Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A visit to Montauban

cool statue made from scraps

Last week it was raining so we hopped in the car and took a trip to Montauban, it's about 50 minutes southwest of where we live. It's always hard driving into a new city, you have no idea where to go, where to park, but we have found that it's best to head for the Office of Tourism, there are signs for it everywhere and once you find it, there's ample parking. Then you can pick up a map of the city/village and you are off.

We really liked this city. Can't call it a village, it's too big, I think (52,000). But it was beautiful. Actually the building that housed the office de tourism was amazing. Bruce wanted to go to visit the Musée Ingres as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is one of his favorites and Bruce and many others consider him on of great draftsman (drawer). His pencil drawings were unbelievable.  I was more amazed with the building. The museum is located in a building that once served as the residence of the bishops of Montauban. The structure belongs chiefly to the 17th century, but some portions are much older, notably an underground chamber known as the Hall of the Black Prince (Salle du Prince Noir). It was where people were tortured, getting down to it was creepy and once you reached it it took your breath away. In the back were cells where people where held and there were some of the old torture devices down there.  A renovation carried out between 1951–1958 made Musée Ingres a modern institution according to the designs of the time, equipped with additional inventories.

The museum had some amazing pieces of art in it but the lighting was horrible, just horrible. Nothing like having a piece on the wall with so many lights facing directly on it that you can't even see it because of the glare. Not sure why nobody has ever noticed this before. Maybe it was just us and Bruce's picky eye.

We wandered around Place National, which is an arcade with a big open square in the middle and arches all around with shops in them.  Then went to lunch at an Indian restaurant at the corner of the Place National. Oh my it was so good. We haven't had indian since we left Los Angeles, on a cold wet day it was the perfect choice. Then we were for a bit of clothes/shoe shopping, although we didn't buy anything. I'm a horrible shopper, I much better internet shopper, where I can take my time. We then went for coffee at a really cool place called Le Cozy. The space was great and we met the owner and his daughter (it was Wednesday so she was not in school), we would love to go back for dinner.  Very warm and cozy!

On the way out we stopped at a bike shop (of course) and purchased some winter booties to cover our biking shoes, because when we were riding our feet were freezing. We also stopped at a store called Decathalon, which is a sporting goods store, great prices on sweaters, layering stuff and fleece. We purchased some good there to help keep us warm.

Montauban is the capital of Tarn-et-Garonne département in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southwestern France, it is located about 30 mi (50 km) by road north of Toulouse. It lies on the banks of the River Tarn, 53km from Toulouse, close to its junction with the Aveyron. Its history goes back to 1144 when the count of Toulouse decided to create a bastide here as a bulwark against English and French royal power. In fact, it's generally regarded as the first bastide, the model for those rationally laid-out medieval new towns, and that plan is still clearly evident in the beautiful town centre.

Montauban has enjoyed various periods of great prosperity, as one can guess from the proliferation of fine town houses. The first followed the suppression of the Cathar heresy and the final submission of the counts of Toulouse in 1229 and was greatly enhanced by the building of the Pont-Vieux in 1335, making it the best crossing-point on the Tarn for miles around. The Hundred Years War did its share of damage, as did Montauban's opting for the Protestant cause in the Wars of Religion, but by the time of the Revolution it had become once more one of the richest cities in the southwest, particularly successful in the manufacture of cloth.The early 14th-century Pont-Vieux still bridges the Tarn. Next to it on the right bank stands the 17th-century episcopal palace that, in the mid-19th century, became the Musée Ingres, housing 4,000 drawings and several paintings of the 18th–19th-century French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, born at Montauban in 1780, as well as other contemporary works. The “Vow of Louis XIII,” by Ingres, hangs in the cathedral. The church of Saint-Jacques, a fortified church dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, dominates the town. Montauban, was founded by the counts of Toulouse in the 12th century and was a principal bastion of Protestantism in southwest France during the 16th and 17th centuries.

It was a great day in a new city. Fun to explore and see new things and to just go for it. We never have a set plan, just wander around and see what you see. Here are a whole bunch of shots from the day. If you are around this area, it's a nice place to visit.

the courtyard inside the musée Ingres

statue in courtyard

me heading down to the tourture chamber

the tourture chamber

Bruce heading down
Pont Vieux (old bridge)

place national

columns all around the place national


Leesa said...

VERY COOL post!! It's so much fun "exploring" and "discovering," isn't it?! So much history... Thanks for sharing... I really loved all the pictures...
Glad you found the Decath. to get some warming up stuff.... Yay for booties for your shoes.. Keep your toes warm!!

Le laquet said...

I only ever drive straight past* Montauban on the way somewhere - Toulouse / Narbonne / Spain / the Basque region / back to the Lot - it's indeed lovely, next time I should stop! Thanks for sharing.

* Unless I'm stopping at the huge Casino for lunch @ the cafe!

Loulou said...

Looks like a great place. Must try to get there one of these days. Especially if there is a good Indian resto!

Randal Graves said...

Excellent shots and descriptions. I love the look of that place and I could really turn that torture chamber into a sanctum away from all the hurly burly.

If I ever get to France, I'm definitely adding this city to my list of places to see.

Betty C. said...

Interesting, I've never actually been into Montauban -- it's just a place we drive through. Somehow it doesn't attract me but your photos may change my mind.

Our Juicy Life said...

Leesa - it is so much fun to just go an explore...we found a great bike store, the decathalon (love it) and a really nice place to visit. It was a good day

Our Juicy Life said...

la laquet - we saw that big Casino on the way in, it's huge...we didn't stop but maybe next time!

Loulou - the indian restaurant was amazing!

Our Juicy Life said...

rg - when I saw the torture chamber I thought of you, because I knew you would love it! It was pretty amazing.

Betty - the outskirts isn't great and the drive in wasn't that beautiful but inside the city it was really nice.