The prettiest place in France?

This summer we found ourselves in St Antonin Noble Val in France for a wedding, and it’s by far the loveliest, prettiest French town I’ve ever visited.

All narrow, cobbled medieval streets and pretty shutters, old patisseries and boulangeries and cafes with chairs and tables scattered outside.

We were staying at Lion D’Or, a gorgeous little Bed & Breakfast run by an English couple who are very chatty and full of suggestions and local knowledge. The rooms utterly charming. Wood floors, antique furniture, shutters and views over either the town below or the private courtyard garden.

The town sits along the Aveyron River and so there’s a restaurant or two with gorgeous river views too.

Although the view is almost better from the other side, looking back at the town itself.

We were lucky to catch the weekly market while we were there, which happens in the medieval market hall – an architectural highlight.

While we were in town we also drove down the road to visit Cordes sur Ciel. The clue was in the name (Cordes meaning rocky heights, and Sur Ciel meaning above the clouds). We had to park the car at the bottom of the town (you can’t drive up), and started hiking up the hill.

It got quite steep and even slippery in parts, as the cobbled stones were so smooth.

It also wasn’t made any easier by the fact that I was carrying a little extra weight…

But the views from every corner looked straight from a fairy tale.

Eventually we got to a market square with lots of cafes and restaurants. But here something else caught me eye…

There was a mysterious house with its doors wide open and some very unusual carved wooden furniture inside, and dirt floors. There was a note to say that visitors were welcome to explore, so we did.

It was a very tranquil, rustic environment, with seats hollowed out of whole trees.

There were even indoor igloos, made from smooth clay, and with nothing but some sheepskins inside, like a perfect little hiding nook.

There were other hiding nooks too, all modelled from either clay or wood.

Even the walls had been smoothed over with clay, some rooms hiding extra little pockets.

In some walls painted glass rested in the clay, giving little colourful glimpses to the outside world.

There was an indoor wooden bridge to cross to get to a twisting staircase, off which lay rooms, all higgledy piggledy, and each room hiding new treasures.

The whole house was a shrine to Anandamayi Ma, a holy woman from India, and it was both an exhibition and place of meditation.

Having explored every room, we stepped back outside into the sunshine and meandered towards the top of the hill for some lunch with a view over the clouds and valley.   

By far the prettiest part of France I’ve been!