Varen is situated in the very corner of the Tarn and Garonne department, across the river from the Tarn and just 5 kms from the Aveyron. It lies on the banks of the Aveyron, which is a non-navigable (except for small rowing craft) tributary of the Tarn. The area is very rural, with agriculture the main source of local employment. The department itself is best known as a fruit producer, but this is many kilometres away from Varen. In fact cattle (mainly dairy) and sheep are more common here. Aveyron beef and lamb are justly renowned. The area to the south, in the Tarn dept. is a major wine producing area, the main appellation being Gaillac. This comes in red or white, or a very refreshing rosé. There is a methode traditionelle sparkling wine and a delightful perlé - white with just a hint of a bubble, ideal lunchtime drinking.
The area is steeped in history, with many wonderfully preserved bastide towns. With their castles and grid like street layout, usually perched on a hilltop, these villages were mainly built by the Counts of Toulouse to consolidate their position against the crown - and sometimes against the English. Just 8 kms from Varen is Najac; clinging to its hilltop it offers wonderful views and a fascinating taste of history. Just 18 kms away is Cordes sur Ciel, just as fascinating and dramatic, but with a touch more sophistication. St Antonin-Noble-Val, in the breathtaking Gorges de l'Aveyron, is one of the best preserved medieval villages in France, and with a lively market and street life and the setting for the films "Charlotte Gray" and more recently "The Hundred Foot Journey" starring Helen Mirren.
Mas del Sol is on an elevated position, surrounded by woods and fields, offering unsurpassed views, fields of wild flowers in spring, bird life and a superb selection of wild orchids.
Bigger towns such as Albi (with its magnificent red brick cathedral), Villefranche de Rouergue and Cahors are within less than an hour's drive and all offer excellent attractions. And for a touch of Mediterranean class, Toulouse is just over an hour by train, which you can take from Varen or Laguepie.
There are four villages within 10kms; Varen, Najac, Laguepie and Verfeil. Each has a different character, but all are attractive places to sit with a coffee or a pastis, walk around the fascinating streets, do a bit of local shopping, attend a brocante or a typical market - all the things you hope for in a French country holiday.
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