05 December 2009


We are back in la belle France!

We got on the train in Munich, picked up the night train in Paris and many hours later, arrived at the station in the little village of St. Christophe. We are currently helpxing with a French woman named Agnes who lives in a big old farmhouse in Valady-en-Aveyron.

But, more on all that later. This post is all about one particular village we visited this week that ranks high up on the list of prettiest places we've seen in France.

Conques is located on top of a little hill in the quiet Dordou valley.
It has narrow, winding lanes and fairy tale-esque timbered houses.

One of the first things we noticed walking into town was all the reddish pink stone walls and slate colored roofs. It turns out, those two features are sort of trademarks of this area. The soil in the Aveyron region is very high in iron. The high iron content gives everything from dirt to water to the stone a red tinge. The red is a beautiful contrast to the cool grey of the tiled roofs.

Apparently Conques is quite a touristy place in the high season. Luckily, December is far from high tourist season in this part of the country so we basically had the whole town to ourselves. The serene quiet that came as a result of it being empty added to the
sense that we were in a place mysteriously stuck in time.

Conques as a whole is incredibly well preserved and has a sort of enchanting effect (or at least it did on us!). Most of the roads are too narrow to accommodate traffic and meander around leading to little closed gardens, through tunnels,
and to strange staircases leading to nowhere in particular.

The buildings themselves are just so cute -- there isn't really a better word for them!
Many of the structures seems sort of haphazard with
oddly slanting roofs and stones just randomly cobbled together.

Conques is also a main passage for pilgrims on the Santiago de Compostela -- the famous pilgrimage that goes through France and across Northern Spain.

The big church in the center of town -- the Abbey of Saint Foy -- was built in the 12th century and is an important example of Romanesque architecture. Romanesque architecture is usually characterized by solidity and strength -- this was definitely the impression given by the Abbey.