You will find the fortified village of Olargues in the middle of the South of France. From its rocky hill- puòg in Occitan -Olargues proudly overlooks the green surroundings of the foothills of the Massif Central. The medieval village offers the best of nature’s produce- chestnut and cherry trees grow right next to vines and olive trees. On top of that, it is one of France’s officially declared ‘Most Beautiful Villages’.
Pont du Diable
Although I live quite close to Olargues, I had never paid it a proper visit. Until now! And I have to say that I was delighted to discover this treasure in the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc. The river Jaur almost encircles the entire village of Olargues, which is why you will find a ‘Pont du Diable’ (‘Devils Bridge’). That’s right, this bridge has the same name as the famous bridge in Aniane near Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. The Pont du Diable in Orlargues dates from the 12th century, and the legend goes that the villagers built this bridge by closing a deal with the devil himself.
Charming little streets
I entered Olargues by crossing this bridge while admiring the breathtaking view over the river Jaur and the alluring village itself. One tip: you get the best view of Olargues from the terrace of the restaurant Fleur d’Olargues. Which actually is another tip all on its own as this restaurant serves some excellent lunches and dinners. Back to my exploration of Olargues… Strolling through some charming little streets, I got a glimpse at the real art of slow living. Colourful flowers decorated the picturesque stone houses that lined the cobbled alleys. I felt like I was walking through a painting that captured a moment from days long gone.
Escalier de la Commanderie
As I decided not to bring a map and let the winding streets lead my way, I stumbled upon a vaulted passageway. The sign next to it mentioned that it was a public passage, so my curiosity won me over. Inquisitively, I started to climb the stairs of the so-called Escalier de la Commanderie. This commandery staircase leads to the Musée d’Arts et Traditions Populaires and the Saint-Laurent Church. Unfortunately, both were closed when I was there. The staircase-street brought me to the Rue des Pillés Antiques. From there, I took another staircase- on Chemin de la Citadelle- following the signs to the bell tower.
Olargues obtained its ‘City rights’ in the 12th century. As the village lay along the old medieval road between Nîmes and Toulouse, it became an important economic and military town during the Middle Ages. A castle arose, together with ramparts and nine entrance gates. The actual castle no longer exists, but you can still see the remains of the ramparts and the former keep, which was transformed into a bell tower. Stones from the ruined ramparts served to construct the Saint-Laurent church. From this, the highest point in Olargues, I marvelled over the valley of the river Jaur, giving me a long-missed sense of freedom.