Capital to the Region of Eveyron, Rodez is a part big city chic, part provincial countryside. This well hidden gem of a city is a paradise of independent stores and luxury fine dining, where visitors will come from miles around to experience the world-famous cheeses, foie gras and sumptuous Marcillac wine, served at Rodez’s many well priced restaurants and cafes.
Despite being a paradise of honey-coloured crumbling stone and quirky artisan boutiques, Rodez is frustratingly short on decent hotels with the majority of visitors plumping for a gîte (furnished holiday house) in the pretty surrounding countryside. That said, the Hôtel du Midi (1 rue Béteille), located opposite the stunning Notre-Dame Cathedral, is a comfortable place to spend a night or two, as is the beautifully renovated Hôtel Le Concorde (12-14 rue Béteille). Hôtel du Clocher (4 rue Séguy) is funky and friendly, if a bit overenthusiastic about buddhas, while Hôtel Aux Berges de l’Aveyron (268 route De Laissac) is quiet and comfortable.
For such a tiny city (Rodez’ population numbers less than 25,000), Rodez really packs a punch in the retail therapy department. Chains are few (barring the inevitable Leclerc supermarket) and artisan boutiques many, which makes it a great place to pick up a unique piece of clothing or some unusual homeware. Best of all is the open-air market, held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and Friday afternoons, outside the cathedral, where you’ll find vendors selling everything from handmade crafts to plump black olives and fresh white peaches.
The home of Roquefort and Bleu des Causses cheese, foie gras and Marcillac wine, the Aveyron region is heaven for food fans. Not surprisingly, Rodez isn’t short of great places to eat – most of which won’t break the bank. Goûts et Couleurs (38 rue de Bonald) in the town centre is a case in point but includes lighter offerings and plenty of seafood on its lengthy menu. For a real taste of the Aveyron, try L’Aubrac (8 place de la Cité) which also benefits from lovely views of the cathedral. Those in search of a really special meal should try La Table Ruthénoise (16 boulevard de la République), which puts a gourmet spin on local classics.
Fête et Procession de la Sainte Epine
The Festival of the Holy Thorn takes place each July and involves a colourful parade featuring more than 100 extras in period costume.
The language might be in danger of dying out but Rodez certainly hasn’t forgotten its Occitan roots as Estivada proves. The annual celebration of all things Occitania brings the worlds of theatre, dance and art together for three days of parties, exhibitions and performances.
Despite being many miles away from Paris’ Bastille prison, Rodez celebrates the memory of the French Revolution with a vengeance courtesy of bonfires, fireworks and plenty of food and drink.
A three-day celebration of all things theatre, Côté Cour brings together local names with national talent for a series of short plays.
An unusual combination of fishing festival and flea market, La Vuoto is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. The bargain hunting is great fun but you’ll need your wits about you if you are to triumph in the fishing competition – the Ruthénois take it very seriously.