Looking for Lautrec

After leaving the house about 0700 (7 a.m.) this cold morning, the first place we stopped was this impressive…well, I’ll let you take a guess.  It is so modern.  It was most modern thing we saw today, quite possibly.  The structure was magnificent and placed above wonder gardens.  What a sight to behold.  It was a gas station/rest stop.  There are rest stops with no food, just les toilettes and picnic tables and they are shielded from the freeway with big trees to make it more pleasant.  Then there are gas stations with full meals, les toilettes, wine, cheese, etc.  Then there was this one.  It has to be the all time best gas station I’ve ever been to!!  And did I mention that the powers that be have thought of everything for the traveler.  There is a place to relieve yourself about every 30 miles.  It is so civilized.

I don’t have to tell you but we in the U.S. are lucky to have a rest stop every 200 miles.  It is cruel and unusual punishment with those not blessed with camel bladders.  Okay, enough all ready.

We were making our way to Albi, home to the Toulouse Lautrec Musee.  A very interesting painter that lived in these parts and gay Paris in the late 1800’s.  He died at the age of 37 probably from alcoholism.  A man with a regular sized torso but deformed legs because 1.)  he broke them in separate accidents and 2.) his father married his first cousin.  Opps.  They downplay reason number two but I’ll bet that’s the real problem as he came from money.  Some of his most famous paintings were billboards for performers.  He also painted almost exclusively women of the night and of the Moulin Rouge (red windmill).  His painting are housed in a museum in the heart of Albi.  Here Ray is standing on the steps leading down to the museum.   The photo on the right is what you see when you emerge from the musee.

When we left the musee we jumped on a trolley-like vehicle.  It looked like a train in that there were cars held together much like a train.  We were thrilled.  Our timing was superb as the tour was just about to begin.  We paid our money and the driver escorted us to our “car”.  Oh, my, god.  It was sardine city.  I became intimate friends with the man sitting across from me.  His knees only touched my seat, ehr, the seat I was sitting on, for heaven’s sake.  Ray became good friends with his wife.  Ray sat with his knees toward me, making it impossible for him to look gouche (left).  We were three abreast.  And every time the trolley started went forward from a stand still, we felt like we were going to fall forward.  And that would not have been pretty.  The entire 40 minutes tour was in francais.  So we recognized approximately 10 words…gouche, droite (right), rue (street), century (siecle), cathedral, Toulouse and Lautrec, merci, au revoir.  Oh, and did I mention that it was chaud (hot)?  Anyway, here is some of what we saw.

From one bridge to another.  And the cathedral (episcopalian).  From there we proceeded on to our final destination for the day, the 12th century village of Lautrec.  Here are some pictures.

View from the hill where the village is situated.  Picture number two is the garden in the back of the bed and breakfast we’re staying at for one night.  And this is where I must give a plug to our new friend in San Diego, Diane, who helped us find and then book all these fabulous places to stay.  I found her through our francais professeur, Maurice.  He shared her website, au-chateau.com with us.  And she authors a newsletter about traveling on your own through France.  She has been invaluable to us.  A few more pictures of the chateau which was built in the 1700th century.

The view from the terrace looking down at the foundation of the ancient wall and a picture of the “barbecue” with a snippet of the lawn furniture that graces the piscine (swimming pool).

Before dinner we took a stroll Here’s some pictures from that walk.

Moi in the middle of a very old street.  Ray from the terrace of the visitor’s center.

And the door to our chateau.  It belies what waits on the other side.

There were 8 for dinner.  Our host and hostess(who were english speaking) joined us for aperitifs which, in this case, was a dry white wine with a truffle liquor.  Very interesting.  It was cool and refreshing and it got us loosened up.  Of the 8, we and Frederick from Paris, spoke english.  Everyone was exceedingly polite making sure that Ray and I were served before they were.  Dinner was fabulous, the walk to the room was short and sweet which was a good thing since we had had lots of wine to drink.  We ate duck and garlic confit?, cooked and peeled peppers as an appetizer.  Eggplant parmesan with white rice, fabulous cheese, and peaches poached in red wine.  Oh, and about a loaf of bread each!!  It was perfect and dinner lasted from 8 until 10:40 p.m.

What you will probably find interesting is Frederick.  He and his wife run a restaurant in Paris.  We talked all about how much he loved Americans.  His mother loved Americans because they liberated Paris and she was there.  We discussed food, wine, and muslims in France.  They have just passed a bill outlawing the veil.  It’s one thing to pass it, another to enforce.  He’s worried about that.  His employees, chefs, come from other countries because the french don’t want to work that hard.  They have big immigration issues.  At this point in the conversation with us…he still loves Americans.  He served in the military for one year and when doing his duty, he was stationed near the Pyrenees.  They used to see lights moving about the mountains at night.  Very dangerous.  Illegals.  The gypsies also are a big problem.  Well, don’t want to bore you.  Suffice it to say, it was a very funny fun evening and I was exhausted from trying to listen to the french being spoken.  Again, could pick up a word here or there…but they are speed demons!!!

Editor’s note:  My spelling is ruined.  I can’t spell anymore.  Francais has ruined me.  I keep getting confused.  So, if I misspell things, english or francais, please ignore since my dictionary is in the car and I don’t feel like going to get it.

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