Rodez is the ideal starting point, when setting out to discover the jewels of Aveyron département. Going East, for instance, towards ancient town Millau you will see the most ambitious project in recent years - viaduc du Millau, this 2,460 m long structure holds the world record for the highest pylon, which towers 343 m above the valley. And just after 20 min. drive up to the hills you will end up in Roquefort sur Soulzon - probably the smelliest village on Earth. It's a home of legendary cheese - Le Roquefort.There are several cellars, all are free to visit, with video presentation and tasting. So what is the secret of Roquefort cheese? Well, first of all the unique site: the cellars lie at the tip of "fleurines", long vaults which channel air flows from inside and out and maintain constant humidity (95%) and temp. (10°C) year round. Secondly, some 750 000 ewes are dedicated to the production of milk, which must be whole and unprocessed. And finally the fungus, Penicillum roqueforti, which gives the cheese its special flavour.
Another must-visit site in Aveyron is a tiny Conques village, which used to be a major staging post on the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostela. It has remained little changed and regards as one of the most beautiful villages in France!
In nearby Tarn département lies absolutely stunning Albi, which is UNESCO town-to-be. And it has must-see attraction to all impressionists lovers throughout the world - the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. As we know Toulouse-Lautrec was afflicted with an incurable bone disease and died of alcohol abuse at the age of 37 (1901)
From Albi to South-West of France lies the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region - Toulouse ot Ville Rose due to flat Toulousian brick with its rosy colours.
Back in Rodez, the Old town (2 000 years old) is dominated by the massive red-sandstone Cathédrale Notre-Dame (it took 300 years to complete!). The Fenaille museum is a must-see as it houses France's largest collection of statue-menhirs carved almost 5,000 years ago!
I guess we were "lucky" to be in France in time of gréve generale (general strike), when French people went on the streets to protest against pension reforms. All flights (including our Ryanair flight on 19.10.2010) and trains were cancelled and petrol-stations were quickly running out of fuel. But despite all of this everything else was very well organised thanks to the companies like Ruban Bleu: we got from Rodez to Toulouse right on schedule and for... free! On our way back we got a train to some small town, there at railway station a bus was waiting for us, it took us to another town and from there a taxi took us to the Rodez and everything for a single fee of 25 euro!
I feel I like when French on strike!