Thursday, 3 April 2014


The Cathedral

Our final day in Gaillac and we spend the morning walking around the beautiful city of Albi, now a World Heritage Site. We parked in an underground car park near the Cathedral and emerged outside the wonderful covered market built in 1903.

Then we visited the cloister of the nearby church of Saint-Salvi. It dates from 1270, but only one side remains the rest having been destroyed during the Revolution.

Outside, the church has an unusual tower of stone topped with a brick section and a small castellated turret.

From here we walk down to the cathedral square to face the inspiring bulk of the Cathedral of Ste Cecilia constructed in brick between 1287 to 1480. It is said to be the largest brick building in the world.

To the right is the fortified Bishop's Palace, the Palais de la Berbie, dating from the end of the 13th century, which together with the Cathedral makes a remarkable group of brick built medieval structures. The Palace now houses the excellent Toulouse-Lautrec museum, which we saw on our previous visit in 2005.

Round the back of the Palace you can look down on the gardens and out across the river Tarn.

The gardens have a wonderful array of shapes.

Coming back from the viewing point we were struck by these flowers growing on a wall. They are in fact Wall Flowers. Who knew?

We now walked along the side of the Cathedral furthest from the square and at the end passed this delightful water feature with Moorish arches relocated at the end.

We completed the tour of the Cathedral by passing the wonderful baldaquin - a staggering gothic porch dating from the 16th century over the main entrance to this otherwise forbidding building.

Heading into the town we passed this interesting street of half timbered houses, similar to those we had seen in Gaillac.

And after a while we reached Place Laperouse, named after the 18th century explorer. Our current favourite wine, Astrolabe, is named after one of his ships. At the end of the square is the striking new Grand Théatre, the work of architect Dominique Perrault.

You can just see on the left of the picture a Victorian dome. I went off to investigate and was delighted to find that it was one of a pair marking the corners of what appeared to be a disused market.

We walked back to centre and admired another group of half timbered buildings near the Cathedral before returning to the car park.

Conditions: grey, but not too cold.

Distance: about 3 miles.

Rating: five stars. The Cathedral is an astonishing building and Albi has lots of other interesting stuff.

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