651km (404 miles) SW of Paris; 25km (16 miles) NW of Albi

This remarkable site is like an eagle’s nest on a hilltop looking out onto the Cérou valley. The fortified town, or bastide, circled by several medieval walls, makes a spectacular place at sunrise. Stand on the ramparts when the air is soft and the colors muted before the crowds arrive to swell a population of under 1,000 to 10,000. 

Founded in 1222 by Count Raymond VII of Toulouse during the war between his Cathar subjects and the French king, its prosperity came from its leather, textile, and silk industries. Today, it’s an arts-and-crafts city with artisans occupying many of the old houses on the narrow streets—blacksmiths, enamellers, graphic artists, weavers, engravers, sculptors, and painters.