Is it too decadent to take a holiday while on holiday? We broke up our fortnight in Lot-et-Garonne with a two-day break in the beautiful city of Albi.
The city is the capital of the Tarn department and straddles the river of the same name. The site has been inhabited since prehistoric times and became an important city in the 4th century.
It is known for its red bricks – including the Cathedral of Sainte Cecilia, France’s largest brick place of worship – and for being the birthplace of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. We visited the collection of over 1,000 of his works, which are on display at the Palais de la Berbie.
Until I saw paintings from his childhood I hadn’t realised what a man of talent he was. One painting in particular, a watercolour of a falconer that he had painted at the age of nine, was so good I could barely believe a child had painted it.
He has left his mark on the city – there are plenty of places named after him. We almost didn’t book a table at a restaurant called Le Lautrec because we feared it would be too gimmicky. I’m glad we went ahead with the meal anyway, as it was terrific.
“Despite its beauty and its southerly location, Albi seems to have escaped the attentions of British visitors to France”
Our hotel was a converted mill just the other side of the Pont Vieux. From our bedroom window, we enjoyed a great view (pictured) of the city.
Our mini-break also allowed us to leave behind the storm clouds that had settled over Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne. We swapped empty, rain-soaked streets for bright sunshine and bustling crowds in Albi.
Yet despite its beauty and its southerly location, Albi seems to have escaped the attentions of British visitors to France. Unlike in much of Aquitaine, which is very popular with Brits all year round, hearing English speakers there was unusual. Most the tourists in the town were French or Spanish.
That, perhaps more than anything, made our city break feel very different.