Most people come to St Antonin Noble Val because it has one of the largest, best preserved medieval centres in France. That’s a pretty good reason to come; it is amazing and people love to lose themselves in the maze of narrow streets and gawp at the architecture. We’re different though because we came for the cycling. Of course we realised setting up in such a beautiful village would be good for business and good for us, but it was the cycling which drew us in. The cycling we fell in love with had to do with the scenery and quiet roads in this area, but there’s more to it than that.
The history of St Antonin Noble Val is interesting and since we can’t leave the house without seeing it all around, we’ve come to know more about it. As time has rolled on I’ve started to realise that there’s a connection between the history and how great it is for cyclists. The town grew up in the 8th century around an abbey, now long gone. It had a turbulent history, but prospered until the 17th century as a centre of trade. It’s role as a regional centre meant two things which are still important today. Firstly it became the centre of the local road network: depending how you count them, there are at least 12 different ways of riding out of town which is pretty impressive for such a small place. The town also had a bridge when there were very few over the Aveyron, which was another reason for the road network and the town’s prosperity.
After the 17th century the town’s prosperity declined and it became something of a backwater. While other medieval centres in France were redeveloped and became surrounded by large cities, St Antonin Noble Val was left largely intact, albeit ever more scruffy, with little building work done outside the medieval town. What’s more, it was no longer on the way to anywhere. All of this means for the visiting cyclist that the many roads starting in town have very little traffic; even the “main road” is nice to cycle on. It also means that getting out of town is really quick. From the centre it takes no more than a couple of minutes to reach quiet country roads. It’s quite a luxury to be able to enjoy the bars and restaurants of town without having to fight your way out of town every time you want to go for a bike ride.
Past prosperity is also the reason for the amazing medieval architecture. The wealth not only allowed all the building work to take place, it ensured that it was built to last. Four buildings along from us is the oldest secular building in France, built in the 12th century. It’s lasted so long because it was expensively built out of the best stone. The picture above and the article’s feature image, both taken by Andrew Trender, show the building I’m talking about
So there you have it, the unlikely link between the history of St Antonin Noble Val and how great it is today as a place to ride a bike.
If you want to ride in this wonderful part of France, get in touch to start a conversation.