Tuesday, 25 November 2014

France: a stylish break in Albi

Albi

The region of Tarn is located in the south-west of France. This adventure destination is Albi, a commune in southern and capital  of the Tarn department. It lies on the banks of the River Tarn.  Its inhabitants are called Albigensians. The main airport for the region is Toulouse.  It is Just about 1.5 hours from London by plane. Albi is about  one hour from Toulouse by car. 

An easy destination to escape to for a long weekend in the beautiful medieval region of Tarn.  There are quite a few things to do, eat and drink in the area.  A visit to the  local wine region of Gaillac is a must.The Carmaux and it's popular market on Friday and the Glasswork, and the enchanting small village of Cordes Sur Ciel  perched in the middle of two valleys with breathtaking views both to and from the village.

 Albi


 Sainte Cécile Cathedral stands  tall imposing over the village, and just next door is the Palais Berbie, which houses the spacious and well formed  Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. The old town is so picturesque!  A walk around reveals corners and clusters of  charming medieval architecture and pebbled old streets. 
​The medieval light terracotta coloured houses with half-timbered transport the visitors to another era, bringing much calm and contemplation. Strolling  around the narrow passages, cobbled streets medieval buildings in the morning light when this little village is awaking is such a pleasurable experience. 


 by the Tarn river
Saint-Loup


cloisters of Saint Salvy dates from the 13th century, an oasis of calm in the middle of Albi

Cathedral cloister - Moorish arches framing the view of river Tarn. It's the remains of the Roman cloisters of the old cathedral that exists between Saint-Cecile and Palais de la Berbie
Pont Vieux

 The “Pont Vieux” is one of the oldest  bridges (1094ac) still in use in France to date,  watch the sun and taking in the views of Albi. Exploring Albi is a must, it was hidden gems and surprising corners at every turn.

Saturday market - 7am- 1pm




Allbi - indoor market

Albi - street market

Where to eat, drink and sleep in style in Albi

Esprit Epémère

​Lunch at the new gastronomic brasserie “Esprit Epémère”opened by the Michelin starred Chef David Enjalran must be on the agenda..the weather was glorious, so we had our lunch outside. Overlooking the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum that used to be a bishop castle. It seemed surreal.

A three-course menu:  very tasty and creamy butternut squash soup topped with jambon, Parmesan  shavings and a soft egg  and as all good French table a good bread basket was on offer


Main: moussaka de norlie: a delicious aubergine mousse, salted  cod topped with Parmesan crisp



Dessert: angel cake with white chocolate and chantilly topping and mandarin sauce,  it was okay.
Wine:  Gaillac sparkling wine of the region, crisp finish and easy drinking.


and finished with a nice Nespresso

L'epecurien

Run by Rikard Hult, the white and minimal interior reminded me of a Scandinavian eatery;  the  sommelier was splendid with great food an wine matching. Not surprising to find out that Guillaume Roubet won best sommelier in South Gaut & Millau in France.


lovely local sparkling Gaillac and nibbles


 duck foie gras and salad, amazing tender and juicy local pork topped with Parmesan mousse and local vegetables.


mango sorbet with white chocolate mousse and tropical fruits and caramel tuile

Alchimy

A modern restaurant with a clean, bright interior with classical accents. This eatery opened about a month ago. Very pleasant ambiance. This fine dining experience I ate calamari in espelette pepper was delicious served with crushed  potatoes and vegetables.
White wine from Bergerac was very nice went down very well.
Run by Laura and Nicholas,brother and sister,  it will house a  hotel upstairs from the restaurant.






main: calamari in espelette pepper, dessert: dark chocolate topped with florentine and chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream - pure indulgence - very good textures

La reserve

La Reserve  located about 5 minutes by car from Albi Village centre.
A delightful 5 stars property part of  the Relais Chateau portfolio. The property sits next to Tarn river and  has a golf course, a beautiful swimming pool. Very ashy full decorated was the base of the cast of one hundred foot journey main actors. It is famous for being the base for the late Queen's mother to explore Albi. Delicious breakfast and terrific welcome for the owner. 

La Reserve pool and views over the River Tarn


Lounge


suite


bedroom overlooking the piscine


La Reserve - lovely breakfast
another suggestion for the budget aware traveller hotel: St. Antoine near Albi Cathedral. 

Exploring the region around Albi


Cordes-sur-ciel and wine tasting in the Tarn

A charming  and fairytale-like village located between two valleys, the epitome of medieval charm. A remarkable collection of medieval town houses and streets - one of the most beautiful in France. Saturday is market day.  








 The Sugar and Chocolate Museum is a very interesting and it's display of art-work with intricate works made of sugar and chocolate is curious.
a mini model of the city made out of chocolate and sugar

Totally complete the medieval adventure, L'Esculle Des Chevalier, is a restaurant serving delicious fare based on  medieval recipes. No fork is allowed, because  the fork was considered the devil's instrument and the farm workers instrument of work, not done at such establishment at that time. Cutlery only spoon and knives. Dessert is eaten by hands only.  Medieval costumes are available too to enhance the experience.  The menu consisted in duck stew with cabbage, onions; carrots and chickpeas served on local bread. 






Spinach and cheese quiche on a bed of lettuce and grain mustard dressing.  All were using local, fresh ingredients. Dessert was a light  cerise noir clafoutis, a dessert arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter and black cherries.
Wine: . Started with an aperitif of red wine, Cassius and red fruits served with green and red grapes.


Chateau Salettes

Wine tasting in the 4-star Hotel Chateau Salettes and  biking on a Solex around the vineyard in Galliac was one of the highlights of the tour highly recommended. The Chateau is in Cahuzac-sur-Vere about 30 minutes driving from Albi.   The VeloSolex (70's powered bikes) is guided by Hedonist Motorcycle Tours and Solex Balades
Solex Balades
contact@solexbalades.com
+33 (0)6 63 79 67 13
 







A visit to the nearby One hundred foot  journey property, La Durantie where the film was set.  The property has a female tone to it. It was the scene of the fine dining restaurant in the film. The property was cosmetically decorated  for the film -  interesting behind-the-scenes.  This property is soon to be transformed in a spa and restaurant.



La table du sommelier - Galliac
A lovely restaurant  where all dishes had a wine pairing from the region.
A beautiful dinner of seafood salad, duck and ceps and a chocolate puddim all food and wine matching at this establishment in Galliac.

Carmaux
Carmaux was once a coal-mining town; they have a very interesting glasswork studio  and museum with live demo.  Highly recommended for glass and design lovers. It was Friday, and the local market was in full swing. Selling everything from, cooked food, fresh produce to live stock - another  local social event. Local biscuit:
Echaudés biscuits

 Museum du Verre








Chateau du Bosc the house  of Toulouse-Lautrec – Chateau du Bosc in Naucelle,  Averyron.  The tour guide at Chateau Bosc is the agile and sweet Lautrec’s great cousin, Nicole Patié deCeyleran, today aged 89-ish. This lovely lady will show the castle and tell stories of the property as a well as Toulouse Lautrec as a child to adulthood.

Chateau du Bosc in Aveyron
It's very easy to get about in Tarn by car, but if you don't want the hassle of driving and potentially getting lost. There is a fabulous service from Transport JLC Tourisme that can get you anywhere, some drivers speak English. For more info on the region: Tarn
Christmas:
In December the region Christmas market takes place in Castres, about 45 minutes from Albi. The fair has only been going since 2005, when the main town square, named after the town’s greatest son, Jean-Jaures, was renovated. What makes the market so unique is its sheer size – over 5,000 square metres, the largest in the Midi-Pyrennes– and the very artisanal feel to what is on sale in the various booths.
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Sunny and hot : Albi dressed in pink #GoTarn #pinkdays #breastcancer #hotandchillitravels

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Albi, narrow passages, cobbled streets, medieval buildings so picturesque! #gotarn #hotandchillitravels
disclosure: I was a guest of Tourisme Tarn.  All views are my own.
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