Monday, April 30, 2007

Albi Afterthought

I think it's time to face up to the facts: my previous post, an Albi guessing game, was just a little too difficult to get much of a response. Does that mean I'm going to give you the answers?

No -- because one of these days some Albigeois or Albigeoise might stumble upon my site and have fun identifying the pictures.

I could write more about Albi, but I promised myself to limit La France Profonde's trip to the Tarn to the month of April. One month of blogging for a two nights' stay! And so many memories...

Thank you again to our hosts for this special weekend, Nathalie and David Bolton of La Peyrecout gîte. They are also the publishers of French-Entrée Tarn & Aveyron, a complete portal site for anyone interested in a move or trip to the Tarn or Aveyron area.

Oh yes, as for the above photo -- Albi's beautiful covered market where I used to do twice-weekly shopping is undergoing a serious facelift. There are a lot of changes going on in Aveyron too, especially in Rodez. I hope to share some of them with you in May.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Albi Treasure Hunt

La France Profonde is continuing its trip through the Tarn department, where I started my life in France. My goal was to finish "the Tarn series" by the end of April, but with an upcoming three-day trip to Tours - where I also used to live -- this project might spill over into May!

Albi is a popular tourist destination, and plenty of visitors pile in throughout the summer to see its imposing cathedral and the recently remodeled Toulouse-Lautrec museum. Maybe you have even visited these sites.

But do you really know Albi? Let's go on a little treasure hunt: four photos, four questions.

1. What hidden treasure of Albi's downtown area can be accessed from here?

2. What Albi landmark can be seen at the end of this street?

3. Where was this photo taken from?

4. Name two albigeois specialties that were sold in this long-famous and now-defunct Albi bakery:

Feel free to comment whether or not you know the answers! All of these photos also represent places that were favorites of mine when I lived in Albi...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Great Deal in Gaillac -- "Cassis" Restaurant

After a morning visit to Cordes-sur-Ciel, our next stop during our weekend in the Tarn department was Gaillac, a colorful small town known for the eponymous wine produced in the surroundings.

We stopped in Gaillac for just one reason: to eat lunch. Our hosts Nathalie and David Bolton of La Peyrecout had recommended that we try out "Cassis," a former café located on the main square. " Chef Justin Winstanley has turned the site into a charming restaurant.

For our meal, we chose the daily lunch special. The starter was a "salade gourmande." I must admit I am not always bowled over by salads bearing that name, as they are often smothered with greasy lardons and slathered in slimy store-bought salad dressing. (Mais oui! In the land of delicious vinaigrettes!)

The Cassis take on a salade gourmande was much lighter: cooked beets with red onions, steamed cauliflower, roasted red peppers, céleri remoulade with walnuts, an avocado purée and a few salad greens: a true feast for the eyes and the palate!

The main course, simple yet convincing, was a boneless pork chop, hot and crispy frites, and a delicious Swiss chard gratin.

To finish up, a classic dessert: tarte aux pommes normande.

All of the above can be enjoyed for a very reasonable 9.50 euros (about $13.00 or £6.50,) although more elaborate menus are available.
If you're looking for a tasty and affordable lunch or dinner in the area, I couldn't recommend Cassis more.

To finish, I must give a special mention for the fact that my teenage "kids" were allowed to order the menu d'enfants -- which is not always the case in France, where the cut-off age is usually ten, and enforced. Unlike many French kids' menus, virtually identical all over the country, it was as original and appealing as the adult choices.

Cassis Restaurant
80 Place de la Libération
81600 Gaillac, France
(0)5 63 57 62 67

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cordes for Sale?

Abandoned houses in Cordes intrigued me even more than the many lovely renovated buildings. The one above sparkled with brilliant blue, but apparently no one comes home through its cheery door.

I've always been one who likes to take a gander through old windows into empty rooms, but sometimes this wasn't possible:

Overall, we were amazed by the number of houses for sale in Cordes sur Ciel. I didn't do any research into this subject, but we must have seen dozens of homes à vendre, leaving us to assume that prices are out of sight and/or that potential buyers are not so enthusiastic about homes with lots of charm, but little or no garden, or just a patio with a view of thousands of tourists all summer.
Some owners might do better to change their "for sale" sign so it's more in keeping with the village's atmosphere:

We also saw plenty of homes that were apparently inhabited, but in need of some good renovation work:

But for some, it's too late!

I was interested to note that all of the charming properties in the Cordes area haven't been bought up already. Seriously, most places don't look like the one above! If you're interested a home in the Cordes area, take a look here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cordes sur Ciel 1 -- Bits of Blue in lieu of Blue Sky

Cordes sur Ciel is one of the jewels of Tarn tourism. It's easy to see why when the sun is out, and the village looks like this or this. But we visited it on a grayish and windy day, and the view of the village was a little more like this -- which definitely changed the village's atmosphere, and explains why we didn't bother to stop at the viewpoint to take the "typical" photo of Cordes.

The lower village, with its grocery stores and bakeries, was bustling. But we were there on a Monday - -when smaller shops are closed -- and just barely at the start of tourist season to boot. Factor in the blustery weather, and the upper village was practically deserted.

Frankly, I liked it that way. It was pleasant not to be distracted by the many shops and the multi-lingual throng of tourists which swarms into the village during the peak season.

We were able to focus on details...

...and appreciate the colorful decorations on the homes and other buildings, because our sky was definitely lacking in blue on the morning we visited "Cordes sur Ciel...Gris."

Monday, April 09, 2007

La Peyrecout: Chez Nathalie et David (Comments Enabled)

Before telling you more about our stay in the Tarn, I definitely want to mention that the whole idea of the weekend there stemmed from the kind hospitality of Nathalie and David Bolton, owners of La Peyrecout gîtes, located near Cordes. I met them through their new Internet site project, FrenchEntré Tarn & Aveyron, which syndicates some of my posts from La France Profonde.

Nathalie and David were kind enough to invite us to stay in their beautifully restored La Grange gîte, which I highly recommend for a weekend getaway -- or more. We only stayed two nights but it was such a relaxing break that it seemed like a week!

(PS: I originally posted this a few days back and just noticed that once again, comments were not enabled on the post. This is a new problem I've had two or three times now with Blogger. Any suggestions, other than of course checking that the comment link comes up on every post? )

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Word About Stats and

I just noticed that my Statcounter set-up is showing stats at the bottom of the page, which reminds me that some time back, La France Profonde racked up its 15,000th visit!

I had promised myself I would watch for the event, but the fact is I don't go to statcounter very often, so I missed it by about 400!

Enquiring minds may want to know why the Statcounter at the bottom of this blog says only "2,767" as I write. Well, when I moved over to "new Blogger" I forgot to take Statcounter with me. The quickest solution I found to the problem was recreating a "project" -- so I'll always need to add 13,000 odd visits from my "old Blogger blog" to what I see below...I guess...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Where It All Began

I just got back from a three-day trip through my earliest expat memories.

My husband and I got married in July 1990 at the Mairie in the tiny village of Cestayrols , population 459, located in the Tarn department. A few months later we moved from Lincarque, the even tinier hamlet where we had been renting a gîte, to Albi, where we lived from 1990-1992. My first daughter was born there, in the now defunct Clinique Escudié.

I adored Albi and when we left it for professional reasons in 1992, I thought my heart would break. Place nostalgia overwhelmed me every time I thought about the town's red brick houses, its covered market and its warm atmosphere.

After a three-year stint near Tours, we moved back to the Southwest -- to Aveyron -- and swore we would get back to Albi and the Tarn often.

But of course we don't. There have been the occasional trips to show American visitors la ville rouge, and a few stops on our way to Toulouse. But for the most part, we rarely return to the area we loved so much.

Until this spring break. Our stay in the Tarn was short, but brought back a multitude of memories -- and a lot of blogging material.

I hope you'll be reading La France Profonde in April -- because we'll be taking a trip to the Tarn.