Atout France: Describe your favorite landscape in Midi-Pyrénées.
Philippe Guérin: I have a special place in my heart for Gaillac vineyards and the fortified towns in the Albi region. This area, full of rolling hills, little valleys, woods, vineyards, beautiful farms, medieval chateaux and charming villages, is only 30 minutes from Toulouse (an international airport) and Albi (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The atmosphere and the ambiance are true to the French art de vivre, and the landscapes are so beautiful and relaxing, that this region has earned the nickname “Little French Tuscany.” I particularly love to walk amongst the grapevines and meet with local producers of Gaillac wine, which is AOP certified. It’s incredible to hear about their passion for the product and to taste some of their finest vintages. It is always a pleasure to spend time with them. The patrimony of the region is also a great highlight, as Cordes-sur-Ciel, the most recognizable village in the region, was recently named the “Preferred Village of French People.” The village is perched on a rocky outcrop and epitomizes the post-card perfect fairy tale image of French charm. It’s something you truly have to see to believe. The cherry on top is the restaurant scene. There’s nothing better than finishing a beautiful day with a wonderful dinner outdoors, with the sun setting over the rolling hills of the vineyards. It’s my favorite time of day!
AF: If you had only 24 hours in Midi-Pyrénées where would you stop to eat and drink?
PG: The region is fortunate to have excellent restaurants in incredible locations. 3 Michelin starred “Le Suquet” in particular comes to mind. It’s managed by the Bras family (Michel and his son Sebastian) and its success has been undeniable. The dining room looks out on a magnificent landscape of prairies, forests, and burons (houses typical of the region which produce Laguiole cheese), and church bell towers marking the quintessential villages. Mr. Bras goes out to the Aubrac plateau himself to pick the finest herbs and flowers to garnish his plates. Only he has the secret to their incredible taste, as he is a true artist and treats each plate like a work of art. I have to say, though, that if I could recommend only one restaurant it would have to be the Bras family restaurant. It’s in at nearly 1000 meters altitude in Laguiole, and only 45 minutes from Rodezand the Musée Soulages, and 2h30 from Toulouse.
AF: What is your favorite season in Midi-Pyrénées and why?
PG: I love Fall in the region. The light is soft, the air fresh, the temperature pleasant, and the colors are glowing. The weather is usually wonderful until the end of October and as most of the tourist population has already left by then, accommodations offer attractive prices. You also get the privilege to visit the great regional tourist sites in complete privacy. What a pleasure! I particularly love the Pyrénées during this season. The forests’ color palette ranges from yellow to flamboyant red while the sky is bright blue. You can safely hike the trails or simply enjoy the incredible panoramic view from the Pic du Midi (accessible via cable car); you can also observe the wildlife of the Pyrénées National Park at Cauterets Pont d’Espagne or at the Cirque de Gavarnie.
For more information, please visit http://www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk/