Aveyron, southwest France
Wild flowers of southwest France by John Buss
Have you ever eaten Roquefort cheese?
It is the famous French blue cheese made
from sheep's milk and matured in huge
caves. Roquefort itself is a plain town
that lies in Aveyron, southwest France.
It is not worth visiting unless you want
to explore those huge caverns filled
with layer upon layer of cheeses slowly
maturing. However, close by there is
some wonderful countryside, perfect for
hiking. The sheep graze on high
limestone plateaux called causses. The
causses, cut by large rivers, create
spectacular gorges with high limestone
To explore this place start at the
village of Peyrelau, which lies at the
junction of the rivers Tarn and Jonte.
From here, there are some well-marked
trails of all lengths and severity. You
could also drive up the Tarn itself and
see the scenery from your car or canoe
down the river.
Hiking in the southwest France by John Buss
A little lower down the Tarn, near
Millau, is the spectacular bridge
designed by Sir Norman Foster, which is
one of the highest in the world. It
crosses the valley carrying the A7
Autoroute. Also, on the Causse lie the
little walled towns of St Eulalie and Le
Couvertoirade. The Knights Templars, a
religious order formed during the
crusades, founded both. A bit further
afield, but very well worth visiting is
Conques, a pilgrimage centre on the
route to Santiago de Compostella. In
this beautiful, 12th Century, church is
an amazing gold treasure that survived
the French Revolution because the
villagers hid it. It consists of a
life-sized bust of Ste Foy in gold
covered with jewels and several other
gold pieces. Ste Foy herself was an
early Christian martyr. The cloisters
are now in New York.
This area is a must-see while in the south of France.