I am a mad catter with a road trip habit and I recently discovered feline fantasy that could be a tall tail.
We had been driving all day and I was like a cat with two tails when we parked our motorhome for an overnight cat nap at the beautiful French village of La Romieu in the south of France. This was our first visit and the only information I had was about the new motorhome parking Aire.
Without pussy footing around, I left the camper and entered the village through a narrow passageway that was guarded by a tabby cat, who, unusually for a French feline, didn’t run away and was happy to be stroked. It was 5pm and, as I looked down the charming central street, I could see several cats waiting outside front doors and sitting on window sills. Having stroked my way up the street to the central square, a catatonic cat woman bust caught my eye; how odd!
Before curiosity killed the cat, I slunk into the tourist office and asked, ‘Why are there so many cats?’ “We are The Village of Cats.’’ She then explained the catalyst was a young girl, Angeline, a cat lover who lived in the middle ages. Her kindness caused the population of cats to grow just before the village entered a period of famine. Times were desperate and the villagers resorted to eating the cats, but were then were overrun by rats who started to decimate the harvest. Angeline let the cat out of the bag when she told the villagers that she had kept some of her favorite cats at home. The desperate villagers promised not to mange tout if she released her cats to kill the rats. Rumour has it that over the years Angeline’s face began to look more and more like a cat's, which explains the cat woman bust.
Angeline’s legend also lives on in the cat carvings, mostly the work of Maurice Serreau, that can be seen high and low around the beautiful village. It is very intriguing to walk down the main street and spot all the carved cats as well as a few more, live and ornamental.
We have visited and photographed a lot of the Beautiful Villages in France because so many have motorhome parking and I have explained everything you need to know below.
Les Plus Beaux Villages de France are, as the name suggests, the most beautiful villages of France. There is a tough selection criteria, so any old village won’t qualify. Normally there is a good measure of narrow alleys, historic buildings and tourist commerce. Best of all, they tend to be small, charming, photographic and within an hour you will have seen it all, however there are normally a selection of inviting cafes from which to watch ‘tout le monde’ (the world) walk by.
Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France is a gorgeous coffee table book detailing all 157 villages within the scheme. The guidebook provides an overview of the village, photos and details of what to see, local specialities and an events calendar. This book is perfect for perusing, pre-planning and will also come in handy whilst on your road trip of France.
Parking for motorhomes is often located a few paces from the centre. Unfortunately, parking fees and motorhome parking are not listed in The Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France. Not all village parking is free for motorhomes, prices and access is detailed in All the Aires France, look for 'Beau Village' in the entry information. It is worth noting there are more Beau Villages in All the Aires France South than All the Aires France North.