Please Note: This trip will be lead by Katrin Hodapp, she is my colleague on the ground in Paris as well as a 20 year expat resident. She has co-led this trip before with me and she gets rave reviews. Plus – she speaks much better French than I do!
Sunday October 5th, 2020
Arrive, check into your hotel and meet for dinner in Albi at a restaurant recommend by the Michelin guide which is conveniently located in our hotel. We’ll drink superb local wines and toast to our arrival in France in this jewel box space with skylights and excellent modern French food.
Optional: Jet lag rejuvenation massage
Monday October 6th, 2020
Discover the charming ancient city of Albi dating back to the Bronze age and situated on the river Tarn. We’ll walk across its bridges, some of which are nearly 1000 years old and then trip Albi’s 13th century cathedral. Lucky for us this weekend falls on the Journées des Patrimoine, which is the only time of year where a myriad of historic and private places are open to the pubic. This is a big weekend throughout France where thousands of French experience their rich history and heritage by visiting and learning about these private places such as the historic Jesuit college, the Ecole des Arts, the town hall and much much more.
We’ll lunch at a neo-bistro* in town. Then in the afternoon we’ll trip the Tolouse Lautrec Museum and its stunning formal gardens.
Time back at your hotel for rest and relaxation.
Dinner tonight at an Auberge right near the old bridge specializing in lighter and extremely creative French food.
* A Neo-bistro can be defined as a small restaurant run by a chefs with a vision. These chefs are classically trained, and have gained recognition at grand, Michelin starred venues, in France and abroad. Then they stepped away from the constraints of the star system, to forge their own culinary paths. -Karen Kane, Paris by Design
Tuesday October 7th, 2020
Head out for an adventure to historic Najac, situated on a bend on the river Tarn and considered one of the most beautiful villages in France with its charming half-timbered houses. Here we’ll explore the Najac castle from 1253 and the lovely picturesque village at its feet. We’ll stop to taste and buy some organic locally made charcuterie.
We’ll stop on the way to Najac to explore the Bastide town of Cordes sur Ciel buildt in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse. We’ll lunch here Al Fresco on local delicacies and then later we’ll head to Gaillac to enjoy a local wine tasting in this town known for its hearty reds.
Dinner in Albi at a Modern French wine bar.
Wednesday October 8th, 2020
Today we check out of our hotels in Albi and we’ll head off towards the east, arriving in the Aveyron department. We’ll be staying for the next part of the trip at the exquisite Chateau LaBro just outside of the city of Rodez. Thanks to our location near Rodez, we’ll explore the capital of the region to visit its newest and most important museum. Discover the work of the area’s most famous artist Pierre Soulages in a superbly designed building dedicated to his work. Here we’ll have a private guided visit with the founder of the board of this organisation. After lunch at the celebrated Cafe Bras located within the Soulages museum we’ll have time to hit the small but charming gift shop. In the afternoon we’ll take time to relax by the pool at our exceptional Chateau hotel.
Relaxing dinner tonight at the Chateau with drinks first in their lovely bar room.
Thursday October 9th, 2020
Today we’ll head off to Estaing to visit the Chateau at the center of this historic village. This Chateau has been in the family of the former President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing for 400 years.
Then we’ll carry on down the road to Espalion, the charming village which is a stop on the road to Compostelle, the 1000 year old pilgrimage to Spain. Espalion is situated on the Lot river and boasts an 11th century bridge. Here’ll we’ll have a simple homemade lunch.
Then we’ll head down to Bozouls, a geological site similar to a mini-Grand Canyon. This is where my sister has had a home for the past 30 years. If she’s home we’ll open her 350 year old stone house and enjoy a homemade meal here taking our aperitifs while listening to the rushing river as we sit at the former grist-mill outside. As a backup we’ll have dinner with another one of her many friends in the area at their French abode.
Friday October 10th, 2020
Today we’ll make our pilgrimage to Lagouile, the area and town famous for its beef and its handmade knives.
En route we’ll stop off to see the nuns at the Abbaye de Bonneval. We’ll hear them chant their morning prayers and then taste and buy some of the delicious chocolate they make.
After we’ll head to the Laguiole factory designed by Philippe Starck for those who want to buy a souvenir wine opener, country knife or a set of horn handled steak knives which will be keepsakes forever. I own them and use them at each of our abodes and they will last a lifetime.
Then we’ll sit down to our 3-hour 3 Michelin star restaurant Bras. Included in this experience is a visit to the kitchen to meet the chef. This culinary experience will do nothing less than completely blow your mind.
This afternoon and evening will be set aside for relaxation, free time and will end with dinner on your own. For those who want we’ll take a short ride to the Lebanese restaurant in town, and others might prefer to have something simple at the hotel.
Saturday October 11th, 2020
Today we’ll visit Conques which has been a holy site since the 7th century. We’ll have lunch here on a lovely terrace and then we’ll have the pleasure of experiencing a visit to see the unique stained glass windows designed by Pierre Soulages for the 11th century abbey.
Tonight after a short trip of the Ferme Mejanneserre, we’ll feast on whole pig, duck or whatever they choose to roast for us over their spit in their gigantic fireplace. They make or grow everything on the menu and they even throw the pottery on which your meal sits. Inevitably you’ll be able to try the region’s speciality, Aligot, which is mashed potatoes whipped together with comet cheese. Leave it to the French to find a way to make mashed even more delectible. This is hyperlocal organic French food at its very very best – down to the digestifs they make in house. This is one of my favourite restaurants in the world mainly because they serve just one special house-made meal on the few nights they are open.
Sunday October 12th, 2020
Breakfast and then depart.
** Itinerary is subject to change slightly based on weather or availability.