Updated: Sep 20, 2018
The "Bastide" towns that are in the South West France are a growing tourist attraction. There are over 500 ‘Bastides’ Medieval, Planned Towns and Villages. These were built by the French in the 13th century to encourage the settlement of empty areas before the 100 years war, with the largest concentration being in the Lot et Garonne.
These towns were built when France was a frontier region, belonging partly to France and partly to the Kings of England. They were constructed around a strict grid layout. The central square which is usually surrounded by arcades, had a sheltered hall in the middle for market days, and a series of arched passages around the edges. This served the community as a commercial hub. The main roads are known as carriageways, as they were wide enough for carts. In addition, churches in bastide towns were often used for defensive purposes, and designed and built with that in mind.
Furthermore, the large number of bastides in South West France were set up to establish a more modern society in what was at the time a rather rough and inhospitable part of Europe. They gave rulers a way to bring the population together in the centres as this could be a more easier way to control and defended than in remote farmsteads. The bastides were so successful against their opponents that the English adopted them, first in France and later in Wales.
About 700 years or so later, these towns preserve their original form. Some have become large towns, others have unfortunately disappeared, but the area has a good number of towns that have passed the centuries and are still intact.
These bastide towns make an amazing day out. A day trip to Bordeaux is highly recommended for shops, architecture and Gordon Ramsey’s famous restaurant. This place is a driving distance from Immaculate Chateau. Other best preserved or most attractive towns that well worth a visit too include Lot et Garonne - Monflanquin, Montpezat, Villereal, Vianne, Penne-D’Agenais, Puymirol, Dordogne- Eyment and Monpazier just to name a few.