Friday, December 12, 2014

Puymirol: Aquitaine’s oldest bastide

Tucked into the southeast corner of the Lot-et-Garonne department is the charming bastide village of Puymirol. Its name means “mountain from where you can see faraway,” and the views from (and toward) Puymirol are a testament to its name.

View from Puymirol

View from Puymirol

Puymirol from a distance: The village is perched 150 meters above the Séoune river.

La porte Saint-Seurin is the ancient entry used by residents
to access their land beyond the gates.

The village’s layout is unlike most bastide towns. Adapting to the rocky spur on which it’s built, the main street, rue Royale, crosses a large plaza. Several lanes, or bonellos, lead out to the edges of the village.

A cornières bordering la carra in Puymirol

Puits de la Place in Puymirol’s central square

Église Notre-Dame du Grand Castel

Le Puits de la Citadelle, one of Puymirol’s three wells,
recently was restored.

Playground in La Foirail, the square used for special occassions as well as
petanque and other pastimes.

Our visit to Puymirol unfortunately does not include a meal at Michel Trama’s l’Aubergade, a two star Michelin restaurant and five star hotel. Perhaps I can talk my husband into returning for a special truffle market on Dec. 29 and he’ll insist we spend the night — in my dreams! (Visit the Aubergade website here for details.)

After we exhaust the sites within its walls, we explore beyond Puymirol’s ramparts. 

Lavoir Saint-Seurin
Le chemin de rondes, the path along the outside of
Puymirol’s walls

A site along le chemin de rondes

A site along le chemin de rondes

A horse trough along le chemin de rondes

I rarely find a French tourism website as excellent as Puymirol’s. The site features an interactive map as well an excellent readable history of the village. So, instead of paraphrasing the website’s description of Puymirol’s interesting roots, I’ll directly quote from … 

In 1246, Raymond 7th, the Count of Toulouse, ordered the building of the new town of Grand Castel. But to fully understand the political foundations, it is necessary to step back a few years: 

Our lord ELEONORE OF GUYENNE, heir of the sovereign Dukes of Gascony, had brought the whole of Aquitaine, including AGENAIS, as a dowry to her husband LOUIS 7th the Young.
But after divorcing the prince, she married Henry PLANTAGENET, a lord of Anjou. In 1251, the latter became King of ENGLAND and from then on, we were ENGLISH. 

45 years later, his son RICHARD the LION HEARTED married his sister JEANNE to the Count of TOULOUSE, and gave her Agenais as a dowry. By then, we had two lords: the Count of Toulouse, and his suzerain, the King of England. Richard the Lion Hearted was very popular in our area. He ordered the building of the first bridge in Agen as well the king’s castle, near the Basilica of Peyragude in PENNE d’AGENAIS. 

It was him, and not Philippe August, that our barons followed when they went on the 3rd crusade. And the “CORNIERES” (arcades typical of our bastides) around the market place, have been introduced in our area by the English. The chosen spot was a primitive town, PUYMIROL, which became the borders of his new states. 

Later on, Grand Castel and Puymirol, became one and the same town: bastide of Puymirol. 

Love you, honey. Now, how about that reservation at Trama?

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