Friday, September 10, 2010


We drove to the city of Albi today, about an hour and a half away. We used Dawn's Garmin (portable GPS unit) at the request of my friend Lorraine back home in Toronto, as she is thinking of buying one. We hadn't used or needed it the whole time we'd been here so Dawn was glad to have an excuse to try it out since she'd gone to all the trouble to download the maps and instructions for France and carry it over here.

I can report that it didn't tell us anything we couldn't have figured out on our own as far as the highway driving was concerned - everywhere here is very well sign-posted and the roundabouts are easy to use, plus if you miss your turn, you just go around again! - but once we got to the city itself, it was great for entering and exiting the city. Although it took us literally to the front steps of the cathedral as compared to, say, the nearest parking lot, so that we had to keep driving and turn around to come back once we'd got our bearings, which was a bit challenging on the narrow, one way streets we encountered while trying to get back.

My major complaint was with "the voice" (a woman's, with an accent that was perhaps Australian or South African, we couldn't quite decide). She spoke horrible French so half the time when she told us what street to turn onto, we had no idea what she was saying and if we couldn't find a street sign to try to match to her horrible pronunciations, we often missed the turn. For example, for "boulevard", she would say "boo-lay-vard". Very annoying. Once or twice, it also seemed that the direction was to turn down a one way street, which was also a nuisance. Typing in your destination address information is a bit cumbersome but perhaps you could do that in advance rather than once you're en route. One thing that was very handy was the way it gets you back on track if you make the wrong turn, it "recalculates" how to get back to the right route. However, I expect if you were using it in North America in English, it would be most helpful, especially for driving in, around and out of a large city. (I wish we'd used it the other day in Carcassonne!)

Albi (not to be confused, as my brain does for some unknown reason, with Elba, where Napoleon was exiled) is beautiful, lots of red brick. The stunning and immense Sainte Cecile cathedral takes you by surprise. It looks big but somewhat plain as you first approach:

but 50 yards/metres later, you turn the corner and WOW! The Gothic architecture is stunning.

Here's an up close shot of that roof over the doorway, it's exquisite:

When we went inside, it was huge and packed with people and every square inch is ornately decorated. The painted mosaics on the walls of the various chapels are quite amazing.

The whole place is quite beautiful in a slightly gaudy, over the top religious way but I have to say that I still enjoyed the peaceful and more subtle beauty of the church in Saint Felix more.

We also visited the Toulouse Lautrec museum, which looks lovely from the outside but is not very impressive as an art gallery on the inside. Apparently they are under renovation so maybe things will improve at some future date. Toulouse Lautrec's art was wonderful to see in person, especially to see how his skills and talent evolved over the years - definitely worth the visit if you like his stuff, which I do.
But the piece de resistance of the whole day was our lunch. We found this restaurant a couple of streets away from the cathedral and were the only people there, except for a couple who arrived a bit after us. The food was, hands down, the best meal we've had in the past 2 weeks and in case I haven't told you, we've had some pretty amazing meals over the course of our visit. We chose the restaurant because it was named La Viguiere D'Alby and Dawn's husband's name is Vig, so we figured it was a good sign and boy, was it ever!! If you are ever in Albi, look for this place - afterwards, we noticed several signs pointing out its location so it is easy to find, at number 7, rue Toulouse Lautrec.
Andrew Thornton, if you're reading this, these photos are for you (Andrew often posts pictures of what he cooks or meals that he's had that make your mouth water) - first, a salad with goat cheese enveloped in phyllo pastry:

Then, as our main course, "cuisse de canette" (female duckling)(duck seems to be the main meat here in this part of France, I don't think I've seen chicken on any menus since we arrived):
followed by a dessert they humbly described as a tarte aux fruits but was so much more:


A lovely day but a long one - three hours in the car and four hours of walking about and now I'm pooped!


LP Vintage said...

Merci beaucoup, Dawn and Cynthia, for trying out the GPS system for me! I'm glad to hear it was (mostly) helpful :) I will definitely be buying one to use on my next trip to Paris!

Love the photos of Albi, Cynthia and I'm just drooling over your lunch photos !

Andrew Thornton said...

Thank you for sharing your trip... AND food pictures with us!

P.S. The word verification is "sings". I quite like that.

Cynthia of Cynful Creations said...

Andrew, I'm so glad you got to see these photos. The meal was exquisite, we are still talking about it today - every bite was a treat for the tongue.

Lorraine, you are most welcome. Will you be driving in Paris or can you use them for walking too??

LP Vintage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LP Vintage said...

Hi Cynthia - Trust me, I won't be trying to drive around Paris even with a GPS!

But there are special European city maps you can buy that have enhanced pedestrian information including transit routing. From what I understand, the enhanced features only work on certain Garmin models.

As soon as I figure it all out, I will purchase a Garmin. I like the idea of saving time mapping out transit and walking routes.

It's nice sometime to wander but other times it's nice to find the quickest route, n'est-ce pas?