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Published: July 14th 2013
Leaving Olonzac and the the south behind I said I would like to drive north our second week on country roads not motorways all the way...ahem !!! First bit of the journey into the mountians with views of the Pyrenees was stunning - and we planned a route to avoid the Tour de France ( roads were closed) - we motored through Castres - lots going on as the bikers had just left - lots of old houses bordering the river - very nice. And then we arrived in Albi - the red city it is called because of the red brick - well trusty Sally took us to a carpark right by the cathedral ( magnificent made of bricks in 13 century ) ..we had a quick walk about admiring the old buildings and a great plaza and decided it was a city to return to for a whole day. I had totally put my trust in Sally Satnav by this time and when she directed us off the main route towards our next accomodation at Najac we thought ok - it's a shortcut !!!!!!!! No way - we went up hill and down the gorges teetering on the edge
of them at times with roads getting narrower , no other cars daft enough to take this route - on and on we went - by luck at times taking the correct lane when there was a junction with no signs and a choice of 3 tiny lanes. And then there was a tiny hamlet perched on the edge on a cliff over the gorge( Gorge d'Averyon we later found out)- with the steepest streets on a hairpin bend ...well I suppose you could say my driving skills were thoroughly tested - then at last a road sign - Najac - yes Sally took us there but she was a bit silly to choose that route. Lesley of course had her eyes shut as we teetered along the edge of the gorge and she did say "well you said you wanted to drive on country roads!!!" TIP Never drive on roads marked white in France if at all possible!!!!
But it was worth it we had chosen a resort Les Hauts de Najac and it was a kind of holiday village on a beautiful forested hill with views of Najac - we had a little chalet with a patio
/terrace so could sit out there and have our meals. We had planned to stay 2 nights but changed it to 4 as we could then have another day in Albi and explore Najac as well as do a bit of relaxing by the pool. What a beautiful village Najac was - steep streets of timbered and stone houses going down and then up to the castle towers...you can see from the photos how lovely it was.
We loved our day in Albi - we walked round all the old streets across the river , visited the magnificent cathedral and the Toulouse Lautrec Museum...housed in another fabulous castle. If you like Toulose Lautrec paintings then go to Albi - I never knew he had painted so many pictures of horses - they were amazing. We found a very nice vegetarian restaurant ( hard to come by in France!!) for lunch and then proceeded to tour the cathedral with an audio guide - this is what we remembered .. this is the tallest brick building in the world - the rood screen separated the clergy from the scruffy peasants... the intererior of the cathedral is all painted and what you
see is the original.!!! The local limestone from which the carving are made is easy to carve and it looks like lace but then it hardens over time. The statues look like real people of the time .. And St Judith seems to have been quite a girl as she was a virgin who had 3 (?) children and would seem to me to have had a gullible husband. The statue of her showed a very rounded tummy - and apparently that was the fashion - the women even used to put a cushion up their dress to look like that !!!!!!!!Well I never I thought - bring back that fashion I say and I wouldn't need to diet. (Have eaten far too much french bread and croissants and butter and cheese this holiday.)
It is a nice idea to be footloose and fancy free and just drive and then find a hotel - but it is not a simple as that - so we let our fingers do the walking and search the internet and looki at maps of possible places to go for our next stay. I have always had good experiences with Gite de France and
so we found a real gem for our next stop.
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