The River Tarn
Posted on July 28 2017
The River Tarn
Our guide to discover the River Tarn and the best places to eat
The River Tarn flows from the hills of Lozere in southern France through scenery that changes from one of the deepest and most dramatic gorges in Europe to the lesser known lush green valleys further down river.
Our journey along the Tarn started in Albi. The river at that point is deep and wide, and our hotel had amazing views across the river to the old town with its fortress like cathedral looming above the ancient roof tops. The hotel, the Mercure Albi Bastides, was an old converted warehouse that merged seamlessly with the other buildings along the river. We ate at the hotel the night of our arrival, at La Vermicellerie restaurant. The food was good although a little timely in arriving.
Two places to go to in the old town is the Cathedral of Sainte Cecile and the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. The museum is housed in what used to be part of the Bishop’s Palace, behind the cathedral. The Cathedrale of Sainte Cecile is a huge and forbidding building. It was built after the defeat of the Cathar heretics as a warning that the Catholic church had beaten and slaughtered the heretics and would not hesitate to do the same thing again if necessary. It is built, as are most buildings in Albi with the local red brick, but the painted interior of the cathedral comes as a great contrast to the austere exterior.
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, who was born in Albi, lived in the second half of the nineteenth century. Health problems inhibited his growth and he threw himself into developing his artistic talents. Much of his working life was spent in Paris, where he became a successful artist specialising in representing the Bohemian lifestyle of Paris at that time. He was a pioneer of the art of the poster, and we found many of his works from the age of 16 onwards in the Toulouse Lautrec Museum.
We had a perfect light lunch at a little restaurant called La Temporalite and on the last night in Albi we went to La Porte du Tarn. Serving traditional French food it is the unbelievably delicious nougat glace with almonds and pistachio that make this a must.
Next we set off along the banks of the Tarn to Millau. Following the river as much as we could with the help of a local map from http://www.dash4it.co.uk/ we followed the river through wonderful lush valleys, up into the surrounding hills for a while then down to the river valley again. We stopped for lunch at one of the “Plus Beaux Villages” of France, Brousse le Chateau, at a Logis called Le Relays du Chasteau.
Millau is famous for the magnificent viaduct, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Our hotel, the elegant Chateau de Creissels had fantastic views of the viaduct. The hotel was cheap but the rooms were beautifully decorated with a lush bathroom and a small sitting room. The meal in the evening was amazing, with home made foie gras, sweetbreads, scallops, slow roast lamb, rack of lamb and an irresistible selection of local cheeses served it the vaulted dining room.
Close by is the village of Roquefort where the famous cheese comes from. The legend behind the cheese is that a young shepherd was eating his bread and ewe’s milk cheese when he noticed a pretty young girl and dropped his lunch in a nearby cave to go and meet her. He found his abandoned lunch a few months later, covered with a blue mould that had turned his plain cheese into what we know as Roquefort. At the village of Roquefort you can visit the caves of all the producers of the cheese.
Next we headed to the Gorges du Tarn and drove along the spectacular road, climbing up the sides of the gorge then plunging back down to the river. We stopped at St Chely du Tarn for the night at the Auberge de la Cascade where they served local specialities for a fantastic budget. The tiny beach is idyllic and had amazingly clear water. The Gorges du Tarn continues up river a little further, but the next day we left this beautiful part of France and began to head north.