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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 cliffs.

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.


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