What’s in a Name?
When you travel throughout France, you are spoilt for choice for the variety of beautiful villages, many dating back to medieval times. For our guests, it never ceases to amaze at how well preserved these century-old villages are.
In 1981, the mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, in the Corrèze, read an article in a Reader’s Digest publication about his small village. Inspired by what he read, he wrote to 100 mayors of other picturesque villages throughout France and in March 1982, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France) was formed as an association with 60 members.
Today, there are 159 villages to discover in this unique collection. Each participating village must have population of under 2,000 and contribute 3€ per capita to the association. They are inspected annually by the association and must adhere to conditions relating to its Quality Charter.
One of the founding principles of the association is the protection of the cultural & historical heritage of the village and has sought to turn the tide on villages which have suffered from rural decline.
In our Département (the Tarn) we have 4 villages which are members of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France. Lautrec, just 30 mins from Mazamet, being our nearest and a favourite with our guests. Lautrec is also the starting point of one of our self-drive day tours called the ‘Albigensian Bastides’ and takes in a number of villages including Castlenau-de-Montmiral, Puycelsi and, in the neighbouring Département of the Tarn-et-Garonne, Bruniquel.
The website for the association has a complete list of the member villages, by Département, which will help when planning your trip to France. In travelling to/from Mazamet, we can help plan your route so that you can visit some of the villages along the way – be that on your journey to us from a regional airport, or travelling to us from another part of France.
Italy, Spain, Japan & the French-speaking province of Quebec (Canada) have since launched similar associations, under the umbrella of Les Plus Beaux Villages de Terre (the most beautiful villages of the world).
In 1998, a new association was formed in France, aimed at promoting larger towns of a population of 2,000-20,000 inhabitants that had historical, gastronomic & cultural importance, called Les Plus Beaux Detours de France (in other words, villages & towns worth a detour to visit). Mazamet is the only town in the Tarn to be a member and this has helped to increase the profile & visitor numbers over the past 10 years.