Anniversaires and Albi Revisited

Albi - Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile

Albi – Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile

Anniversaries were in the air this week. My blog is four years old today. When I started it, I barely knew what a blog was, let alone how to set one up. Thanks to WordPress and a lot of practice, I am slightly more competent than at the start. Now, 369 posts later, the fount of French things to write about still hasn’t dried up. Mel at FranceSays kindly conferred a Liebster Award on my blog, which I will follow up in a later post. Today, I’ll focus on the other anniversary celebrated this week.

Every time I visit Albi, I wonder why we don’t go more often. It’s an attractive historic town, the shops and restaurants are good and there’s plenty to do. I have never been greatly fond of the massive red-brick cathedral, but it’s exemplary in its own way. However, we live over an hour’s drive away and, as I’ve so often remarked, once you settle down in a place you have to make a big effort to get out of the daily grind and do the tourist trail.

So I was glad the opportunity to visit Albi again arose this week, thanks to friend Pauline’s birthday. An international group of ‘girls’ (three Brits, two French and two Dutch) met up at Albi to paint the town red. First up was lunch at Chez Oscar, a friendly restaurant in a typical Albi townhouse in the medieval centre. They have retained the original layout of the house, so you eat in small, intimate rooms, decorated in a flamboyant style. I did feel a bit sorry for the handful of other diners who had to share the room we ate in. But they took it in good part.

Chez Oscar - townhouse décor

Chez Oscar – townhouse décor

Chez Oscar - louche decoration

Chez Oscar – louche decoration

Lunch was good and a reasonable price. One of the others had baked a cake, which she handed to the waiter and it emerged from the kitchen later, decorated with a small firework. Ginette whispered to me, ‘I would never have dared to bring a cake to a restaurant and ask them to serve it!’ However, the waiters didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they couldn’t have been nicer and offered to take photos of us. We got pretty rowdy – and that was just on one glass of wine each.

Chez Oscar - chandelier

Chez Oscar – chandelier

The highlight of the day, though, was a visit to a new museum over the river, which was in full spate after the recent rain. L’académie des miniatures et des petits goûters displays the lifetime’s work of a lady called Annie Jaurès. She made miniature houses (not dolls’ houses) at a scale of 1/7th life size, based on childhood memories.

Salle de bain

Salle de bain

 

She furnished them with tiny furniture and items, many of which she made herself. Before we went in, I really thought this wouldn’t be my tasse de thé, but actually it was fascinating. The museum owners saved the miniatures from obscurity in their attic. Mme Jaurès, in her modesty, can’t imagine anyone being interested.

The music room

The music room

The exhibits depict different rooms in a Parisian townhouse and a hunting lodge in the Sologne from the late 19th/early 20th century. A separate room upstairs has scenes from a school, a restaurant and a brothel, among others. There are no people (probably just as well in the case of the brothel).

The school house

The school house

The detail is fantastic, down to the tiny glasses and cutlery and miniature avocado in the dining room and the batterie de cuisine in the kitchen – complete with miniscule mouse on the floor. Mme Jaurès travelled to England and Holland to find some of the items, since it’s not a speciality in France.

The kitchen

The kitchen

Kitchen mouse

Kitchen mouse

The artist's studio

The artist’s studio

If you’re in Albi, this is certainly worth a look. My photos can’t hope to do justice to it. The owners plan to open a salon de thé on the premises as well. It’s in rue Rinaldi on the right bank of the Tarn (i.e. the opposite side from the cathedral). Tel 05 63 79 00 98. Website here and Albi Tourist Office.

Chez Oscar, 8 rue Roquelaure, 81000 Albi, tel: 05 67 67 42 96

You might also like:

Rainy Day in Albi
Pastel Night in Albi
Getting the blues: the pastel trade in southwest France

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About Vanessa Couchman

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Anniversaires and Albi Revisited

  1. I’d been considering visiting Albi. It sounds like a great little place!

    • nessafrance says:

      It’s well worth a visit. There’s a lot to see but the centre is nice and compact so everything is within easy walking distance. It has some good shops and restaurants, too.

  2. Jany says:

    Loved Albi when I was there. It was Saturday and there was a market on. Oh, the fruit and the pastries…The cathedral was very impressive- from the outside. And the Toulouse Lautrec Museum was stunning. Wish I`d known about the museum on the other side of thje river. Hope to see it all again one day. Thanks for this, Vanessa!

    • nessafrance says:

      There’s a lot to recommend Albi. I wish I went there more often. Actually, you didn’t miss the miniatures museum since it opened only a few weeks ago. Something to save up for a later trip. Knowing your interests, I think you’d like it.

  3. amelie88 says:

    Those miniature dollhouse rooms are works of art! I guess it’s a very obscure niche but these are so amazing.

    • nessafrance says:

      As I said in the post, I didn’t really think I would be that interested beforehand but I was captivated by the artistry and workmanship that went into them. The detail is incredible. I hope they get lots of visitors.

  4. Congrats on your anniversary and your Liebster award. You’re right, there’s always more to talk about, although I often stray a little from the ‘strictly French’ guidelines. We visited Albi once and found it a very attractive town however, the murals on the inside walls of the cathedral are truly gruesome. I’m rather glad you didn’t include any pics of them!!

  5. Evelyn says:

    I want to visit Albi this spring (before the hordes of tourists arrive hopefully!) Have you been to the Toulouse Lautrec museum?? Congratulations on 4 years of blogging!

    • nessafrance says:

      It’s a nice town. Yes, I’ve been several times to the Toulouse Lautrec museum. It had a makeover about 3 years ago. Very well worth a visit.

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