May 4, 2008

I Love Days Like These - A Trip To Albi

exterior of le Palais de la Berbie

Friday I took a little day trip to Albi to meet a fellow expat blogger. Another Washingtonian! Almost everyone I've met through this blog has been from Washington - a strange coincidence?

The first leg of the journey took me through the Montagne Noire, on a twisty, turny, full-of-hair-raising-hairpin-turns-road to Mazamet. (Thank god I was driving, if I'd been a passenger I would have been hurling!) The temperature plummeted as I drove through the dense, dark forests and the warning signs for deer and sanglier kept me alert. There were several tempting sites along the way but I wasn't sure of how long the trip would take and I didn't want to be late to pick up Betty at the train station in Albi at 11:50.

Just after Mazamet came my first glimpse of rolling green pastures and black and white cows. I passed a sign telling me that I was in Roquefort country then another for the village of Lautrec, home of the famous, delicious pink garlic and the ancestors of the painter, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in Albi.

The rest of the trip went smoothly and Betty's train arrived on time. Our lunch reservations at the Restaurant Stéphane Laurens wasn't for another hour so we parked the car and headed straight for les Halles so I could see what kind of cheese was available.

exterior of les Halles -
and the interior

a great selection at La Fromagerie - it was difficult to restrain myself, though I did buy three kinds

Lunch was excellent! The restaurant is a beautiful space and the food was well presented and delicious. We didn't linger though, as our time in the city was to be short. A bit of exploring was in order!
Betty used to live in Albi, so I had a built in tour guide. She led me to a secret little square that was full of old doorways, through medieval passageways and to the 13th century cloister of Saint Salvi.

the cloisters

a quiet place

Back through the pedestrian streets that were filled with shoppers popping in and out of little boutiques, to the gardens behind the Palais de la Berbie which overlook the Tarn river. They were heavenly. The sun was shining over the city and it was a peaceful spot to take in the ambiance of Albi. The red brick buildings reminded me of Lucca and I became very enamored with the place.

the gardens

the Tarn river and Albi's other shore

Betty in the gardens

The day flew by and soon I was dropping Betty off at the train station and back on the road, this time taking the Autoroute through Toulouse - the same amount of driving time as the picturesque road that I took to drive there, but much less tiring.

Albi was well worth the visit. I wasn't expecting to find such a delightful, friendly city and I plan on returning soon.

Merci Betty! It was a wonderful day! Pin It


Betty C. said...

Of course I'm the first to comment!

It was fun to see your photos from the drive up AND compare your photos to mine -- some are similar, but not all.

I'm amazed you found an Internet link to La Fromagerie!

It was indeed a wonderful day, and I'm glad you loved Albi. I hope I didn't bore you too much with my "When I lived here, this used to be..." rambling.

BTW, I think they refer to the market as "Le Marché Couvert" and not "Les Halles."

Your post is so complete, I may not even get around to an overall post about the day. I think I'll just link to yours, LOL! (and true...)

poppy fields said...

It looks like you guys had a fun day!

Riana Lagarde said...

fun that you got to meet betty! (fellow wash-atonian)and albi is so pretty, we went there years ago.

Half Baked said...

Beautiful city! That fromagerie... sometimes I really miss living in Europe:(

Lannae said...

How beautiful! Then again, I am imagining that most of the smaller cities and towns are just as lovely. As you know, USA small towns are turning into - Walmart mall and sprawl (not beautiful), so seeing beautiful France is always a feast for my eyes. The cheese shop... my mouth is watering.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Thanks for the great post. It sounds very exciting. The interior of Les Halles, looks brilliant..What a fun day you had!!!

Anonymous said...

We loved your pictures of Albi, we visited there a couple of years ago on our way to Cesseras. We to visited a X-pat but not a fellow Washingtonian. We enjoyed sitting out having coffee in the central plaza.

We thought the cathadral and the Lautrec museum was worth a visit. I loved the gardens, they were beautiful. The town deserves more exploring. Loved the photos's of the cloisters.

Your photo's are beautiful as always.


alisa in Los Angeles said...

loulou - what great pictures. We spent some time in Albi when we were in the Aveyron last September and I really liked the city. Glad you and Betty had a great day. Hopefully I'll get to meet both of you during our year there, our house is just east of Najac in the Aveyron. Maybe you can make your roquefort/onion tart for me since both times I have made it it didn't turn out that great (tasted good, but looked nothing like yours).

katiez said...

Nice to be back in Albi - even if only through your photos...

Danielle said...

Cool photos! I've never been to Albi, but it looks just gorgeous.

F.O.T. said...

Whoa! So very pretty! I especially like the cloisters.

Loulou said...

Thanks for being such a great tour guide!
I enjoyed hearing how the place had changed, so didn't mind at all.
Will you put your photos on Flickr or someplace where I can see them?

Poppy Fields
we did!

We're everywhere, us women from Washington

Half Baked
It was a beautiful place. I was pleasantly surprised.
That Fromagerie was one of the best I've seen in awhile

Yes the center of town is beautiful!
Unfortunately surrounding most big cities in France are ugly commercial centers with enormous Wal-Mart type stores.

That was a gorgeous covered market! It had been renovated recently.

Doris (anonymous)
Great to hear you've been there. It is a must see!
Next time I head up there I want to go to Cordes sur Ciel as well.

Planning another day in Albi would be great. Keep in touch and we'll try to plan something.
The tart doesn't need to look good, just taste delicious! :)

Glad you enjoyed them. There were so many picturesque spots!

It is a stunningly beautiful place. And the cheese ain't too bad either!
Bravo on your Mozzarella!

We'll go again. Definitely!
You will love it.

La Belette Rouge said...

Soooo great to see a photo of Betty. Looks like you two had an amazing day. I am hoping that because I was born in Seattle that means we will meet up when I get to France.

The Duchess said...

How fun that you guys were able to meet up! And looks like you had a very good tour guide.
I used to live in Washington too....

spacedlaw said...

I love Albi. It is such a great place. And I am so jealous of you getting to meet Betty and go cheese shopping as well!

Loulou said...

la Belette
Absolutely! I hope that means that you're still coming to France this summer?

Wow! yet another one. :)
Nice to hear from you. We're practically neighbors.

I'm so happy we were able to spend the day together...and buy some more cheese!

b said...

Oh, this sounds and looks like such a fun day!! Great photos and I love hearing about Albi and the twisty roads, the selection of cheese and the cloisters!!! All wonderful. :) So glad you and Betty were able to meet!

Loulou said...

Yes, it was a great day! There should be more like them!
I don't explore little corners of France like I should.

Mimi from French Kitchen said...

Thanks for sharing this, Loulou and Betty. I feel as though I had been there.

Loulou said...

Glad that you were able to take a little trip with us!