What to see and do in Montauban, Lot Valley | EUROtoday

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Montauban, Tarn and Garonne

Day or evening, regardless of the climate, Montauban's Place Nationale is a magical spot to wind down a gear or three at a café desk. Center of native life since medieval instances, this jewel sq. is surrounded by purple brick properties, constructed after the outdated wood buildings have been gutted by hearth within the seventeenth century. Nearly 400 years later, the double arcades and harmonious facades merely oze symmetry and wellbeing.

I make a welcome Whenever returning to Montauban, Place Nationale is at all times my first port of name. So I'm delighted this time to search out that the sq. is now much more enchanting, due to the set up of a water mirror that zings periodically to life with dancing water jets and swirls of coloured illuminations.

What to see in Montauban

Place Nationale, Montauban

The largest city of Tarn-et-Garonne, Montauban lies north of Toulouse within the west of the Occitanie area. But Montauban is massive solely in relation to the remainder of this rural division. Bisected by the river Tarn, this enchanting city numbers barely 30,000 inhabitants however nonetheless carries the celebrated label of Art & History Town in recognition of its wealthy heritage and excellent artwork collections.

Many guests arrive in Tarn et Garonne by automobile, bent on discovering a panorama that features steep gorges, rolling farmland, and peaceable waterways. Not simply the Tarn and Garonne both. Both the Aveyron and the Canal Latéral la Garonne be part of the Tarn at UNESCO-listed Moissac with its adorned abbey cloister. For hikers and bikers, the division provides a large selection of marked trails however there are sluggish tourism actions to go well with everybody. I’ve been horse using on the cliffs above the Aveyron; explored at water stage by kayak; and revelled in a stage pedal beneath towpath bushes.

And if you happen to don't wish to drive or simply desire a extra planet-friendly vacation, Montauban is lower than an hour from Toulouse by practice on the Lot and Dordogne Line. Stay on the practice line to go to the white limestone homes of Caussade, capital of the French hat-making business within the Quercy Blanc space of ​​Tarn et Garonne. Or decide up the Canal des Deux Mers Line to go to Moissac. Plan your route and purchase tickets at Occitanie Rail Tour.

I really like Moissac, the place society visitors danced at riverside guinguettes within the Thirties throughout their grape juice 'treatment'; the atmospheric market city of St Antonin Noble Val on the banks of the Aveyron; and the medieval villages of Auvillar and Bruniquel, each labeled amongst France's Most Beautiful Villages.

For a central however quiet lodge within the coronary heart of city, the Hotel du Commerce ticks all my bins. Situated on a landscaped pedestrian sq., this good-value lodge is missed by the white façade of the Cathedral. Currently closed for restoration, this Baroque extravaganza was commissioned by Roman Catholic king Louis XIV as a present of energy after the Protestant city refused to yield to his father, Louis XIII within the siege of 1621.

After an al fresco bistro dinner at Chez Olympe beside the water mirror, my first cease subsequent day is the Ingres Bourdelle Museum opened in December 2019 after main refurbishment. This former Bishop's Palace stands on the stays of a riverside fortress begun in 1360 throughout the Hundred Years War by England's 'Black Prince'. Unfinished after French forces revived the city 9 years later, the medieval corridor is now an atmospheric venue for non permanent artwork exhibitions.

But the principle focus of the gathering is the work of Montauban's two well-known creative sons, neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominque Ingres – born right here in 1780 – and 19th century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, born 1861. Originally a museum devoted to Ingres alone – who left 44 work and 4500 drawings to his hometown – this enchanting museum homes the most important assortment of his work, in addition to the second largest Bourdelle assortment after the Bourdelle Museum in Paris. I wander from one elegant room to a different, lingering over a portrait of the younger Ingres towards a backdrop of décor designed by his father – himself a jobbing artist and stonemason – and stopping to admire his private assortment of antiquities depicted in his photos.

Beyond the museum partitions, look out for dramatic Bourdelle bronzes as you stroll beneath the purple brick facades with their pale blue shutters. The monumental conflict memorial overlooking the Pont Vieux; a pensive statue of Ulysses' spouse Penelope exterior the Tourist Office; and Greek poetess Sapho who stands reverse the theater devoted to native heroine Olympe de Gouges. Playwright and political activist, Olympe was executed within the Revolution for her feminist writings.

What to see close to Montauban

Next morning, I uncover a really totally different type of artwork on the Abbey of Beaulieu-en-Rouergue, tucked away up a rustic highway close to St Antonin Noble Val. Second solely in significance to the Pompidou Center in Paris, this newly restored heritage constructing homes a set of recent artwork from after the Great War, amassed by husband and spouse collectors Geneviève Bonnefoi and Pierre Brache.

As with the Musée Ingres-Bourdelle, Beaulieu Abbey is one other instance of the French expertise for turning heritage buildings into artwork museums. Now owned by Monuments Nationaux, it reopened in 2021 after a four-year restoration program that features a cavernous Cistercian chapel flooded with pure gentle. Art journalist Geneviève and gallery proprietor Pierre purchased works by unknown comparatively artists and continued to assist their careers, amassing a set of greater than 4,000 fashionable work, drawings and sculptures. Enjoy the altering show, then calm down exterior within the rose backyard, nonetheless aromatic throughout my October go to.

After an al fresco lunch on the terrace of Chez Ernest on the outskirts of Montauban, in style for its wood-fire grills and conventional native fare, I drive southwest out of city to go to the division's most uncommon vacationer attraction.

Lateral Channel

In 1856, the Canal Lateral à la Garonne was constructed between Toulouse and Bordeaux to hyperlink with the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Sète, thus creating the Canal des Deux Mers. But within the Nineteen Seventies, locks have been prolonged by 10 meters to accommodate bigger cargo barges, an issue at Montech the place 5 locks happen in simply over 2.5km on the Garonne canal.

Enter engineer Jean Aubert who designed The Pente d'Eau de Montech, an ingenious answer utilizing two railway locomotives to push a quantity of water uphill, thus enabling a ship to drift up the water slope. Built in 1973, it was final utilized in 1993 however has now reopened as a free immersive museum that makes a captivating cease on a stroll or bike trip alongside the Voie Verte or Green Way towpath. Pick up the free leaflet from the waterside Tourist Office to comply with the self-guided city path.

Back in Montauban, I’ve time for a final lunch beneath the arcades of Place Nationale at Les 5 Bouchons, a great-value small restaurant listed within the Michelin Guide. Then I flip north to proceed my round journey by practice by Cahors, Figeac and again to Toulouse.

Find out extra about Tarn-et-Garonne at: tourisme-tarnetgaronne.fr/en

By Gillian Thornton, one of many UK's main journey writers and an everyday author for The Good Life France Magazine and web site.

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What to see and do in Montauban, Lot Valley