If you prefer to listen to my beautiful voice, click here: Lautrec – an address worth memorizing.
We drove for a long time. Between fields dotted with sunflowers. Pointilism is something that France excels in – naturally – and I believe it is here where Van Gogh started using this very technique of painting. He simply copied Mother Nature. Ah men!
Truly! It was exactly like in those movies! The fields waved on both sides of the road, sometimes changing colors depending on what grew on them. Beautiful tall trees counted passing kilometers for us and the sun…. and the sun was shining! And a gentle breeze was blowing. However, it did not blow through our hair, because we had the aircon turned on in the car…
We left the main road ’cause it was getting a little boring, and yet still we had nothing in sight that would direct us to some place we could potentially call cool.
We drove and drove, on a road made of stones and earth. Sunflower fields on the left, hill on the right. On this hill 2 or 3 farms. And right at the turn to this area, at the very intersection, at the end of the world – a small square for a picnic. And a tree too.
The plan was simple:
Get out and eat!
We took out bags with previously purchased products, took out cutlery, a Swiss knife and the battle began between tounges, teeth and upper plates!
Baguettes, cheeses, butter, milk… oh dear how fresh. Literally, as if it came out of the cow right there and then. And the grapes! We treated ourselves to a bunch of some that were growing by the road, for which we sincerely apologize, but it was impossible not to stop. And the grapes here are the size of quail eggs!
We ate like animals, ’cause one could never tell when the next meal would occur. Traveling with no plan meant one could potentially skip a meal… or even two if caught up in a conversation or staring at something for infinity. Although, knowing life, it would probably be in 20 minutes in the town when we see something alluring to shove…
I ran for 2 sunflower heads to a nearby field and with the patience of an ant I plucked the seeds with a knife, then packed them beautifully into bags and put them away with other bundles of goodies. The plan was that we would snack on them along the way. There were so many more days ahead of us.
However, I forgot, and I found out about it when I no longer had to remind myself, that it is summer and moisture in a plastic bag filled with fresh sunflower seeds will turn them moldy. Well, so it happened and 2 hours of chiseling went into the forest.
But at that stage I was completely ignorant of the above possibility of things going so bad. Instead we decided to go to the village. Or a town? Well, probably a town because there were a lot of buildings and some walls there on the horizon. Wow, probably one of those amazing ones with a castle and cute half-timbered houses.
I jumped for joy seeing what a place we hunted.
We parked right at the entrance on the mentioned wall. On foot, we set off into the distance. Towards the unknown.
First, on the right, I saw an old bicycle. Then I took a closer look at what it was leaning on and saw the most wonderful wooden building with a big window. And this old bike. Such a fairy tale. I took a photo, look and don’t fall in love, huh?
Next came a market square. Surrounded by such old houses that it is hard to believe that people still live in them. Well, but they do. On the left, something once big, already closed. Opposite this thing, a tiny local shop. Of course we enter.
We bought a couple of items and moved on. We turn left, and on the right side we see the world of azuro. Actually, it’s indigo.
I wanted to talk to the lady in the shop about what she was doing, just like that, friendly, but she didn’t want to talk. So we didn’t buy anything. But instead I will tell you in short what’s it all about.
Isatis tinctoria, also called woad, dyer’s woad, or glastum is a cabbagy plant with yellow flowers, a bit similar to rapeseed flowers. Seemingly inconspicuous but such a secret agent. It has been used for blue dyeing for centuries. Why? It’s simple. Its leaves are harvested, fermented, and after oxidation, the green color turns blue.
In addition, an ornamental, edible plant, healthier than broccoli, used in herbalism and allegedly stinks so insanely during fermentation that some English queen would not allow it to be planted less than 5 miles from the castle.
There are three stages of production:
- Leaf harvesting – sometimes collected at different stages of plant growth, but they contain most pigment during the transition period, not when flowering. Then they are ground in a mill.
- The leaf mash is left for some time to ferment. After this time, it can be kneaded and formed into small balls called cocagnes. Then they are dried.
- After drying, the cocagne is crushed and put back into the mass, which will be watered and turned regularly to ensure a second fermentation for several weeks. This causes the dye to begin to secrete.
For French speakers, there is a whole history of the plant and its colorful popularity in the article about Le Pastel.
Lautrec is also famous for its pink garlic, grown in the Tarn area by more than 160 farmers who plant in December, prune flowering stems in May and start harvesting at the end of June. Then only drying remains. Somewhere around the third week of drying, when removing the peel, its pinkish coloration appears. Farmers say that it is like “a rose, very rich in sugar, perfumes are not aggressive, in addition, it holds up very well.”
Lautrec pink garlic is sweet and would hardly scare away a vampire, because it does not smell like its ordinary white cousin.
Tarn is an agricultural area of France. Not only garlic grows well here. Fields of, officially industrial hemp, cover hectares along roads.
I have found a nice animation, telling the story of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s life. And it’s not for no reason that I’m pasting it here, because, even though Henri himself was born in nearby Albi, his family still lives in Lautrec today. He lived and worked in Paris, but it was in Tarn where his heart beat for the first time.
We go further and here we find a beautiful tenement house of Mr. Mer, and on the opposite site, a pizzeria. Did you doubt me when I said 20 minutes?! Well, fine plus 2 hrs for the sunflower seeds.
And what a pizza! Have you ever tried pizza with cream and potatoes? Yes, no tomato sauce, potato pizza. Mon Dieu, this one has the capacity to launch you into space.
We melt now from the heat.… Whew….
On this side, the end of the town along with the ending street. So we picked up our overfed asses and walked back towards the square.
The atmosphere of this place is simply amazing. Buildings from centuries ago, here and there, uncover the glory of the years past quietly presenting their charms.
Ah, there’s a mill in front of us. Let’s go!
We climbed to the first floor and as in other mills, also here everything is stone and wood. A little bit of grains, some bran and a bit of flour in bowls standing against the wall.
Very beautiful and well-kept. The rafters shimmered as if they were polished daily.
Moulin à vent de la Salette dates back to 1688, it was restored in the ’90s of the twentieth century. It is open for visitors from mid-April to mid-October. It is one of the few windmills still producing flour in the Midi-Pyrénées region.
In front of the mill, a huge mill stone, now serving as a kind of a bench and a flower stand.
We said goodbye to our guide and took narrow stone stairs down, towards the center.
On the left we saw a plaque with a clog drawn on it, advertising Clog Atelier.
Watch the video here and read about the history of L’atelier du sabotier.
We come back as evening falls. It’s time to eat something and figure out where we will sleep.
We sleep in the car.
The unfolded rear seats did a fantastic job. We open our eyes in the morning, open the trunk door and we are greeted by a…. donkey. Screamed as if they wanted to milk him! Fortunately – for you – I drew a portrait of him, because he so got under my skin ….
After a homely breakfast, we set off into the world. And the world of southern France has plenty to boast about.
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