Dame de Peyragude basilica. A stroll through the old quarter will reveal narrow sloping streets, pretty houses and the Place Paul Froment which is ideal for a pit-stop.

Nestled by the side of the Canal des Deux Mers, GRISOLLES in Tarn et Garonne is the ideal place for a relaxing stroll. Originally known as Ecclésiola (small church), and having survived invasions by the Francs, Saracens, Normans and Hungarians, it eventually fell under the ownership of the Saint Sernin Abbey of Toulouse in the Middle Ages.   In the central square you won’t miss the metal hall built in 1892 which combines 32 cast iron columns with decoration in brick. Mosaics and Gallo-Roman artefacts can be found alongside sculpture and art in the Musée Théodore Calbet with its colombage façade.

Interesting architecture, walks through the forest and strolls along the river Tarn await you at BUZET-SUR-TARN in Haute Garonne.   The stunning medieval l’Eglise Saint-Martin is a must see with its incredible bell tower and diagonal vaults. Damon’s painting, Chemin de Croix, also hangs in this church, and music lovers might want to take in the impressive organ above the main doors. Positioned on what is now the library wall, the statue of Vincent-de-Paul reminds us of days gone by when the then tutor worked to pay for his studies at the University of Toulouse before being ordained as a priest in 1600.

Buzet-sur-Tarn

First published in the March/April 2019 issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Shutterstock