It’s not supposed to rain in southwest France in the summer. The odd thunderstorm is acceptable but when the weather is persistently dreary for 10 days you feel cheated. Our visitors from Sweden must have felt especially cheated when they arrived last Sunday. Monday was wall-to-wall rain and Tuesday dawned in a similar fashion.
We couldn’t stay indoors playing Scrabble and games with dice for another day. So we all donned warm clothes and off we went to Albi, Préfecture of the Tarn Département about an hour’s drive away. The medieval centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
The SF and I had been with some friends in May specifically to see the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, so if you want to find out more about that please see my post about it here. We visited it again last Tuesday and were happy to do so since there’s always something new to see. The museum is housed in the former Bishops’ palace, le Palais de la Berbie, constructed in the late 13th century as a fortified castle. It’s so well-preserved that it almost looks modern.
In May, we didn’t go into the cathedral, since the object was to see the museum. This time we did – partly to get out of the pelting rain but also because it was several years since the SF and I last went in.
La Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile is an imposing brick-built edifice started in 1282 after the turmoil of the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars. It was completed in the 15th century. The severe exterior of the cathedral is in stark contrast to the ornate interior.
Here is the soaring nave with a richly decorated ceiling.
The rood screen is in carved stone, like filigree work. It contains over 200 statues.
By the time we emerged from the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, the leaden sky was broken in places allowing the sun to shine through, if weakly. We walked up to the gardens behind the bishops’ palace, where there is a formal parterre, a vine-covered walkway and a good view of the left bank of the River Tarn. Despite several sharp showers we had the feeling the weather was changing. And it did. Slowly.
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