Like many small towns and villages, its fortunes ebb and flow. The medieval village of Lautrec, just 30 mins (35 km) from Mazamet, seems to be on the up with a number of new eateries and boutique shops opening in recent years.
The village, one the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, was once a fortified bastide – a walled village set high on a strategic outcrop with far-reaching views over the countryside beyond. A very useful asset during the Middle Ages in helping identify both friend & foe!
Its narrow streets occasionally spill into small squares that lend themselves to peaceful meandering. You will often see these wheat bouquets, which are actually lucky charms. According to the legend, they must be crafted with seven twigs on the seventh hour of the seventh day of the seventh month. The main square, where the weekly Friday market still takes place, is a focal point for the community throughout the year. Another typical architectural feature is the ‘arcades’, where bartering and trading of animals would used to take place, are now a place of shade from the high heat of summer.
The streets of Lautrec eventually lead you upwards in the direction of the windmill, still working today and housing the village’s museum which you can enter for 1€ (and on occasion where the local miller mills flour too!). From there, you take the final path through a lovely garden to reach the view point from where, on a clear day, the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrénées gleam like shark’s teeth in the distance, beyond the Montagne Noire. The day we took the picture below was unfortunately not such a day!
Lautrec has always been a firm favourite for both us and our guests. A destination in its own right as a short trip; this hilltop medieval village also features on two of our self-drive day tours. Renowned regionally for its rose garlic (and annual Fête de l’Ail), recent years have seen an increase in the village’s number of quality eateries. You can still find a creperie & pizza restaurant (as you can in most French villages), but hereùs our selection of three great little places to enjoy a lazy lunch or dinner.
La Ferme au Village
There has been a recent renaissance in ‘bleu pastel’ – a beautifully delicate cornflour-blue colour made from the Isatis Tinctoria plant (woad). From dying fabric to colouring/scenting soap & perfume, blue pastel is unique to this part of France, (regionally known as the Pays de Cocagne, a triangle triangle between Albi, Toulouse & Castelnaudary), and has led to the creation of La Ferme au Village.
Here, a boutique, café/salon du thé and workshop sit side by side. You can enjoy a wonderful home made plat du jour and also learn both the history & techniques, passed down from the Middle Ages, of using the locally grown plant and how the actual dye is made.
A short distance away is Café Plùm, established in the summer of 2010. This cafe-bar-library-performing arts space is a wonderful facility, run as a co-operative wherein the commercial side of the business helps fund the cultural projects. With a changing menu of food and drinks and a programme of year-round live music and other performances, Cafe Plum is an essential player in the local community. Sit down in the shade of that gorgeous tree and enjoy a simple, yet tasty lunch (there’s always a vegetarian option).
Le Jardin du Clocher
The latest addition to Lautrec’s dining scene, only opening in June 2019, is Le Jardin du Clocher. The 13th century building & courtyard, adjacent to La Collégiale Saint Rémy church, has been tastefully modernised with a main interior dining area and a large open courtyard to the rear. With an à la carte and variously priced set-menus, we are already receiving good feedback from our guests who have been for lunch.
So, how & when should we plan a visit to Lautrec?
- If your flight brings you via Toulouse (in either direction), we have a suggested scenic route with Lautrec being the last/first place to visit. Perfect for luch time!
- Our Albi or Albigensian Bastide self-drive day tours will take you through Lautrec. Café Plùm or La Ferme au Village are perfect if you want just a morning coffee or afternoon cuppa.
- If you wanted to spend a 1/2 day, arrive late morning and discover the Office of Tourisme, just inside the old village walls. Here you can see a scale model of how the village would have been during the Middle Ages with its perimeter walls intact, as well as one of the original communal bread ovens. Armed with a village plan, you can then visit the church and make your way up to the windmill for the vistas before lunch in one of the eateries. Alternatively, visit nearby Castres in the morning and head to Lautrec in time for lunch.
Feeling hungry yet? We can let you know which restaurant(s) will be open on your day out and make a reservation for you. Enjoy the drive and bon appétit !