Art, food and genuine French way of life, have a break in Rodez – Meanderings through France n° 127
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
After Picasso, Calder is the new special guest of the Soulages Museum in Rodez. Go back to the capital city of Aveyron to enjoy another good table and a charming hotel.
The town of Rodez became famous three years ago when the Soulages Museum opened focusing the attention of modern art lovers of the whole world on this quiet city of Southern France. Ever since this interest never wavered thanks to exceptional exhibitions. After Picasso last year, Alexander Calder and his renowned mobiles invade the museum in 2017. A good excuse to (re)discover Rodez…
Alexander Calder, the ingenious engineer
When Pierre Soulages, painter of the astonishing “Outre-Noirs” these huge and fascinating black paintings, met Alexander Calder in 1947 he described him as “a big GI with booming laugh”. Indeed Calder was a tall man who did impressive pieces of art. He was an eclectic artist able to make paintings, stage sets, monumental sculptures, illustrations for books and magazines, jewels and of course the famous mobiles and stabiles.
The exhibition is poetically called “Calder, forger of giant dragonflies”, and presents seldom seen works lent by museums from the whole planet. There are of course mobiles, these hanging light sculptures moving in the air currents, stabiles, these huge and massive sculptures usually shown outdoor but also paintings and drawings as well as photos of Calder made by famous artists of his time. Over 50 ears of creation, from 1925 to 1976, unfold before our eyes, like a magnificent digest of an artist’s life.
Time for lunch at “Le Kiosque”
A few steps away from the Soulages Museum in the lovely park set in Rodez city centre, you can go to “Le Kiosque” a fine fish-restaurant. If Rodez area is famous for the quality of the beef meat served in most restaurants you can nonetheless find an amazing range of fresh fish dishes in this restaurant set in a pretty construction that looks like a greenhouse in the middle of the gardens. Like their parents before them Georges and Michel keep up with a genuine Portuguese culinary tradition. Try the Caldeirada, a hearty fishes of the day mix, the Cataplana, a surprising mix of chicken, pork, mussels, squid, scampi, seafood casserole, homemade fish-soup or king prawns skewers… http://lekiosque-rodez.fr/en/
Walking through Rodez’s streets
Leaving the restaurants and the shady gardens you can walk up to the impressive cathedral that tops the hill on which the town was built. Carved from red-rose sandstone it is one of the largest cathedrals in France. Its stern West façade used to be part of the town’s ramparts, this is the reason why Notre-Dame of Rodez is the only French Cathedral that has no door on its main facade. But it looks beautiful in the sunset light.
At the foot of the cathedral a maze of small pedestrian streets is the beating heart of the city. All kinds of shops, bars and restaurants have settled the beautiful medieval and Renaissance houses that have been beautifully restored. It’s a lively area especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays mornings when producers from the whole region come to the market place to sell their products in a good-natured atmosphere.
Treat yourself at Chateau Labro
The “Chateau Labro” probably is the best hotel in Rodez area. Make sure to have a GPS to get to this remote countryside grounds and it will take you this charming and romantic place. The castle was originally built in the 16th century. In 2001 after years of neglect it went through extensive works of restoration and was been turned into a luxury hotel. Jean and Nizou Rouquet the present owners are skilled antique dealers and carefully selected all the furniture and objects d’art decorating the castle, creating an intimate and warm atmosphere.
There are no “standard room” in the hotel each room has its own decoration and personality. There are family rooms, a cabin perched in a huge oak tree and its outside terrace from where you will have a wonderful view over the surrounding countryside, vast suites and even an apartment with two bedrooms, a large living room with a fireplace and a kitchen. The piano bar, the breakfast room, the lounges have this unique ambiance of a home and you feel like the privileged guest of a wealthy friend. The restaurant was recently created in a former barn and the menus changes almost everyday depending on the seasonal produce.
The unusual outdoor swimming has been built in the middle of a vineyard. This was the original castle’s vineyard surrounded by four walls and it took originality and daring to set a 20 metres long swimming pool there. In the spa you can go to the Jacuzzi or the sauna enjoying the view over the valley or have wellness treatments by Sothys a Parisian brand of organic cosmetic products. Chateau Labro was designed to give an enchanting break for those who seek peacefulness and elegance. http://www.chateaulabro.fr/
There are direct flights to Rodez airport from Dublin, Leeds or Southampton and of course from Paris.
More about Rodez and Aveyron: http://en.tourisme-aveyron.com/index_en.php
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Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes