Physically and administratively, Rodez is very much at the centre of things in Aveyron. Yet this fascinating town is remarkably unaffected by mainstream tourism: if anything this is a centre for discerning travellers, those who appreciate the vast Gothic architecture of its cathedral, and the almost quaint idiosyncrasy of its narrow streets and market squares. It’s like a tourist destination in waiting, content to let Millau take the brunt of it for now.
Yet there is much to see for visitors in search of ‘everyday’ France; the rituals of lunchtime, fêtes, markets and the occasional protest (anything but quiet) at the lowering of milk prices, the social contract, and the gastronomic peril of ‘McDomination’.
Capital of the Rouergue area, Rodez is in the heart of the Département of Aveyron.
© ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast
© CDT Rodez
It isn’t difficult to spot the cathedral, it literally dominates the town, and at night is splendidly floodlit. Intrepid visitors may like to climb the belfry, one of the most beautiful in France, and, possibly, like one young local, drop water bombs on suspecting passers-by below – well, maybe not. He, suitably reformed, went on to become the chief of police.
To begin with it houses some truly outstanding menhirs, carved standing stones, which are a joy. Then, it’s not at all the stuffy arrangement you might normally associate with museums. This is bright and airy, modern, technologically advanced, and begins at the top rather than the bottom. You simply take the lift to the top, and let gravity do the rest. If museums inspire aversion, the Musée Fenaille could change all that. But, opened in 2014, the strikingly modern Musée Soulages, set in a public garden creates an historical link with the centre of Rodez, housing exhibitions of art.
© OT Rodez
Rodez is the capital of Aveyron, located just south of the Massif Central. Only two-hours' drive from Toulouse, Rodez and its surrounding communities are gaining in their reputation as a dynamic tourist destination.
Office de Tourisme du Grand Rodez
24 Bd Denys Puech 12000 Rodez.
Tel: 05 65 75 76 77
Take the A75 to Séverac le Château, then the RN88 to Rodez, which continues past Rodez to Albi and Toulouse.
SNCF trains depart daily for Paris and Toulouse (Tel: 3635; www.sncf.fr).
Airport Rodez-Marcillac (Tel: 05 65 42 20 30). Thanks to the daily Ryanair flights between London Stansted and Rodez-Marcillac Airport, getting to Rodez and the Aveyron is easy. This hassle-free airport also hosts links with Paris, Lyon, Porto and Belgium.