The magic of Blue Gold in the Midi-Pyrenees.
During the renaissance the leaves of this very ordinary looking plant known locally as Pastel created a triangle of huge wealth in the Midi-Pyrenees linking Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne. In its heyday during the 16th and 17th centuries the pastel plant (known as woad in English) became known as ‘blue gold’. Local merchants gained great wealth producing a unique blue colour dye produced from the leaves. Henry IV in 1609 and later Napoleon worked hard to try and limit the amount of indigo dye being shipped to Europe from Asia. But, by the 19th century the battle was lost and the farming of Pastel ceased.
During our last visit to the region we were excited to discover a resurgence of ‘blue gold’. After several centuries of oblivion, it’s making a come-back as Pastel blooms again in the fields of the Midi-Pyrenees. Local producers are using the pigment to produce fine arts and textiles featuring this very distinctive shade of blue. Almost magically, with its green leaves and yellow flowers, after being soaked for 24 hours, the addition of oxygen causes the colour to change to its distinctive rich blue. What’s more, when used in clothing it maintains its richness of colour regardless of how often you wash the garment.
The oil from the leaves was, in Medieval times, known for its therapeutic properties. Being rich in Omegas 6, 3 and 9 its now being used in cosmetics where it’s gaining popularity due to its rich moisturizing and anti-ageing properties
The legacy of ‘blue gold’ can still be found in the elegance of the mansions built by affluent merchants located in the centre of each of these stunning cities, all of which are worth a visit for this and many other delights.
Elegant Toulouse, known as the pink city due to the colour of the stone used for its buildings.,
Albi boasts the largest surviving brick built cathedral in the world and the adjoining Toulouse Lautrec Museum.
Carcassonne needs little introduction with its mystical walled city and medieval citadel.
Details of our September 2019 small group tour to this region of Southern France and across the Pyrenees into Northern Spain can be found by clicking on the ‘Destinations’ button at the top of the page. The tour focuses on the history, art, culture and food of this stunning region which takes us from the mountains to the sea. Still largely undiscovered by international tourists it’s slow travel at its very best. For solo travellers you’ll enjoy sole occupancy of a comfortable queen size room in delightful small hotels with no single supplement.