Cultural & Historical Highlights of the Tarn, Now More Accessible with New Flights

 

The Tarn department in south-west France, encompasses some of France’s most fascinating history and rich culture. With quaint bastide villages, picture-perfect views and a host of museums, this unspoiled region makes it a unique destination for lovers of history and culture.

 

Additionally, a new daily direct flight to Toulouse from Stansted with Ryanair from 1st November 2016 now makes The Tarn even more accessible to UK tourists.

 

Cordes sur Ciel, Puycelsi and Castelnau-de-Montmiral are just a few of many adored bastide villages of the Tarn.Labelled amongst 50 of the most beautiful villages in France.  Taking a walk through these charming villages is like strolling through time. The well-preserved gothic archways and timber framed shops perched upon hill tops, sets the scene of south-west France in the 13th century, which was caught up in the crusade lead by Pope Innocent III and his Catholic followers to rid the area of Catharism. The war has played a fundamental role in shaping these villages that are greatly treasured today for their spectacular views, handsome medieval architecture and are also now classified among the most beautiful villages in France.

 

The region’s stunning capital of Albi, today a UNESCO world heritage site, holds some of the area’s finest architecture. Bustling with life and well preserved, it resonates in historical allure with its medieval heritage. Street signs can be found written in both the old Occitan language and French, and there are several distinct sites that date back to the Cathar period. Highlights include The Bishop of Albi’s fortress, where visitors can enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the gardens of The Berbie Palace and the largest brick built cathedral in the world – the Sainte Cécile Cathedral – which were both built to symbolise the strength and power of the Catholics after the Cathar crusade.

 

 

Visitors can be inspired when exploring the galleries exhibiting the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Beside the cathedral, in the bishop’s palace, the Lautrec’s museum holds a fabulous collection of his youthful works, drawings, portraits and posters. Donated, by his mother, Countess Adele de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1922, his artwork tells a fascinating story of his childhood and growing up with his disability. Rooms in the museum also contain a large collection of paintings by Gauguin, Matisse, Degas, Vlaminck and Bonnard.

 

Now thanks to a new daily direct flight route with Ryanair to Toulouse Blagnac from Stansted, this undiscovered area of South-West France is now even more accessible for UK tourists. Already served by easyJet and British Airways, visitors are now provided with further opportunity to explore the cultural and historical adventures of the Tarn with flexibility and ease with a choice of three airlines from three London Airports.

 


Museums in the Tarn – a region steeped in history and culture

 

The Tarn is a region of France that is rich in both history and culture, demonstrated by the large variety of museums it has to offer. One of the most famous museums in the area, as mentioned in our blog post in April, is the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi (35 minutes from La Durantie), home to the largest collection of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s work.  The museum has a new exhibition running up until the 3rd January, exhibiting some of the best photographs of Marilyn Monroe by the famous photographer Bert Stern.

 

Albi has also recently opened a fashion museum, Musée de la Mode, home to a private collection of clothes and accessories covering the period from the 18th century through to the 1970s. Each annual exhibition is selected to highlight a particular historical or creative theme, this year’s theme being black and white, ‘Noir sur Blanc’. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from the 1st April to December 28th: 9.30am-12am and 2pm-6pm. The museum is set in a beautiful historical building with many architectural elements dating back to the 12th century such as a spiral staircase and splendid vault.

 

The region’s interesting history dates back to The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209-1229), a 20 year long military campaign led by Pope Innocent III to eliminate Catharism. During this crusade, the Cathars conquered many of the splendid fortifications and castles that are a major attraction in the area today, such as the beautiful fortified towns of Puycelsi(12 minutes from La Durantie).

 

 

The Musée du Catharisme in Mazamet (about an hour from La Durantie), in the heart of the Montagne Noir and the Cathar region, provides an in-depth portrayal of the Cathar tragedy. The museum is located on the second floor of the Office du Tourisme in a beautiful 19th century mansion, on Rue des casernes. The museum is open from 10:00 am-05:00 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays throughout October, and closed for two hours over lunch between 12 and 2. Whilst you’re there make sure to visit the nearby village of Hautpoul, and see the remains of the castle that was besieged by Simon de Montfort during the Cathar crusade.

 

Château de Mauriac (25 minutes from La Durantie) is a breathtaking Templar castle, classed as one of the 50most beautiful buildings in France for art and decor and with a 1 Michelin star rating. Located in Senouillac, between Albi and Cordes-sur-ciel, the castle is a very short distance from la Durantie. Take a stroll around the beautiful grounds and marvel at the stunning art work inside. The château is open every day for visitors over the summer period (unless stated otherwise), from 3:00 pm-6:00 pm. An adult ticket costs 7 euros, and a child ticket costs 4 Euros.

 

 

The town of Gaillac, only 15 minutes from la Durantie, has 3 different museums to offer, Musée de l’Abbaye, Musée des Beaux-Arts and Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. On the first three Thursdays of each month the museums offer a pause café, pause musée system from 12.45pm to 2pm for €2.50. It is a quick and cheap option with a guided tour of the museum of your choice followed by a cup of coffee. Musée de l’Abbaye focuses on the history of wine growing and production in the area, whilst Musée des Beaux-Arts portrays the works of some famous painters from the area, including Jules Cavalliès and Raymond Tournon.

 

 

As you can see, the Tarn certainly has a lot to offer when it comes to museums. Make sure to follow us on twitter @ChateauDurantie and on pinterest for more suggestions of interesting things to do in the area.


We Will Remember Them…

 

Remembrance Sunday Commemoration Service

9th November 2014 | 11.30am

Village of Montmiral-de-Castelnau

 

On Sunday 9th November at 11am,the inhabitants and nearby communities will gather in the square at Castelnau-de-Montmiralbefore processing to the monument at 11.30amin remembrance of the Franco-British soldiers that fought in the Great War. Situated within The Tarn region of south-WesternFrance, the memorial service is a 5 minute drive from the grounds of La Durantie and will bring many of the local community together in remembrance. With it being the First World War centenary this year,the service will be especially dedicated to victims of the 1914-18 war.

 

 

In tribute to French soldiers, an exhibition has been compiled by residents, the local council and librarians over the last year. The exhibition will be opened to the public in the townhall of Montmiral just after the remembrance ceremony. It will cover many aspects of village life during the war, and information on the 66 French soldiers who died during the war, including information on their family and professional backgrounds, circumstances and place ofdeath. The exhibition will feature articles such as letters, photos and objects loaned by families of the current residents of Castelnau de Montmiral including one Victoria Cross.


The History of Château de la Durantie

 

It is believed that Château de la Durantie dates back as far as the 13th century. The first official information was that La Durantie came under the ownership of a large landholding by the Comte de Toulouse, during the 13th century. At that time the domaine was part of a farming and wine producing area and there is a record of 600 casks of wine being sent to England via the fast flowing River Tarn. It would therefore seem that visits by the English started as early as the 13th century.

 

The central chateau and farm buildings are 17th century built of pale limestone with two circular towers housing the spiral staircases. A key architectural influence occurred in 1887 when the then Parisian owners – two spinster ladies visited the Italian Riviera and subsequently renovated the château to reflect the Italian Palazzos of the ‘belle époque’; adding tall windows with beautiful facings and exterior pink paintwork.  This example of more sophisticated French châteaux architecture was typical for the turn of the century.

 

 

The château has seen several owners but significantly, the Schwarzkopf family, famed for perfumes and beauty products, bought the château in the eighties and hosted wild parties but sold off some of the farming estate.  During the war the building was occupied by nuns and their peaceful influence can still be sensed when entering the château gates today.

 

The Tarn department was created during the French Revolution of 4th May 1790, and is steeped in history. La Durantie has gained a rare permit to build within this listed area – the neighbouring villages of Castelnau-de-Montmiral and Puycelsi are both categorised under the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’.

 

 

The farm now consists of 35 acres which will be used for the new chateau houses (7 acres) and a wonderful park and gardens for the remainder.

 

This winter vines are being reintroduced to the 15 hectare château estate, returning more of its heritage, and owners of the local French vernacular homes will be able to make the idyllic notion of drinking their own Gaillac wine whilst sitting on the terrace of their holiday home a reality.

 


Durantie’s First VIP Visitors

 

La Durantie received its first VIP guests onsite as five leading UK property journalists were invited to visit and report back to their readers on the chateau development.  Publications represented included; Daily Express, French Property News, Evening Standard, Chelsea Monthly, Expat Telegraph and The Scotsman.

 

As well as familiarising themselves with the plans for Durantie and meeting the team responsible for bringing the chateau back to life the visit enabled the journalists to explore The Tarn and to see for themselves why so many have chosen to ‘up sticks’ and move here.  The quality of life is hard to deny!

 

The château has seen several owners throughout its lifetime but significantly, the Schwarzkopf family, famed for perfumes & beauty products, bought the château in the 1980’s and held wild parties whilst farming the 800 acre plot. In the interwar period the vineyard estate was run by nuns and their peaceful influence can still be sensed when entering the gates today… the earlier rush hour bustle in London was long gone!

 

 

The chateau is surrounded by undulating vineyards and oak forests for as far as the eye can see.  It is easy to imagine yourself on a warm summer evening sitting on the bistro’s terrace overlooking the pool and the hills beyond sipping a superb Gaillac wine and dining on delicious local delicacies.  For those with a passion for wine tasting it is well-worth following in the group’s footsteps to visit the Château de Mayragues 10kms north of Gaillac.

The journalists received a warm welcome by Christian Riviѐre of the Tarn Tourist Board (www.tourisme-tarn.com) and the local Mayor, Mr Paul Salvador who joined the party for lunch at the nearby Château de Salettes (www.chateaudesalettes.com) which is a culinary treat for foodies! Other restaurants sampled included La Table du Sommelier in Gaillac, L’Ancien Auberge in Puycelsi and lunch in Toulouse at the Restaurant du Père Louis after an extraordinary guided tour of the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi.

 

 

The warm winter sunshine made a stroll around the nearby Bastide village of Castelnau de Montmiral a joy as thoughts turned to property once more as the French pastel shutter shades were admired and expert Tony Dowse, pointed-out the traditional characteristics and materials being echoed in the new Durantie homes.

 

 

To read the resulting articles and to see for yourself what the journalists had to say about the visit the media testimonials section of our website…