Toulouse: la ville rose!

We have all been at least once in our lifetime in France … and for France we always mean Paris.

It is indeed true that France is very “paris-centric”, but there are plenty of other cities and places to visit, rich in history and uniqueness.

This time my destination was Toulouse, the capital of the Occitanie region, located in the southwestern part of the country, about 100 km away from the Pyrenees (Pyrénées-Méditerranée) and more or less halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Strategic location for both transport and tourism.

Crossed by the river Garonne, it is called the “Ville  rose” (pink city) for the reddish color of its buildings, due to ferrous elements present in building materials that, by oxidising, release chromatic red tints depending on the baking to which the bricks have been subjected .

Toulouse is typically and  proudly very “french” as a city, but boasts a wide international venture through companies such as Airbus, manufactoring  Airbus aircrafts, which is the biggest business in the city and where pilots from all over the world are professionally trained.

Furthermore, the Aeroscopia Aeronautics Museum and the Cité de l’Espace, a science park dedicated to the issues of space, astronautics and astronomy, are located in Toulouse. Really interesting and very complete, for kids and adults!

Let’s make a short virtual tour of the city’s symbol places!

The symbol building of Toulouse is the Capitolium, the town hall, which erected from the 18th century and dominates the entire homonymous square with its imposing baroque facade.

All around there are a dozens of beautiful and more or less narrow streets with pretty cafes and shops, overlooked by stupendous palaces that have nothing to envy the elegant Parisian boulevards.

The Saint-Etienne cathedral is the main place of Catholic worship in Toulouse; the church is a large Romanesque building, most of which was rebuilt in Gothic style, but left unfinished.

It is bizarre and fascinating to see two churches inside the same church!

Hugely impressive is the gothic choir, with three naves and  radial chapel deambulatory, but above all the mastodontic suspended organ, a French national monument!

The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, built on the tomb of martyr St Saturnin and first bishop of Toulouse, is considered one of the greatest examples of Romanesque architecture in the south of France.

Since 1840 it is a historic monument of France and since 1998 it has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as stage of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

In addition to the churches and monuments, what I liked about Toulouse is that it is a very green city thanks to its tree-lined avenues, the Garonne River, but above all thanks to its wonderful gardens … would you believe there is also a fantastic Japanese garden! Really remarkable and, I have to admit, unexpected!

Walking around Toulouse is truly pleasant and I was constantly looking up fascinated by the beautiful architecture, the rose facades, the wrought iron balconies, and those skylights so typically French!

And what else can we add to make a city even more harmonious and enjoyable? With no doubts a river that crosses it!

The Garonne river flows slowly underneath the numerous bridges, the most famous being 16th century  Pont Neuf, whose arches are crossed by several tourist boats and alternated by boat-restaurants and house-boats.

How could I resist taking a boat ride?

I have to say that the boat tour is really original: instead of just sailing back and forth like it is often the case, the boat took us to the connected canal through the enclosures, and as the water rises up and down under our feet, the gates open and close to let us through. Very interesting and original, despite the fact that the weather wasn’t very good on that day!

Starting from the port of Daurade, we pass the locks and enter the famous Canal du Midi.

The latter is an artificial canal about 240 km long, connecting Toulouse to the city of Sète, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was built under Louis XIV to allow sailing between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean without having to circumnavigate Spain! How clever!

In fact, going up the  river Garonne you could go from Bordeaux to Toulouse, and through this canal it was possible to reach the Mediterranean directly. A genial idea which had been already conceived at the time of the Romans, but unfortunately they didn’t have the means to realize it.

The canal crosses many districts and on its banks thousands of centuries-old plane trees form a very picturesque green frame. Just think that the Canal du Midi has 103 locks, which serve to exceed a total water altitude difference of 190 meters. Since 1996, it is a UNESCO heritage site.

Again, a very interesting experience!

While in Toulouse I was staying at the Courtyard by Marriott, a name a guarantee, and I what I liked about it is that it is aeronautics and rugby themed, the official sports of the Tolosans!

My trip was not limited to the city of Toulouse though, and in the next articles I’ll show you some little jems  I found just an hour drive away. We will go from medieval villages … to the remains of a mammoth!

Stay tuned here on the blog, a bientôt!

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