With its octagonal shape and geometric construction, Revel is an almost unique perfect model of a bastide, 60km east of Toulouse. At its heart, the Place Philippe VI de Valois is bordered by fine houses with arcades forming galleries and in the centre stands the immense 14th century covered market supported by a sea of pillars.
The bastide is laid out around a central square where the streets, which are arranged in a grid pattern, converge. The square with its galleries of painted brick, wood and stone is the perfect setting for the splendid medieval covered market, one of the largest in France. Its sides measure 39 metres and it is supported by 79 oak pillars. The market is the hub of life in Revel, especially on Saturday morning when one of the 100 finest markets in France takes place, with stalls of local produce.
The grand neo-classical bell tower on the top of the covered market dates from 1834 and strikes the hour right across the town. The rural policeman / town crier lived in the bell tower until 1965. The previous tower of timber and brick, which burned down in 1829, had several functions, most notably that of prison. The Office de Tourisme gives discovery tours of the bell tower and history of Revel every Saturday morning. The view from the top extends far over the tiled rooftops from the Montagne Noire to the Lauragais hills.
Revel also holds the title of ‘cité du meuble d’art’ (village of finely crafted furniture). Quality cabinet-making remains deeply rooted here thanks to the workshops and professionals who perpetuate the tradition. The Musée du Bois et de la Marqueterie (Museum of Woodwork and Marquetry) showcases the strong bonds between local cabinet-makers and woodwork using multimedia and artistic displays (www.museedubois.com).
The town extends to the foot of the Montagne Noire, the intersection of the départements of Haute-Garonne, Tarn and Aude. Here, in the middle of pine forests lies Lac de Saint-Ferréol lake.
When he designed the Canal du Midi in the 17th century, Pierre-Paul Riquet (1609-1680) solved the difficult question of how to supply his work with water by imagining a dam at Saint-Ferréol, above Revel, 60 kilometres east of Toulouse. This reservoir at 350 metres altitude receives water from the streams and rivers of the Montagne Noire which then flows along the Rigole de la Plaine, a small man-made canal built on a slight slope through rock and forest, rushing down through zigzags to the Lauragais plain leading to the Seuil de Naurouze basin at 190m altitude, the drainage divide between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.