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 St├ęphane 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
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