In this series we highlight some interesting villages and towns, helping us all to make more of SW France.
As its name suggests, HAUTEFORT in Dordogne was originally dominated by a medieval fortress, sitting high on a hill on what is believed to have been a Roman camp. Transformed into Château de Hautefort during the 17th-century, it now features a remarkable collection of 17th and 18th-century furniture, beautiful French gardens, an English-style park and amazing boxwood “embroidery”! Nearby, in the same commune, is the historic monument of Château des Charreaux with its long rectangular building and side pavilions, an unusual dovecote and a bell tower in the shape of a buckwheat helmet.
On Guard! As the birthplace of d’Artagnan, you won’t be surprised to see an incredible statue of the famous Musketeer in the centre of LUPIAC, one of the oldest castelnaux in Gers. Arcaded houses and covered galleries surround this sculpture by Daphné du Barry with his magnificent horse rearing up and d’Artagnan looking resplendent in his feathered hat and sword at the ready. As well as a museum nearby, the statue is the start of what will eventually be some 4000 km of historical route linking the town to Maastricht in Holland, the place where he died.
In addition to guided walking and hiking tours, visitors to the officially certified “old town” of PLASSAC in Gironde can also take in nearby Montuzet’s former convent, the Saint Pierre church and the Monconseil and Bellevue chateaux. Not only that but the village itself adds to its historical, archaeological and natural local heritage charm with a Gallo-Roman villa and museum. Built between the 1st and 5th-centuries, these historical monument ruins display three main areas of the villa including polychrome mosaic slabs. For a fascinating 3D virtual reconstruction tour (in French) www.villagalloromaine-plassac.com/index.php/museum
Within the Seven Wonders we take you to the seven towers. The medieval town of MARTEL (meaning hammer) in Lot takes its name from its founder, Charles Martel who received the nickname “hammer” after winning the Battle of Tours in 732. With seven medieval towers rising above narrow streets with pale stone and reddish-brown tiled houses and a cobbled central square, it is easy to spot its distinctive skyline from a distance. Famed for its walnuts and truffles it is also where Henry the Young King, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s son, died in 1183.
MEZIN in Lot et Garonne highlights its rich industrial past through ancient factory rooftops, alleys, rampart remains, and the classified monument and former Benedictine Priory, the 11th and 16th-century Saint Jean Baptiste church. Romanesque in style and with a barrel vault, it also features a series of stunning stained-glass windows. Not to be missed is the cork museum. Cork became “local gold” in the 19th-century and turned the village into the capital of the cork stopper world during the presidency of, Armand Fallières, who was born in Mézin in 1841.
Often referred to as “hat city”, CAUSSADE in Tarn et Garonne is famous for its millinery production and the straw hat or boater of the late 19th, early 20th centuries. Its heritage in heavy stone construction still keeps cropping up today with ceramic remains in the form of bricks and tiles. Harking back to Gallo-Roman times, other relics include the Bénéchie, vases, medals, bronzes, and gold and silver coins. Even wooden spindles were unearthed at the bottom of a well, highlighting its roots in the wool textile industry. So keep your eyes open!
The red brick, white stone L’Eglise Saint Saturnin in MERVILLE, Haute Garonne, boasts a high gable end with three bells and, inside, a wall mounted wooden pulpit, ornate altar and exquisite wall art and plaques. Built in the early 19th-century, it is also home to an emotional sculpture in the Chapel of the Virgin of Pity. For a trip back in time, visit the 18th-century Château de Merville and its park where you could lose yourself in the largest boxwood labyrinth in Europe. Bordered by high boxwood walls, it is 10km long!
First published in the July and August 2020 issue of The Local Buzz