Fred & Sius on tour 2012 travel blog


We had a very slow morning today (Wednesday 23 May) as my foot was throbbing and we have had a few long days touring. It is so easy to sleep here as there is literally no noise even with the shutters wide open and it gets light early. Our bedroom is three floors up and faces into a private garden which is surrounded by high walls. The cathedral bells don't start to chime until a very respectable hour so it is just the cats when they howl that wake us up.

We began the day speaking to mum on skype and we are delighted that she is now out of hospital and back at Pam's with strict instructions from the OT to minimise her exertion for the sake of her ailing heart. The OT had a fit when she saw the stairs mum has been using at her home so now we have another challenge....

We planned on visiting the Albi cathedral but got distracted on the way and I ended up having a manicure. Once again the woman did not speak any English but at least this time at the salon I came away satisfied even though much of our conversation went missing in translation. In fact my nails look tres joli.

We eventually made it to the cathedral and were both absolutely gobsmacked by the level of decoration. It is the largest brick cathedral in the world which is very austere on the outside apart from a elaborate gothic portico added centuries after it was built. Inside it has been decorated with painted scenes of the day of judgement and every piece of stone is further decorated in some way. It is very unusual because it is neither roman, baroque or gothic but its extensive decoration, especially the blue and gold ceiling makes it the most beautiful church I've ever seen. Even though it was large the space was somehow contained so you could take it all in. Pity we won't get to hear a choir there.

Fred was sent to buy a baguette for lunch and somehow came home with a large soft roll. He was promptly sent back out with his tail between his legs to find a true French loaf. How hard could it be???? I was in charge of cakes and believe me I did not hold back coming home with the true French experience in layers of chocolate and vanilla mousse on a coconut macaron and topped with fresh raspberry couloirs/jelly. It was so rich even I could not finish it!

After lunch we headed back out to the town where I had my fall nine days ago, Ambialet about 25 km west of Albi.  Just out of town the mist came down and we found ourselves in the clouds as we travelled towards the Tarn valley. The river which last week was bluish was today looking more like the Yarra and flowing furiously after so much rain. It is very wide, more like the Murray at its healthiest. The village of Ambialet is nothing special but we found ourselves alone in the church on the hill which happened to be more than 1000 years old, built in 1057. It was small by comparison to the Albi cathedral and totally devoid of decoration - just fabulous vaulted bare stone spaces. We started to sing and the sound was absolutely amazing. Fred went outside but I just couldn't bring myself to leave because the acoustics were so fantastic.  I found myself sounding like an angel. I could have stayed there for hours singing but unfortunately some people came along and reluctantly I stopped. In fact they actually apologised for interrupting the wonderful chanteuse! If only Jonathan Welch could have heard me. Fred said I could be heard way outside the church and it was quite haunting. It was a very spiritual experience and something I will never forget.

With my head and heart literally still in the clouds we took more of the back roads we prefer along the Tarn valley and it too was spectacular. High rolling green hills not unlike the Otways but way bigger and even more beautiful because of the diversity of scenery. Farmhouses, castles, churches, cherry and nut orchards, cattle, asparagus fields and cottage gardens. Needless to say our talk turned to building our own stone cottage and Fred said that the only upside of Prue and Mark not being with us this week is that it has probably saved him a lot of cash as he thinks the pressure would have been on to 'invest' in a little piece of France. Frankly I don't think he needs much convincing. Our destination was Brousse Le Chateau which sounded nice on parer and turned out to be yet another beau village of France which provided untold photo opportunities. This one had a unique steep and curved cobbled foot bridge across the stream which proved a challenge for me still finding it hard to walk.

Back in Albi we had an aperitif in the square before trying out a little restaurant in a back street called Lou Sicrit. Fred had the most delicious escargot in a sauce of the forest infused with Roquefort. Wow, what a taste sensation.

So far whilst based in Albi we have driven 2500 km in our little Fiat but when we drew it out on a map tonight it doesn't look like we have covered very much of France at all. Tomorrow we head west to see the towns around the Canal du Midi which links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean



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