Knowledge of an area sometimes does not prepare you for its staggering and unexpected beauty. Thus it was so, for me, with Albi, a medieval town within the Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees. (Flydrive to Toulouse from the UK with easyJet and smooth route straight to Albi).
The towering, brick built Cathedral of Sainte-Cecile (sometimes referred to as the “fortress of faith”) with historic Pont Vieux seen here from the Hotel Mercure, really does offer that “room with a view” moment. The hotel itself is one of the few in France housed within an historic monument. So suggestion one is to wander around the city but to stay at said hotel and look out at the view every day!
My second piece of advice is to visit the fortress like Cathedral of Saint-Cécile built in the 13th century.
You are dwarfed by the power and majesty of the exterior which belies the subtlety and beauty of its interior decoration. One of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen.
Then – time for a little luncheon. Visit the restaurant owned by an uncle of Toulouse-Lautrec for Albi is that artist’s town of his birth (1864) - Le Clos Sainte Cécile. A former school, this is the perfect al fresco restaurant for sunny days.
After replenishing the old energy levels, head over to another medieval fortress, the Berbie Palace, now housing the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, featuring 1,000 pieces of his work. Whilst there, check out the recently discovered medieval pavement.
I love the work of Toulouse-Lautrec but to see them in these surroundings which complement them so very well, is wonderful to see. It is, by the way, the largest museum in the world dedicated to the work of the artist.
After an hour or so looking at the collection, my next little gem is to drive out to the Château du Bosc, Toulouse-Lautrec’s family home. This is actually in nearby Aveyron but not too far a drive.
Time seems suspended here and you look out on vistas that the young Toulouse-Lautrec would have seen. Unbelievable as it might seem, one of his descendants – the delightful Madame Nicole Tapié de Celeyran - will show you around the venerable house, slightly crumbling now, and will tell you the story of her family. You can almost hear the sound of former generations of the family, brought alive by her anecdotes. For me, this was definitely one of life’s great treats.
A highlight was to see the child’s hand of Toulouse-Lautrec drawing pictures directly onto the stone walls. Genius. Pure genius.
Contributer: Sue Lowry
The Tarn is part of the CRT Midi-Pyrénées which is a client of Magellan PR. Follow them on Twitter – @tourismemidipy and Facebook: Tourisme-en-Midi-Pyrénées. The Tarn is also on Twitter – @TourismeTarn and on Facebook: tarntourisme.sudouest
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- Five French Towns You Should Visit ASAP (landlopers.com)