The Massat Valley is mainly given over to cattle farming, horses and tourism. There is a growing community of international residents as well as the long-established local French farming families and owners of holiday homes.
The availability of broadband internet makes it possible for many to work for companies all over the world. We both work for UK companies and one of our neighbours works for a company in Thailand.
The sleepy, peaceful town of Massat wakes up during summer and other holiday periods with regular markets, fetes and, of course, the Tour de France and other cycling events. It has a small supermarket, excellent butcher, shops selling local produce, cafes, post office (with ATM), automatic 24/7 petrol station and a very informative tourist office.
There are two ways in and out of the Massat Valley. Head east along the D618 and you’ll go over the Col de Port towards Tarascon where you can pick up the N20 dual carriageway and then the A66 motorway up towards Toulouse. As you head north on the N20, you’ll see the spectacular castle at Foix, administrative centre of the Ariege, and well worth a visit.
Head west along the D618 and first you’ll pass through the gorges of Biert and Aleu toward the nearest ‘big’ town – Saint-Girons. It which has a regular farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, always enjoyable to visit, plus a selection of supermarkets, shops, builder’s merchants and hardware stores.
Carry on past Saint-Girons and there’s a small airfield at Lorp Sentarille, active with both private pilots and gliders. Carry on further and you can pick up the A61 motorway which heads west to Pau, or north-east to Toulouse.
Toulouse is a wonderful city with a historic centre, lively at all times of day and with all the shops and services you’d expect in a modern city. When we go to Toulouse, we stay in a self-catering apartment hotel where they allow a dog in the room. It’s close to the Canal de Deux Mers, a leafy, pleasant district but also just a short 10-minute walk to the Place du Capitole in the heart of the city.
Close by is Marche Victor Hugo, a must-visit covered market with the best fresh food from the region and beyond. Shop, then lunch at one of the inexpensive restaurants on the first floor. Our favourite is Au Bon Graillou – get there by 12:15 though. By 12:30 there are queues for tables.