Saturday, March 15, 2014

Belcastel

Belcastel 
Belcastel is another of those 'most beautiful villages in France.' It's located less than an hour's drive southeast of me in the Aveyron department and was the perfect destination for my day of exploration yesterday. Contrary to what you may believe, the name Belcastel does not mean 'beautiful castle' in French. It actually means 'war castle' which is what this chateau was originally...a fortified structure perched high above the banks of the Aveyron River. The fortification was built in the 11th century using the ruins of a 9th century chapel as its foundation. Over the centuries, it has been expanded into a chateau with a medieval village spilling down the hill from it. It was abandoned in the 15th century, fell into ruin and out of historical notice until it was used as a hiding place during the French Revolution for Peter Firmin, an Aveyron nobleman being pursued by the new government.

Let's take a walk up to the Chateau, shall we? I parked in the small tourist parking lot on the edge of the village. Visiting off-season, I could have parked much closer to the village as there were only a handful of tourists, but I wanted to stroll along this pretty river. The weeping willows were just beginning to leaf out making a gauzy green contrast to the bright yellow forsythia and the church steeple peeking through bare tree branches. The church is on the opposite side of the Aveyron accessed by a lovely stone bridge. We'll cross it and visit the church in another blog post. Today our destination is the village.


The village revitalization began in 1983 with the election of Claude Cayla as the new mayor. Through much hard work, the village has been restored, its townhouses now inhabited by vacationers and second home owners. Besides the tourist office and municipal buildings, there are an art gallery, a small museum, gites, and restaurants. The Restaurant du Vieux Pont has received 1 Michelin star and is famous locally for its regional cuisine.






The museum, La Maison de la Forge, tells the story of three local craftsmen...the blacksmith, the fisherman, and the shoemaker. It's open April to October. As we begin our ascent to the Chateau, we pass the village bread oven recently restored...
 and also notice the cobbled streets called 'calades.' You can see the cobbles in front of the bread oven.

Here's where we're going...half-way there, but still a lot of uphill to go. I'll show you the view from the top in tomorrow's blog post!

1 comment:

  1. Lovely pictures. It's a good time of year to go - in the high season, it's heaving. Last time we went was in September 2012 during les journées du patrimoine and the chateau was open. Fascinating to see around it. It was virtually in ruins till the 1970s, I think.

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