Thursday, November 8, 2012

Albi (Tarn), France

The elegant medieval town of Albi, a World Heritage Site and capital of the Tarn, offers a feast of cultural delights with its renowned Gothic cathedral and works of Toulouse Lautrec. It lies along the Tarn River where the river leaves the Massif Central for the Garonne Plain, northeast of Toulouse.

Albi is a vibrant and exciting town which is built of red brick extracted from the Tarn river. With the warm, ochre and orange hues, it glows crimson in the setting sun, you could be in Tuscany. You are in fact in the capital of the Tarn department. Albi is not a place for vast crowds, so it is a perfect venue for a relaxing and stimulating short break or a day out. It is compact and easy to explore on foot, with plenty of historical sites, restaurants and lively cafés. Albi is also the home of Toulouse-Lautrec who was born here in 1864.  The Musee Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is good enough reason alone to come to Albi, housing famous canvases by the artist himself and other works by Matisse, Dufy and Yves Brayer. The terraced gardens of the Palais de la Berbie are also worth a detour and overlook the river Tarn.  A river cruise of the Tarn will enable you to glimpse at the beauty of Albi from a different angle.

Among the sights of the town not to be missed is the Sainte Cécile cathedral, claimed to be the world's largest brick construction. This church is a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic style. It is characterized by a strong contrast between its austere, defensive exterior and its sumptuous interior decoration. The Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux) was originally built in stone, then clad with brick, it rests on 8 arches and is 151m long . Constructed in 1035 , it opened Albi up to the outside world, and imposed itself as the obvious Tarn river crossing not only for local people but also those travelling between Le Puy and Toulouse, or Italy and Spain. 

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