The Colors and Tastes of Albi

Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

Albi, just east of Toulouse, is one of France’s less-discovered treasures – let’s check it out! We begin with the Sainte- Cecile Cathedral, built in the 13th century as an intimidating threat and response to the Cathar sect of the region – “don’t mess with us!” says this bulwark of a church.03231305  powerful cathedralOutside it’s all defensive, a fortress, but inside it’s sumptuously decorated, and groups of costumed players, working with what looks like a high school group on assignment, add to the mystery of the place.03231305 vignettes in cathedralColors draw us into a Pastel shop, where the owner (whose husband dyes the textiles displayed) explains their wares. The many colors, known as pastels to all of you artists, received that name from the original pastel grown in this area. After seeing the lovely blue produced by the plant, and crafting drawing chalk from it, artists wanted more colors, and they have since all been called pastel after the blue original.03231305 woad pastel name came from thisMore tempting to our little group are the beautiful scarves, also hand- dyed by the artisan, and one ends up around Kirk’s neck.03231305 woad hand dyed by guy we sawSince 1922 over a thousand works, paintings, and posters by Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec, born here in 1864, have been kept and shown at the eponymous museum in Albi. Housed in the beautiful Palais de la Berbie, a former bishop’s palace, the bulk of the collection was given to the museum by the artist’s relatives, the Count and Countess of Toulouse-Lautrec.
The rain keeps us inside, but what a pleasure it would be to stroll the exquisite gardens of the Palais!03231306 h gardens belowA wander through the peaceful Saint Salvi cloister, built in the 1200s for what was Albi’s first episcopal seat, shows off more of Albi’s beauty, and there’s that handsome scarf – a great memento of the area.03231305 x san salvi pose k scarfThis may be Albi’s most photographed house, with its intricate half- timbering, some symbols of which show that it was built by a pastel merchant. Thanks to pastel, this area became very prosperous in the 16th century.03231306 most photographed house woadWe complete the day with one of the most colorful meals we’ve ever had, at the Michelin-starred L’Esprit du Vin. This salmon, spiked with some wasabi and tarama creams, practically melts in the mouth.03231307 salmon then duckAnd we finish the feast with a colorful dessert – a caramel cake with citrus fruits and curaçao ice cream.  03231308 eye popping dessertFrom the rosy brick façades, to the delicate pastels, to the vibrant gardens and paintings of Toulouse Lautrec, Albi is a colorful delight for the senses.
2009 Anne and Kirk ViasThe best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.



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