Montauban arcade © Ceridwen
Montauban lies on the banks of the River Tarn, 50 miles (80km) north of Toulouse, and is one of the most ancient cities in southwest France. Its origins date from 1144 when the Count of Toulouse decided to create a bastide here as a bulwark against English and French royal power. The genius of the original medieval town plan is still obvious in the lovely town centre and, although the suburbs now sprawl way beyond the old core, the city is still dominated by the fortified Eglise St-Jacques fort and the 14th-century brick bridge, Pont Vieux. Montauban has a very attractive old town square and many of its buildings are constructed out of the red brick, typical for the region, which makes these old houses appear delightfully pink. The artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 to 1867) was born in Montauban and many of his works now hang in Musée Ingres, situated in the 17th-century Bishops Palace. The works collected here include the famous Dream of Ossian, originally intended for Napoleon's bedroom in Rome. Apart from this art museum there are two religious monuments worth visiting in Montauban: the 13th-century Church of Saint Jacques; and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, built in 1739 in the Baroque style.