Toulouse – Lasting impressions

So OH and I have been in Toulouse for 9 days now and everyday has been different. I was worried that I had been a bit over zealous when I booked the 11 day break in a city as I was anxious I would become bored quickly with the same sites. Thankfully I have been proven wrong and the reverse has been true. The longer you stay the more fun you have.

Bizarrely the same streets and bars look completely different during the day compared to at night and there really is enough to do to keep you occupied during a lengthier stay. I know the streets well now and could easily give a stranger directions. However, although I now have a feel for the city, we are only acquaintances and my French would have to be far better to claim anything more.

So my top 10 tips for a trip to Toulouse are

1. Pack bold (not the washing detergent!)  Everyone is stylish and you will want to be too

2. If you’re a man embrace facial hair and trim it to perfection

3. Unless you’re a model don’t expect 2nd glances – everyone is gorgeous in Toulouse

4. Prepare to sit down at 8pm to eat and still to be sat there after 10pm – eating is something you do all evening

5. Bring plenty indigestion tablets – see above

6. Be prepared for discomfort as there is no such thing as a comfy chair in Toulouse – outdoor garden furniture is the norm

7. Don’t try to give up smoking whilst you are in Toulouse – you won’t manage. In fact, if you’ve already given up you will probably start again!

8. At some point take a bottle of wine down to the river, relax and people watch

9. Bring your art materials – you will want to  paints or draw or write

10. Book for longer than 3 days!

The main sites to see if you are visiting Toulouse are

IMAG3023Le Capitole: Right in the very heart of the city is Place du Capitole. All roads lead to the square and it’s extremely impressive building. The square is always busy whether there is a market on or not. It’s the place to be seen and the restaurants that surround the square are pricIMAG3358ey although it is worth paying that little extra to sit and people watch (my favourite pastime – especially with a glass of wine to hand).

You can go into the Le Capitole and wander around (for free). There is a room full of Henri Martins – an impressionist painter I hadn’t heard of before I arrived in Toulouse but his paintings of the banks of the Garonne are worth of seeing (if only to see how much the trees have grown along the side of the river!)

When you enter Salle des Illustres you take a sharp intake of breath as the paintings and colour overwhelm you. This room is now used for weddings and offiicial receptions and, although it’s no Sistine Chapel, it is impressive.

Unfortunately, you can’t get out on to the balcony but if you could you would be able to look down on to the 18m wide Languedoc cross outside, which is set into the square. Each point has one of the signs of the zodiac.

 

basilica Saint Sernin: This basilica was built in honour of a martyred saint, Saturnin. He died after being dragged through the streets by a sacrificial bull – what a way to go! Apparently in the 3rd century they didn’t sleep at night as they were too busy thinking up gruesome ways to kill people.

The other important thing about this building is that it’s part of the El camino de Santiago pilgrimage – if you have no idea what I’m talking about a good and light hearted way of finding out about it is to watch the film The Way. Oh and there’s crypts below you have to pay to go in and see but it’s only 2€.IMAG3186

At the weekends there is also a flea market around the building, which is worth a wander around too.

 

Église des Jacobins:

The Jacobins were another new research item for me (thank goodness for wikipedia!) The building is amazing and huge palm trees hold the roof up (I’m not kidding!) There is even a huge mirror surrounding one of the upright columns to save you straining your neck and looking up at it.

The cloisters were tranquil, even although during our visit a fantastic musician played the piano. My guess was that he was practicing for the Piano aux Jacobins, a yearly festival during the month of September held in the church.IMAG3416-EFFECTS

At night the gothic bell tower lights up and is more reminiscent of something seen in Blackpool during the illuminations than something you would expect from a church (Im not sure why either)

Marche couvert Victor Hugo:  This covered food market is a must see – all the food looks exceptional. They have however,managed to hide it under a multi-storey car park so look out for it. IMAG3287

Musee des Augustins: This is a beautiful building full of fantastic sculptures and paintings. It’s 4€ to get in and worth every cent. If you are the least bit arty, the artwork on display here will make you feel inadequate. The sculptures look like they could turn and speak to you and just yearn to be stroked (obviously you’re not allowed). The paintings are immense and tell painful stories in seconds that leave you queering the injustice.

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Jardin Japonais: It’s a bit of a walk to get to from the city centre but worth the effort (you could also get the metro). The Japanese garden is only one part of these extensive gardens but my favourite part.  The bridge, very like the famous one in Monet’s garden, is just screaming out to be photographed. IMAG3107If you work in the north east of Toulouse it seems it’s compulsory to eat your lunch here as every bench was occupied with workers with plastic forks and Tupperware boxes (told you they were stylish- no washed out plastic ice creams containers here!).  From the gardens we headed to the Canal du Brienne and followed it back into the centre. The Canal du Midi is another canal in the area popular with joggers, walkers and cyclists.IMAG3508

 

 

Pont Neuf: IT’S JUST A BRIDGE over the River Garonne – it’s there and you will see it but the the best thing about it is Le Filochard which is at the city centre side. Read about that here —-> Le Filochard

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Le Filochard, Toulouse

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Start of the night – looking totally unassuming

Wandering the streets of Toulouse one warm evening OH and I couldn’t help but notice a bar that was spilling out on to the streets. Boho chic and young at heart seemed to be the dress code. Dreds, bare feet, colourful stripey low slung trousers (or should I say pantaloons?) and bare brown shoulders were in. Me with my boring attire and sensible walking shoes were out. Or so I thought until we happened to be going past it again the following evening. It was a lot quieter then and we were able to get a seat at the bar. I watched on as the bar man made up a couple of mojitos for 2 guys sitting in the corner. They looked so good that when it was my time to order I couldn’t help myself. “Deux mojitos, s’il vous plait”. The barman said something about 4 and I nodded blankly. He explained in English that it was happy hour and 2 for 1. Woohoo!IMAG3224

A sudden clang beside me made me turn and watch as 6 empty kegs were rolled out from under a nearby bench. Then a large hinged piece of wood appeared. Before my eyes a stage was being built and just as suddenly a band started to set up and the bar started to fill. IMAG3237

The heady mix of the bar, the cocktails, the friendly staff and chic clientele added in with our unique Scottishness made OH and feel very special and welcome. Before long we were chatting to lots of different and interesting people – they were buying us drink, we were buying them drink, the band played, strangers asked me to dance, I whirled, I drank and I spun from partner to partner. It was a great night.

You know those evenings when you think you’re just having a quiet night but end up having the best night ever – well that’s what happened the night OH and I visited Le Filochard.

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End of the night – no longer quiet at all!

I entered the bar feeling like an outsider but left it feeling younger, a bit boho and a lot sozzled.

Le Point D’Ogre, Toulouse

OH and I had looked up some restaurants before we left for Toulouse and one of the ones that stood out was Le Point D’Ogre, which is located on an easy to miss street off Rue de Metz in Toulouse.

The restaurant, like the majority of French restaurants, doesn’t open until 8pm and we arrived shortly after it opened. Probably because it was a Tuesday night it wasn’t busy and they were happy to seat us without a reservation. The first thing we noticed was the ‘Ogre’ in front of his stone oven ready to grill whatever we ordered. He smiled unfiercely.

The menu wasn’t extensive but did offer duck, beef, salmon and pork and it was explained to us that there was no choice for the starter. I decided on the duck confit and OH just had to have the steak.

As we sat we could see the Ogre take out a huge fillet of beef and cut it into 3 sizable steaks.

2014-09-02 20.38.15-1When our starter arrived we were amazed. The waitresses proceeded to place in front of us a beautiful basket with a red and white checked towel in it. On top of that was fresh cauliflower, carrots, radishes and 3 types of sausage. There was also cold carrot and orange soup, bread, some cured ham, ailoli, onion marmalade and tapenade. We also got our own chopping board and sharp knife.2014-09-02 20.39.27 (2) Everything tasted fresh and it all went well together. OH and I crunched and dipped and sliced and spread to our hearts content but I was also wary of eating too much in case I couldn’t manage my main meal and I’d have hated that!

2014-09-02 21.00.48 (2)Starter over, I watched on as the Ogre cooked OHs steak on the charcoal grill. It was obvious he was proud of his work and when the large slab of beef had rested to perfection he presented it to OH with a flourish, bowing proudly at his work. We both applauded. 2014-09-02 21.03.38The steak looked magnificent and covered the majority of the plate leaving only a little room for a roasted garlic clove. In a separate plate was an orange and olive salad (OH didn’t want potatoes as he is watching his figure ;p). My duck confit, which ordinarily would have looked fantastic, paled into insignificance next to the mighty piece of beef. It was however excellent and I was glad of my choice, not being a big meat fan. The duck melted in the mouth and was delicious.  2014-09-02 21.03.54 (2)

Evidently no longer watching his figure, OH decided to have a dessert and when he queried the profiteroles the waitress disappeared and returned with something that didn’t resemble anything we would recognise as a profiterole but looked eminently better.She then demonstrated it being cut open and filled with cream. OH was sold.2014-09-02 21.33.00 (2)

The meal was amazing, the staff were very friendly and the decor was perfect. It was a little pricey compared to our normal budget (the steak was 36€) but considering OH had the best steak of his life I am glad we went that little further and gained the experience and fantastic evening we did.

If you are ever in Toulouse and love steak then make sure you pay Le Point D’Ogre. C’est formidable!

 

Toulouse – first impressions

OH and I arrived in Toulouse on a bright, sunshiney day and I already knew I had packed wrongly. Not just for the weather but for style – not that I could have packed all that differently considering my wardrobe. Looking around in the airport I already felt dowdy and very British. How come we can’t look as good as the French? They just ooze style and class whereas we just ooze – especially in this heat!

Anyway, the trip from the airport on the shuttle bus to the centre of Toulouse was completely hassle free and a bargain for 10 . Particularly because the bus driver called to us and alerted us to our stop – homme charmant!

We found our apartment with ease and the  owner was there to meet us and show us around the one bedroom flat – approximately a 2 minute walk from Le Capitole – talk about central! This would be the equivalent of getting a holiday home on Oxford Street in London.

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Our Toulouse pad

 

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Le Capitole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It didn’t take us long to be out and wandering the streets of Toulouse. It really is a beautiful place. Toulouse is in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France (bottom left hand corner if you’re looking at a map) and its situated on the banks of the  River Garonne.

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Obviously walking is thirsty business so our first port of call was the picturesque Cafe des Artistes where we sat and watched the world go by and drank in the sun and some local wine, our first of many no doubt!2014-08-31 15.55.17

 To be continued…