Pech Long sits at the outer edge of the Commune de Puycelsi, at the heart of which is a beautiful, honey-coloured medieval, walled village. Listed in Plus Beaux Village de France, and just a few minutes drive from the house, Puycelsi is a must-see. Sitting atop a steep hill and surrounded by valleys filled with vines, sunflowers, ancient forests and agricultural land, and despite the size of the village (it's population is less than 500), it features some truly lovely restaurants.
Try the Roc Café, for regular summer music nights; the Jardin de Lys, for a refined menu using only local and seasonal produce; Au Cabanon, for beautifully cooked and presented dishes from across Europe and north Africa (depending on where the proprietors have most recently travelled to and been inspired by over the course of the winter!)
Castelnau de Montiral
Castelnau holds its weekly market throughout the year on Tuesday mornings from around 8am, and whilst it is basic through the winter months, once the good weather permits, the market becomes a place to buy good quality local food, wine and produce, including cheese, bread, meat, honey, flowers and patés. You can also find baskets, linen clothing, jewellery and pottery stalls.
Late July and early August, and the village celebrates, not one but two, annual music festivals as the village square is bedecked in staging, lighting and sound equipment and the finest in musical talent from across Occitane make their way across the hills for three nights of local food, local wine and artisan beer to an eclectic array of beats and choons!
Where Puycelsi is pretty and sweet, Castelnau is more robust and handsome with a typical place at the top of the village in the centre. Pillared and made from colombage (the local, traditional method of building) the square is impressive and incredibly photogenic. The main restaurant has recently changed hands and is under new management and construction, but promises to be of a good quality and high standard - if their sister restaurant, Vigne et Foule, in Gaillac, is anything to go by.
Do not leave the village without stopping for a coffee, ice cream or a game of chess at our local favourite, Au Baladin de la Gresigne, and tell Frederic we said hi!
Albi - medieval city of culture and beauty
This beautiful, red brick city is definitely worth a visit during your stay in the region. The Cathedral Saint-Cécile marks the centre of the episcopal city which sits on the banks of the river Tarn.
A rich cultural and religious history makes it a fascinating destination for all of the family. Take the dotto train for the potted version, and make a reservation at one of the city's traditional Tarnaise bistrots situated in the winding, narrow medieval streets
Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, the river Aveyron and Penne
A visit to this region is not complete without a visit to the incredible Sunday market in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and a few hours kayaking down the river. A peaceful way to see the spectacular scenery and wildlife through the gorge d'Aveyron, plus fun for the kids as there are plenty of stops along the way, including river bars and rope swings to enjoy a cooling dip in the water.
An alternative way to enjoy the river is to seek out one of the many little beaches as it meanders north towards Penne - en excellent little village to end up in for an ice cream at La Terrasse. Take a paddleboard or just a picnic and settle for an afternoon in the shade of a tree as the water slips by in the heat of the afternoon sun.
Skiing in the Pyrénées
Once the summer haze has cleared, the Pyrénées can be seen on the horizon from Pech Long. It takes around 2.5 hours to drive to the mountains from the house which makes a days skiing viable and a weekend's skiing easy. Drive an hour further on and you will arrive on the Spanish side of the range and can ski in one of the best resorts the Pyrénées has to offer, Baqueira Beret. Often frequented by the Spanish royal family it offers good value for money as far as skiing in Europe goes.