WHEN it comes to travel bucket-lists, Glass is almost certain that few are likely to feature the Southern France department of Aveyron. And yet, with a combination of warm and sunny climates, landscapes untouched by man, and some of the most beautiful villages in the world, Aveyron is a hidden gem that deserves your full attention.
For our first night in Aveyron, Glass stayed in the newly converted Castel D’Alzac, once a crumbling ruin, now a luxurious selection of cottages set high in the hills of South Aveyron. With the help of the townspeople below, including the Mayor of nearby Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, the old Castel has become a symbol of achievement, strength and solidarity for the community, and a wonderful opportunity for visitors to the area to relax in luxury.
The pool of Castel D’Alzac
Every element of Castel D’Alzac has been designed to provide visitors with a personal and private experience that feels less like a hotel, and more like a holiday home. The five self contained cottages vary in size, ranging from two – six beds, and come fully fitted with high-tech kitchens, modern and comfortable living rooms, relaxing bedrooms complete with en-suites, and private balconies with large jacuzzis, a particularly appealing feature once the sun sets and the warm air starts to chill.
If you choose to venture out of Castel D’Alzac (and while you definitely should, I wouldn’t blame you for staying in its luxurious confines) then Averyon’s host of enchantingly historic villages awaits you. Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon, situated 30 minutes away from the Castel by car, is a quiet and peaceful retreat. The medieval village is charmingly rustic, but also boasts a wonderful restaurant, Auberge La Cardabelle. Take my word for it – despite the village’s tiny size, this small family run establishment, which serves practised-to-perfection classic French cuisine, was packed with happy eaters.
The square of Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon
Set against the backdrop of lush forest covered mountains, the village of Conques is one of the highlights of this frozen-in-time French department. With of a population of only 90 residents, Conques is home to the Abbey-Church of Saint-Foy, named after the martyred young woman St Foy whose bones were laid to rest there centuries ago. The rich history of the place is matched only by its tranquility.
When Disney were location scouting for their live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, Conques was top of their list of most desireable filming locations. However, due to wanting to shut down the village during the summer for filming, the residents declined Disney’s offer, but it still served as inspiration for the producers, and the purpose-built set eventually used for the film is closely inspired by the village.
The Abbey-Church of Saint-Foy in Conques
The village of Conques
For lovers of luxury, the Causse couture glove making factory in Millau is an experience you won’t ever forget. Millau, once a city built upon the glove making industry, now only has Causse left as a reminder of its bespoke glove making heritage, Founded in 1892 by Paul Causse, Causse Gantier specialises in creating the finest made to measure gloves money can buy. Causse produces gloves worn by models for the ready-to-wear and haute couture shows of Dior, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Hermes, Kenzo and more. Interestingly, despite Chanel buying the company in 2012, their craftsmanship is recognised as so important that Causse continue to produce gloves for other brands.
Causse in Millau
Causse in Millau
The factory’s owner spoke about producing gloves for Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel shows, and the strict schedule that has to be kept to. “Traditionally, the Chanel shows happen on a Tuesday” he said, “and so we make sure the gloves are ready by the Friday. However, sometimes Karl will request new gloves on the Sunday, so the factory will go into overdrive to make sure that happens in time for the Tuesday show”. As well as producing gloves for fashion houses and for Karl himself, Causse designs have been worn by celebrities such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue.
Karl Lagerfeld’’s display at Causse Gantier
Afterwards, head to the Hotel Mercure Rodez Cathédrale for a night of rest in the very heart of Rodez; at the highest point of the city, the rooms offer stunning views across the region. It’s even a favourite of newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who stayed there the night before Glass arrived during his election campaign. Rounding off the trip on one last beautiful village, no visit to Aveyron would be complete without witnessing firsthand the architecture of Estaing.
Considered one of the most picturesque places in all of France, Estaing is home to a fairytale-esque castle, as well as a 16th century bridge, forming part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In fact, Estaing encapsulates the very heart and soul of what Aveyron is – an untouched window to a world of medieval villages, luxury craftsmanship, and a chance to hit pause on life and truly appreciate your surroundings.
by Thomas Marrington
Castel d’Alzac offer a minimum stay of two nights, the three-bedroom cottage (sleeps six), Chez Simone is available from €345 per night, the two-bedroom cottage (sleeps four),Chez Charles is available from €245 per night
For more information on tourism in Aveyron, visit here