The Pays de Cocagne is teeming with marvels. Experience chills in the medieval underground galleries of Saint-Sulpice, admiration at Cathédrale Saint Alain and its Jacquemart in Lavaur, mystery at the Vauban arch in Les Cammazes, serenity in Dourgne and its abbeys, a medieval ambiance in Lautrec, emotion at the Abbaye-École of Sorèze… land of Cockaigne, land of abundance..
What does the phrase “land of plenty” mean to you?
A fantastical land of profusion and abundance, a source of inspiration for artists through the centuries?
You’re certainly not far from the truth. But the Pays de Cocagne actually owes its name to the “cocagnes”, small balls formed during the processing of pastel to dry out the leaves and draw out the dye: the famous “pastel blue”.
A Land of Rainbows
Yellow flowers, blue powder, pink flavours… Rainbows are a delight and a marvel, at any age! From Les Cammazes to Saint-Sulpice, from Lautrec to Lavaur, you will feel simple joy as you gaze at a hill of flowers with a view of the Pyrenees, a wall of pink bricks or a house with blue shutters. The spirit of the South West is found here!
Pink like Garlic from Lautrec
The only produce to be accorded the famous Label Rouge! Its subtle flavour is much appreciated by the region’s chefs. This pink garlic has been found here since the Middle Ages; it is grouped into clusters known as “manouilles“, not plaited, as the stalk is rigid.
Yellow, Pea Green… Blue like Pastel
This pastel blue, this “perfect blue”, was the “Blue Gold” that brought wealth to the region. A meadow of Isatis Tinctoria is magnificently yellow; the large green leaves are crushed and placed to dry in balls, the famous “cocagnes“. After fermentation, they produce “agranat”, a blackish grainy paste. The powdered pigment is then used to produce the inimitable pastel blue.
Red like Saffron
Red Gold is saffron! The cultivation of saffron flourished in the region from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. Like pastel, it was a major economic resource.
Today, each autumn, a mysterious mauve flower appears, from which 3 red filaments are extracted: the saffron. These flowers are grown in several regions around the world including the Tarn.
The dried red pistils from the Crocus Sativus are very popular among great chefs and food lovers for the strength of their aroma.
This is the most expensive spice in the world! It takes around 200 flowers to obtain one gram!
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the region was a hub of intense economic activity: the blue gold! The blue extract from the plant Isatis Tinctoria, grown in the Tarn and elsewhere for the inimitable quality of its blue colour.
In the “Gold Triangle” of Toulouse-Albi-Carcassonne, the cultivation of pastel brought wealth to pastel merchants who traded throughout Europe. The towns and surrounding countryside are populated with houses of red bricks and white stones, mansions, churches and dovecotes. Today this unique heritage provides evidence of this colourful era!
- Follow the trails and discover all the different types of dovecotes.
- Climb the medieval streets of Lautrec and visit the windmill.
- Descend to the underground galleries at Saint-Sulpice, the remains of a troubled age.
- Admire the half-timbered houses and ancient doors in Lavaur.
- Dive into the adventure of the Canal du Midi and Pierre-Paul Riquet in Les Cammazes.
Sorèze is classified as a Grand Site d’Occitanie, a “major site” of Occitanie. The Abbaye-École of Sorèze is listed as a historic monument.
The Vauban arch at Les Cammazes, constructed by Pierre-Paul Riquet, is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage register as part of the Canal du Midi.
This is an extraordinary land of milk and honey to be explored from top to bottom.