Albi

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams – Douglas Ivester

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. – Gloria Steinem

It may seem like life has become terribly dull and that the future is so uncertain there is no point making plans, but the day will come when we are again free to travel so you better be ready, at least in your imagination. The best is yet to come.– CKG

the Tarn department

ALBI is a very pretty medieval city, in the Tarn department about 85 km northeast of Toulouse. It is a very easy 50 minute drive with only one toll of €1.50. The cathedral of Sainte Cecile dominates the city centre. Of southern gothic style, it is the largest brick cathedral in the world.  Much of the architecture of Albi, like Toulouse is red brick. The somewhat austere exterior of Sainte-Cecile makes the interior, full of stunning renaissance paintings and sculptures, all the more surprising. The Sainte Cecile Cathedral was built in the thirteenth century following the suppression of the Albigensian Crusade, to convey the power of the Church. On the outside of the cathedral the elaborate carving of the entrance on the south side is the highlight, but the painted interior is quite beautiful and not to be missed. 

Sainte Cecile Cathedral of Albi

It was especially nice to find the door open yesterday as much of the city sights are currently closed until further notice. 

18,500m² of frescos and decorations make the monument the largest painted cathedral in Europe which can be read like an illustrated Bible.

The vaulted, Italian Renaissance style decorations on a dark blue, mineral based background, took 3 years to complete (1509 -1512). Under the great organ, is the oldest representation of the Last Judgement from the 15th century. It’s a fabulous mural where Heaven, Earth and Hell are represented over an area of more than 200m2.

Top inside the cathedral, bottom the gardens of the Palais de la Berbie

 Just next to the cathedral is the Musée Toulouse Lautrec, a fantastic museum dedicated to the artist, housing more than 1000 works, including 31 famous posters. This body of work forms the largest public collection in the world devoted to Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, who was born in Albi in 1864.

The museum itself is closed but the gardens of the Palais de la Berbie, ancient episcopal residence where the museum is housed, are open. The tourism office, just opposite the place de la Berbie is also open. There are some walking tours you can do on your own, all mapped out and easy to follow.

Because it’s January and down by the river, and the fact that there is currently no chance of popping into one of Albi’s numerous cafés we were absolutely freezing walking through the gardens and along the Berges du Tarn! Hopefully the opening up of restaurants and bars, currently estimated to be around the 1 April will coincide with warmer days. 

Le Pont Vieux d’Albi is one of the older medieval bridges still in service. If you stroll across the bridge you will have a fantastic view of the cathedral.

Albi, vieux pont bottom right

La Collégiale church of Saint-Salvi and the cloister

The collegiate church of Saint Salvi is named after the 1st bishop of the city of Albi in the 6th century. The cloister, built in 1270, is a little sanctuary in the city.

the cloister

The marché couvert is a good place to discover local produce and local wine.  Not only is the city of Albi gorgeous but it is surrounded by the vineyards of Gaillac. 

Walking around the labyrinthine old town you will see a variety of architecture and fascinating buildings. They have managed to blend modern and old very well in Albi

In the summertime, outside periods of lockdown, you can take little boat trips along the Berges du Tarn with Albi Croisières: tel 05.63.43.59.63.

Pause Guitare is a music festival normally held in the summertime. It is one of a few music festivals in the area. Since 1996 it has attracted many big name artists over the years, both international and French. This summer it is set to be in July.  Who knows when cultural events will return? The sooner the better!

There are many things to do in Albi. From meandering through the pretty little streets to visiting churches and museums, sampling local cuisine and wine tasting, strolling along the river and discovering the many trails around and outside the city by bicycle or on foot. You couldn’t possible miss the museum of Toulouse Lautrec, it is an absolute must.  

Albi: fountain place du Vigan, narrow street next to cathedral, young Albigensians, Grand Theatre des Cordeliers

Before we leave Albi and make our way around the Tarn, I invite you to read my next post on the artist Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa next week.

I hope that you have enjoyed this post about Albi.  Follow me to keep up with me on my travels around Occitanie.  A bientôt ……………………….Chrisitina

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