Huge brick cathedral of Albi
Huge brick cathedral of Albi

We had the pleasure of hosting two of Bill’s sisters and one niece on a part of their visit to France and Spain. It was a celebration of Jenny’s passing the first stage of her studies to becoming a sommelier, a specialist in selecting and serving wine, either on its own or pairing it with food. What better place to come than the world’s largest wine producing area to try out those newly-acquired skills?

Although Carcassonne has plenty of opportunities to keep someone busy for many days, visitors naturally want to see as much of the area as possible. With Jenny in mind, we spent a day of tastings in Limoux, about 30 minutes south of here, where sparkling wine got its start before moving northward to Champagne and gaining a worldwide reputation.To add another historical aspect, we headed north for 2 and a half hours to Albi, a city not all that different from our own new hometown as far as population, size, and age.

Gardens at the Bishop's palace, now the Toulouse Lautrec museum
Gardens at the Bishop’s palace, now the Toulouse Lautrec museum

Prior to arriving in Carcassonne, the “girls” had spent a few days in Barcelona visiting all of the highlights including the Picasso museum. Knowing that Toulouse Lautrec was one of his contemporaries and that Albi housed perhaps the world’s best collection of this French artist well-known for his advertising posters from the late 1800s, they were prepared for a day trip to a city that Bill and I had already visited and were ready to see again.

As you approach Albi, it’s hard to miss the massive brick cathedral that was begun in 1287 and rises to a height of 78 meters (255 feet) that you can see in the photo here. It’s simply overwhelming. Literally right beside the church is the impressive Bishop’s Palace that now houses the Lautrec museum. After our fill of culture it was time for lunch so we went to the restaurant called Le Papillon where Bill and I had enjoyed a delicious meal the year before. This genuine mom-and-pop operation (mom greets, serves, and cleans up while pop cooks) provided us with another memorable treat.

Bill and Lee on the old bridge in Limoux
Bill and Lee on the old bridge in Limoux

We rented a car for both of these day trips but could have also done them by train. It’s only one euro per person to ride down to Limoux and then you have no worries about driving and having that “one more tasting” of the tempting sparkling wine there. It takes a bit over 2 hours by train or car to get to Albi, and if you choose public transit you don’t have to endure the winding, mountainous roads and again there are no concerns about sampling the wine. Just saying.

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