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FEATURE I AVEYRON


Cycling Magnolias in the Midi-Pyrenees


Scot Whitlock discovers it’s definitely ‘Not just for Softies’ in South West France I


had been invited to the South of France in the middle of November and the weather was going to be unpredictably changeable, just like the UK. The trip had been organised by the wonderful people at Freewheel Holidays, a Leicester based company who specialise in cycling holidays for groups, families, first timers and keen cyclists who just want to simply discover Europe from the saddle.


The BA flight from Heathrow to Toulouse was on a damp slight dreary morning, I was hoping for some improvement at my destination, fingers crossed. The flight was comfortable and relatively short and I arrived on time in Toulouse. As I waited in the arrivals lounge for Claudia, who would be my host for the next couple of days, I noticed the weather through the terminal windows; wet and gloomy is the


best description. Over the short drive to Plaisance, we discussed cycling and how the interest and popularity in the area has increased significantly over the past few years. The approach to Plaisance was stunning, surrounded by plenty of small beautiful hamlets and villages cocooned by oak, walnut and chestnut forests. Its appeal is enhanced by its close proximity to the unspoiled River Tarn and the World Heritage Site town of Albi.


On arrival I was shown to my room to briefly freshen up before Claudia explained in detail her plans for the next couple of days. The riding (especially the distances) was all dependent on the weather, she explained. She made a conscious effort on several occasions to reassure me that throughout the summer months the sun was ever present with uninterrupted blue skies. Even now the clarity of the light


was mesmerizing, the colours vivid and every contour of the stunning landscapes perfectly detailed.


Les Magnolias is a luxurious 22 bedroom, traditional boutique hotel set in the tranquil Aveyron countryside in the ancient and beautiful village of Plaisance in the Midi-Pyrenees, South West France. Open all year round, the hotel boasts its own dedicated and popular chef, Yves Coeurveille. The 700 year old property was recently renovated by the owner Dietmar Ley and was once the home of famous French poet, Paul Valéry. The hotel operation is run expertly by Claudia Ley who also manages Cycling Magnolias, a cycling operation based at the hotel, established in 2011 to encourage cyclists from all over the world to experience the idyllic cycling surroundings. She is ably assisted in the management of the hotel by


86 www.cyclingworldmag.com


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