Follow The River Tarn
This area follows the river Tarn. In this river country, with its clement skies and Mediterranean-type vegetation, exploring the villages and discovering their history is a never-ending source of surprise and pleasure. Coming from the west on the A68, bastide towns such as Lisle sur Tarn (13th century bastide which has one of the largest medieval squares in the south-west), Rabastens (a relaxed small medieval town with old city walls overlooking the river Tarn), Gaillac (the heart of the vineyards, where you will find all amenities) & Albi can all be easily reached. A ride in a “gabarre” (barge on which the Gaillac wine used to be taken to Bordeaux in the middle-ages) will enable you to view the stunning Tarn valley from the river. All of these places are close to the main road network. Up to Albi, many of the traditional houses are made of either red bricks or dried clay brown brick sand, sometimes cob (mixture of sand, clay and straw) with tiled roofs with 2 or 4 slopes. Next to the houses, there are annexes such as pigeon-towers, stables or a “chartil” (shed for the farming machinery). There are also many modern houses due to the proximity of the motorway.
If you follow the river east after Albi, you can find Saint-Juery (the former hydro-electric power station by the river, which you can visit, showing the devastating effect of the flood of the Tarn in 1999), Ambialet and Trebas where the fantastic Gorges du Tarn can be explored. Ambialet is an enchanting village built on a meander of the Tarn, in a 3 km loop which turns sharply to rejoin itself creating an isthmus, said to be the narrowest in Europe only 20ms. and separating the village of Ambialet in two, Upper Ambialet and Lower Ambialet. The further away you drive from Albi, the more rustic and cheap the houses become. Many of them need to be renovated and they are made mostly with schist stone and the roofs are covered with slates.
By David Bolton
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