Mar 12, 2014
We returned to Albi after having had a wonderful lunch just a few days earlier.
This time we planned to see the art of Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa amongst other things. We missed the exhibition of his art which took place in Canberra a few months ago but it was much better to see it in the place of his birth. The Musee Toulouse-Lautrec is in the precincts of the cathedral and consists of three rooms of his art. The room which contained his art of the brothels in Paris was fascinating. The paintings treated the subjects with a high degree of respect without ever making a statement about their profession and eroticism.
Unfortunately we were not able to take photos inside the museum so we bought a number of postcards but I notice that Jenny has already written and sent them to some of our friends. We also bought a set of paper table mats with a reporduction of one of Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings of Jane Avril, one of the most recognised cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge and no doubt a 'friend' of the artist. Everything closes at midday and the museum was no exception.
Between the museum and the river Tarn was a beautiful garden which would probably been even more beautiful in a few months time when springtime is more advanced. The hedges looked to have been trimmed using nail clippers and many of the gardens were cultivated and ready to be planted.
We then decided to have some lunch and there were a number of places around the cathedral. We chose one with a terrace in the sun and when it came to pay we had another of our 'credit card' problems. We are not short of credit and cash cards but we tried them all and not one worked. This time we had enough cash to pay, but only just. A fellow at the restaurant guided us to the closest ATM which was out of order. So we walked to the main square and were overrun by masses of people coming in the following direction. It was hard work moving against the crowd of children who were dressed in all sorts of fancy dress whilst we were getting covered in confetti being thrown by their parents. Struggling on we got to the next ATM and eagerly inserted the new American Express cash card, the benefits of which had been relayed to us in Melbourne before we left. The card had been loaded with euros but the ATM told us it was invalid. Fortunately the NAB credit card which failed so miserbably in Singapore now came to the rescue in France. I'm becoming paranoid about credit and cash cards!
Once we had some cash we walked with the crowd towards the cathedral. It turns out that the crowds were part of children's day at the Albi Carnival which also accounted for the grotesque floats and fun fair stuff all over the town. I'm sure Albi would be a better place for not having a carnival!
In the afternoon we drove a bit further north to the medieval town called Cordes sur Ciel. It held a lot of promise and as we approached we could see it in the distance at the top of a hill. We drove up and by mistake drove through the old part of the town, only just managing to squeeze the Renault Megane through the narrow streets before descending to the approaches again. We parked and walked up along the same streets only to find that the artisans who were supposed to be making medieval things were nowhere to be found. A few medieval shops were open selling fois gras (no doubt medieval fois gras) but the rest of the artisans were still in winter hibernation. It seems that France doesn't open until April at the earliest.