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Walking around Sidobre, at the heart of the Haut-Languedoc regional park, will have you plunging millions of years back. This is the largest granite plateau in Europe – and in the forest, enormous granite rocks appear in their dozens. The best known of all is without doubt the ‘Peyro Clabado’, 800 tons balanced on a small base of a mere square metre. The locals down here consider it a bit like their Eiffel Tower... and in fact, when you walk on the pavements of the Champs-Elysées, you’re actually walking on Sidobre granite.
This is a wonderful part of France, where there are almost as many legends as rocks...
The history of Cordes-sur-Ciel began in 1222. Protected by ramparts, this charming medieval town is perched at the top of a hill known as Puech de Mordagne – and its name refers to the illusion of floating on the clouds when mist envelops the hill.
As you approach the majestic Porte des Ormeaux, you already get the feeling that time is standing still. Go for a stroll down the cobbled streets to the Place de la Halle, where you can easily envisage village life when the locals sold grain, canvas, leather...
Albi’s Sainte-Cécile cathedral already charts two centuries from its original construction, which began in the Middle Ages (13th century). It was only after the Renaissance that the magnificent frescoes that cover its vault first appeared: the work of a group of Italian painters in 1509. The extraordinary organ was added in the 18th century. It’s the largest brick cathedral in the world, forming part of the ‘Episcopal City’ of Albi, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010.
When painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris, he settled in the popular district of Montmartre and frequented the local cabarets. His work was heavily influenced by them: he painted women, many women... from anonymous prostitutes in brothels to the most famous singers at coffee concerts, such as Yvette Guilbert. His modern show posters are among his most famous works. The museum dedicated to him in Albi is a marvel, housed in the beautiful historic Berbie Palace.
Admiring the façade of the Abbey of Sorèze, built in 754, it’s hard to believe that it housed a school until 1991. It was a school that literally travelled through the centuries: the 18th (Royal Military School), the 19th (internationally renowned school) and the 20th. Inside the abbey, a museum retraces the fascinating world of its former pupils, whose small upstairs rooms have even been restored.
The abbey also recounts the 20th century through the eyes of Dom Robert (1907-1997) in a second integrated museum. The colourful works of this monk, who became an upholsterer in 1941, champion nature above all else.