The rain hit the Pyrenees in earnest as we left on 11 September and drove north to Albi, France for 5 nights in a lovely, modern Airbnb apartment. Albi, known for its Gothic cathedral, birthplace of painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, half-timbered buildings, and arched brick bridges (earliest dating back to 1020) winds itself around the Tarn River. From here south, much of the area is brick as stone was not available in this area for building. After all of the stone we have seen in western France during the last 3 weeks, the red brick seemed somewhat startling. All of the sienna colored brick made for a peachy-pink glow over the city.
The 13th century Gothic La Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi
This cathedral is the largest brick building in the world, and looks like a massive fortress on the outside, but inside we found a wonderland of rich color! The entire interior is elaborately painted in the fresco style (on wet plaster) with a serious nod to trompe l’oeil (designs to create an illusion of 3-D). It’s the largest continuous fresco in the world and is a sight for the eyes as the patterns and details differ in all of the side chapels, the enormous vaulted ceiling, and just about everywhere we look. Amazingly, the colors have not been restored! The intent of the dramatic large fresco of the Last Judgement behind the main altar must have been to scare religion, and thus heaven, into the faithful! I loved this interior so much we went back three times during our stay in Albi to simply marvel at its beauty.
Musée Toulouse Lautrec
Next to the cathedral is the Berbie Palace, now a museum highlighting hometown boy and painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.
We left Albi on 16 September for a 1 night stay in the southern coastal town of Narbonne, France and prepared to move into Spain.
In closing our month-long journey down the west side of France:
Unlike other trips where it was more convenient for us to travel by train. D drove this leg of our journey and this allowed us to visit areas we would not have seen by train. I started our posts in France noting from past travels that we loved France. While there is more for us to see here, this month long tour de France has increased our love of this country. Each region has its own character, regional foods, and topography. Vive la France (long live France), and merci (thank you) to all the lovely people we met on our travels. Au revoir! (goodbye)
Thanks for joining our journey.