Virtuoso Life - November/December 2016 - 89
1. Scintillate Your Taste Buds
2. Libations Aplenty
Cuisine like romance is one of the most important aspects
of life to the French. Around Toulouse, you'll find locals
fore playing dinner plans when they're still in the middle of
enjoying their lunch. Occitanie plays host to over 24 Michelin-starred chefs and many of these celebrated restaurants can
be found in your place of accommodation; whether in hotels
or at a table d'hôte where locals share the secrets of their fine
cooking. Indulge in a selection of the terroir's best offerings
including cheeses like Roquefort and Rocamadour, truffles,
charcuterie, duck, foie gras and apple croustade.
How does one judge the quality of a glass of wine? Ask a
Cahors local and they will exclaim, "When the bottle is
empty!" Wine enthusiasts can rejoice in the down-to-earth
attitude from folks who live in this region - their outlook on
wine is as straightforward as the beverages they brew. Taste
your way through Fronton, Gaillac and Madiran while you're
there. Stop at La Villa Malbec in Cahors to discover the large
variety of wines and its vineyards.
A walk through the Dordogne Valley, a source of unforgettable
3. Historic Culture Redefined
The French are known as admirers of innovation - but even more so are
they enamored with juxtaposing modern trends with their rich historical
heritage. Jazz in the Marciac is a prime example of this, bringing musical
greats from the world over to play in the tiny bastide town. Make your
way to Toulouse for exquisite piano playing in the Jacobins cloisters where
the acoustics are divinely unparalleled. In Rodez, the leading French
abstract painter and sculptor Pierre Soulages has donated a major collection of his life's work. While in Albi, absorb the art of famous painter and
printmaker Henri-Toulouse-Lautrec at a museum dedicated to late artist.
4. Get Up Close and Personal
What's the best way to learn any language? With locals, of course. Stay at a chambre d'hôtes, a lodging that is typically someone's home and also one of the best
ways to get friendly with the French. Alternatively you can get to know the owners at your Relais & Châteaux such as the 12th-century Château de Salettes or the
enchanting Château de la Treyne, a property that gives the impression of floating
on the Dordogne. If you've got a hankering for heights, rent a comfy chalet in the
Hautes-Pyrénées and unwind from the rigors of your local hike. You'll be awestruck when you wake up to the heart-stopping views of the mountains at sunrise.
5. Explore Behind the Scenes
What sets French craftsmanship apart? The secret lies in time and dedication.
Among the many unknown artisans, you'll find bigger names such as the legendary makers of the Laguiole knives, Martres-Tolosane and the creators of Virebent
earthenware in this region. In the tiny town of Caussade, dedicated chapeau makers have been outfitting finely coiffed heads since 1857. Be sure to also visit 18th
century glove makers in Millau at Causse Gantier, whose wares were loved by the
likes of Jackie Kennedy and Madonna. Craftsmanship however does not always
come in small packages, in the same town look up and admire the Millau viaduct, a
bridge proudly boasting the tallest pylons in the world.
A spontaneous picnic on the Canal du Midi,
a UNESCO-listed site for boating, biking, and
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