When you rent villas in south west France, you will discover many beautiful historic destinations to visit. One of the many attractive small towns in the area is Moissac, in the Tarn-et-Garonne département, with attractions including historic monuments, delicious food and wine and opportunities to get out and about in green spaces. It is visited by many pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela, but has plenty to offer for an entertaining family day out.
The appeal of Moissac is found in its old centre and extends down to the canal and along the River Tarn. You’ll only experience its attractions if you park and take a stroll. Most parking is around an informal outer ring, so you’ll need your urban compass to find your way through the narrow streets towards the centre. There are plenty of signs to help, too.
With its ubiquitous red brick buildings, it’s plain to see that Moissac shares an architectural heritage with the Rose City, Toulouse. Moissac’s most famous landmark is the Abbaye St Pierre – St Peter’s Abbey. Several medieval buildings from the ancient abbey have been preserved and the Cloister and Tympanum are on the UNESCO World Heritage site list, showing their importance.
The Cloister is one-thousand years old. Its 76 capitals sculpturally recount the history of the Catholic Church, the Old and New Testaments and the lives of the martyrs. It is the world’s oldest surviving cloister with historiated capitals. In the Cloister, you can view a film explaining the details of the Tympanum.
The Tympanum is the semi-circular decorative surface above the imposing South Door of the Abbey church. It was built and scuplted in the mid-12th century and contains intricate religious imagery based on the Book of Revelations. It is renowned for its large size and the quality of the sculptural composition. Scenes from the Old Testament on the left and from the New Testament on the right heighten the drama. In summer, the Tympanum is illuminated in colour every Tuesday evening at about 9:30.
The Abbey is at the top of a charming, cobbled, pedestrian street full of modern sculptures, cafés and restaurants. It runs in front of the Town Hall down to the market square. Continue in the same direction and you’ll arrive at the canal and the river.
As you reach the canal, you’ll notice a curious change in the architecture. In 1930 the River Tarn rose 9 metres above its banks. As a result, the eastern end of Moissac was devastated, with tragic consequences. But in the aftermath, this district of Moissac was rebuilt in the fashionable Art Deco style of the time. Today, Moissac is home to one of the most important collections of Art Deco style buildings in south west France.
Taking boat trips on the canal and the River Tarn is a great way to spend a relaxing day – or evening. The waterways are in and of themselves home to several impressive landmarks, like the bridge over the River Tarn, the revolving St Jacques bridge over the canal and the “Cacor” canal bridge, which carries the canal and its boats over the River Tarn. Built in brick and stone, it is 356m long, and carries 1200 boats every year.
To enjoy the water, you can go on a short boat trip with a commentary or a dinner cruise, or enjoy a whole range of water sports – options available include canoeing, waterskiing and fishing. This is also a very popular area for leisurely walks or cycling along the tree-lined towpaths. Moissac is known as a cycle-friendly town, with Green Cycle Path running through the centre.
Just downstream a few kilometres from Moissac is the park at the confluence of the Tarn and Garonne rivers. The park is ideal for a day out at the river banks.
The whole of south west France is well-known for its delicious food and wine and there are many regional specialities. Moissac is in a very fertile fruit-growing area and is well-known for its Chasselas grape. The Chasselas grape is a sweet table grape used in many local dishes. It is a delicious grape for eating and it’s famed for its health benefits. Moissac celebrates the grape harvest at the Chasselas festival in September. The area also has an abundant cherry harvest running from May through to July. All year round, people shop for their produce at Moissac’s extensive outdoor market, which is held every Saturday and Sunday morning. In Spring, it’s a treat to find the local cooperative of strawberry producers at the market offering free samples of half a dozen local varieties.
Villa Holidays in South West France
Moissac is just one of the many unusual destinations to visit during a holiday staying at villas in south west France. The whole area is full of historic landmarks as well as delightful countryside to explore, and you can also enjoy relaxing at your villa, complete with private pool.
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