Tour de France, Stage 6 -The ante-chamber of the Pyrennees.

Text read by Mary Peters

Geneviève lingered a little longer in Tarn.

We know of Paris, Provence, Côte d’Azur, but hidden to the west is a true jewel. Tarn is a Department in the South West of France and is also called the Pays de Cocagne. Translated, it means “Land of Abundance”.  Knowing this, preparing a trip made my brain whirl.

What can we do here? Here are some recommendations, but there is much, much more. This is just a drop in the ocean.

Lavaur is an old medieval town in which a heretic massacre took place in 1211. 400 people were burnt at the stake and the Chanson de la Croisade tells of this tragic event. Don’t forget to have a look for the belfry of the Cathedral Saint Alain, you will be surprised by the “Jacquemart” – a wooden figure which reminds us of the religious wars. He strikes the bell.

There is also the Musée de Pays de Cocagne, (the Museum of Abundance). It exhibits many sacred art objects, archaeology, and popular traditional art. There are also themed exhibitions.

Not far from Lavaur are many historical towns. One noteworthy town is Gaillac which is well known for its wines.

Albi: a medieval town, on the river Tarn, is also the Department’s principal city. Walk on the Bridge and discover the “red town”. Stroll along the narrow streets, wander past the half-timbered houses, to the fortress-like cathedral. The interior of the building is an eye-catching decoration, in the style of Flamboyant Gothic to Renaissance.

Albi is also the birthplace of the painter Toulouse Lautrec, and also the Navigator La Perouse.

The town also offers two of the four Paths of St. Jacques de Compostella. Coming from Puy in the north, it leads south to Cordes, Gaillac and along the Agoût River to Castres. The pilgrims sometimes leave the main path go along the smaller ones to see the relics, holy healers and miracle fountains.

Castres and the “Black Mountains”. A masterpiece of nature. The Lac des Montagnès is also an exceptional “éspace naturel”. In Mazamet is a “Himalayan Bridge.” Not for the faint-hearted. And, if you are there at the right time, do not forget to attend a rugby game.

Not far from Castres is Burlats. Let yourself be bewitched by the legend of Adélaïde de Burlats. To start with, rent a Kayak and discover the Rivière Agout which meanders through a forest. Continue in the Gorges du Lignon and if you feel like it paddle on the Lac du Merle. After this sports activity, go to the Pavillon d’Adélaïde and narrate the legend of the lady of the same name. Idolize her violet eyes. She was the daughter of the Comte de Toulouse. Her beauty apparently was legendary, and the troubadours of the day told other noblemen about this. You can hear the story on the path leading from the Pavillon to the Waterfalls.  

If you like rocks, discover the caves of St. Dominique. Also, stop in Sept Faux and its shaking rocks.

A Venetian style carnival takes place in Castres every March. The Carillon, you can watch and listen to the Carillonneur at the Notre Dame de la Platé. He plays with his fists. Plenty of possibilities to walk and explore nature.

You can also discover Tarn on horseback. The region offers horse riders up to 500 km of paths. From the Black Mountains to the Gaillac vineyards, the Tarn valley, the granite “Sidobre” and the Lacaune mountains. On horseback, you can admire the beauty and variety of the landscape. There are many liveries in the department for you to “park” your horse or from which you can rent one. If you are not a horse rider, bikes are also an alternative.

Food & Wine, like the geography, is of great abundance. My advice is to go and discover and do not hold back. The atmosphere of the restaurants, artisan producers and vignerons are in tune with the beauty of the department. So, to satisfy your hunger, eat and drink your way through the following:

  1. Cassoulet
  2. Garlic /Garlic Soup
  3. Jambon de Lacaune
  4. Courges and Pumpkins
  5. Wines of Gaillac
  6. Onions from Lescure
  7. Veal from Lauragais
  8. White asparagus (Le Responchons)
  9. Cheeses:  goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s.
  10. Truffes du Tarn
  11. Pot au Feu Albigeois.

A pleasant sojourn can be spent here. But as our tour continues to beckon, we must say, au revoir et à bientôt.


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