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Report 1954: A Weekend in Albi

By Veronica in France from France, Fall 2011

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Page 3 of 3: Musée Lapérouse and Lautrec

photo by Veronica Yuill

Windmill, Lautrec

The next morning we crossed the river to the slummy part of town. There's a striking difference between the banks; historically this side of the river was outside the fortified town and was occupied by immigrant mill workers. Industry has long gone, but this part of town clearly hasn't had any share in the tender, loving care lavished on the other part over the last century -- except immediately next to the bridge, where the Hotel Mercure has taken over an old mill with a lovely view across the river, and a museum in honour of French explorer Lapérouse has been set up. This wasn't quite on the scale of the much more lavish Captain Cook museum in Middlesbrough: it's just a couple of rooms with explanations of Lapérouse's journey, extracts from his diaries, and a few artifacts from his wrecked ships, which were not found until 30 years after his disappearance.

Heading out of Albi, on the way home we made a detour to Lautrec, purely on the strength of its reputation as the place where the best garlic in France is grown: l'ail rose de Lautrec. These are the firm white bulbs tinged with pink that you see in neat tresses in French markets at an apparently outrageous price -- but they do keep better than other inferior types of garlic. Right on cue, as we entered the village we met a woman sitting in her garage cleaning garlic and making it into plaits. It's a very pretty medieval village; we wandered the streets and stopped for a drink at a quirky cafe/bookshop called Le Plùm, where they were preparing what smelt like a very good lunch, but we'd eaten enough over the last couple of days. We walked up the hill to the top of the village where we'd have had lovely views of the Pyrenees if it hadn't been so hazy, and there's an old windmill which has been restored to grind flour. Then we got thoroughly lost in the narrow streets before finally finding our way down to the impressive ramparts and back to the car. Then it was back across the Montagne Noire, with a stop for an ice cream in the dull, workaday town of Mazamet on a grey Sunday afternoon, and back home for a dinner of poached eggs on toast.

Note: for more photos of this beautiful town, see the Flickr photo album linked on the right.

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