Saturday, 28 May 2016

Discovering Albi in the Midi Pyrenees

The Cathedral of St Cecelia
St Cecile

Without doubt the first place most people head for when they visit Albi is the famous St Cecile cathedral, the largest brick built cathedral in France and which is in the 'centre historique' of Albi. Focussing on the cathedral as a starting place will quickly bring you severeal of the most stunning places of interest of the city. 

Right next to the cathedral is the 'Palais de la Berbie' with beautiful manicured gardens that overlook the river.

Palais de la Berbie garden tower
From the river looking back you can see the magnificent tower that sits in the corner of the gardens and beyond which are the beautiful gardens of the palace.

It goes without saying that one of the most famous children of Albi is the renowned  19th century painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and a museum based in the Palais de la Berbie has been opened so that you can find out all about the famous painter, his life and his art.

Palais de la Berbie - Toulouse-Lautrecmuseum

The river that runs through the city is of course the Tarn, which also gives its name to the department where Albi resides. The oldest of the three bridges that cross the Tarn in Albi is the Pont-Vieux. The other two are the Pont du 22 Aout 1944 and the Pont SNCF (I'll leave you to guess what type of bridge this one is)

Pont Vieux
Pont Vieux

Pont Vieux
Pont Vieux


There is of course a relationship between the Cathars and the city of Albi, hence the reason the reason why the crusade, led by Simon de Montfort for a time, against the Cathars was referred to as the Albigensian Crusade. Saint Bernard visited the city in the 13th century and received a very poor welcome. He consequently branded the city's inhabitants as heretics. That was a bit of a surprise because the city did remain loyal to the Roman Catholic faith and rallied to the crusaders cause, saving them from the wrath of the crusaders and eventually leading to the erection of the Palais de Berbie to act as a fortified bishop's palace along with an austere catehdral which stood as symbols of the Roman Catholic's power and demonstrated their victory over the heresy that Catharism was claimed to be!

Albi is not all about ancient history, there are a number of 21st century developments which include Vigan Square, the Pierre Amalric media library, the Cordeliers cultural district and of course the Grand Theatre designed by international architect Dominique Perrault.

It is the Episcopal City that has gained UNESCO world heritage status however (in 2010) being one of the largest brick buildings in the world. It is made up of four areas: The Castelvieil, The Castelnau, The Bourg Saint Salvis and the Combes-Berges du Tarn. More or less made up entirely of medieval architecture and dominated by the 'Sainte-Cecile Cathedral and of course the 'Palais de la Berbie'. 

St Cecile cathedral

Palais de la Berbie

Walled gardens of the Palais de la Berbie

The Episcopal City of Albi

St Cecile Cathedral

So there you have it the fabulous city of Albi in all its glory only an hour or so from our gite in France with a 'petite train' for those that like a guided tour without too much walking involved and of course you can make a day of it by calling into Lautrec medieval village on the way back for even more fabulous views and a look at the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec's  family.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Lautrec Medieval Village

Lautrec Medieval Village is officially recognised as one of the prettiest or most beautiful villages in France and you can find it in the Tarn department of the Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées region of the South West. In other words about 50 minutes from Le Moulin  by car.

Lautrec, Tarn

17th Century Windmill, Lautrec

Lautrec, Tarn

It has to be said it is not a massive village and it doesn't really take very long to explore. But it is definitely worth a visit and if you do decide to head up that way you could combine your visit with a trip into the equally beautiful city of Albi which sits astride the Tarn river. It is the Tarn River that gives the region its name. 

Also worth considering is a look at the lovely riverside town of Gaillac another gorgeous location in the Tarn region. So depending on how much time you have you could make it a day out for all three or a pair with one or the other. 

The Medieval Village of Lautrec, Tarn

Lautrec, a most beautiful village of France

Back to Lautrec then and what it offers... the first place we headed for was the view point above the village where on route you will find a 17th century windmill. The site for the mill is actually from the 14th century but the original mill was replaced by the current 17th century version which is open to the public. Meaning you can view the inside workings for a modest fee during the holiday season. 

Go a little higher up the spiral slope and you will find a 'Table d'Orientation' and some amazing views across the tarn countryside in all directions. Plus a collection of statues, the largest of which is Jesus on the cross.

Lautrec, Tarn

Lautrec, Tarn

Lautrec, Tarn

On the way back down you can head into the village for a look at some of the many half-timbered houses that give the village so much of its character which, combined with the little narrow, cobbled streets and ancient architecture, have ensured that it has been recognised for it's beauty.

Lautrec, Tarn

Well kids still need to find something to do, even in one of the most beautiful villages in France. The ones below were having a good old fashioned kick about. 

Lautrec, Tarn

I quite liked this old Dubonnet advert as well, I am guessing it is not medieval, but still represents a little bit of French history in a way!

Lautrec in the Tarn

13th Century Porte de la Caussade 

Below you can see the timber walkway over the last of the doorways into the village, this one is called the Porte de la Caussade and originally would have been one of eight 13th century doorways.

Lautrec, Tarn

I am not sure who this little statue represents, but I liked the look of it strolling across the top of the original fortified walls as we headed towards the Porte de la Caussade .

Lautrec, fortified medieval village of the Tarn.

Couldn't help noticing that the Porte de la Caussade wasn't very well guarded, I found these 'Anglais' loitering just inside the walls sussing the place out. Although I imagine that now we are in the 21st century they will represent a tiny proportion of the English who have managed to breach the fortified defenses and all under the guise of tourism.


So one last look back as we head off to find another destination to visit in the beautiful department of Tarn. Not a bad way to spend a few hours in April even if it did get a little overcast now and then.

Porte de la Caussade


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Euro 2016 is Coming

So what you may be saying, but there will be a lot of people, several hundred thousand, arriving in France and 66% have already booked their accommodation and half of them will not have tickets to the games as highlighted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

So what they are saying is "Be on the Ball" and they are providing top tips to fans so they can prepare and plan ahead. Here are the links to their guides for anyone heading off to Euro 2016.

Not forgetting the top 11 travel tips above for Euro 2016 so that you can enjoy the football and stay safe.

Plus of course you can get my tips and advice for Travelling to France via our very own website.

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