Friday, August 3, 2012

Rediscovering Toulouse: The Langue d’Oc Diaries, Part II

Toulouse, Main Square

Rick and I thought we had shortchanged Toulouse when we visited in August in the mid-1980’s. It was hellishly hot, and we thought if we hadn’t been stumbling about in a heat-induced daze we might actually like Toulouse.

And that’s just what occurred when we returned last Spring. Toulouse, like so many European cities, is an open-air architectural museum. The architecture is very much like that of Paris, but the colors are different. In Paris, it’s gray stone with black balconies; in Toulouse (called the Rose City) it’s Mediterranean colors—-red brick buildings with blue, turquoise, and green balconies.

Street in Old Town, Toulouse

Toulouse is also a clearly a much more prosperous city then it was in the mid-1980’s and is now the center of the French aerospace industry. The old town which I remembered as a little shabby has been cleaned up and is now filled with trendy shops and upscale restaurants and cafes.

There’s much to see in Toulouse: some very good museums and magnificent churches, like San Sernin which has one of the most beautiful towers in Europe and Les Jacobins which contains the tomb of Thomas Aquinas and a gorgeous cloister.

San Sernin Tower
Les Jacobins Cloister

We certainly didn’t exhaust Toulouse in our 3 day stay. We never got to many of the smaller museums as we couldn’t resist the pleasure of hanging out in cafes. I’m always amazed at how much free time the French appear to have. The cafes were always full and most of the peopled were clearly not tourists.

Toulouse is also a very affordable city. Our hotel was half the cost of our Carcassonne hotel and our restaurant bills were considerably lower. I especially recommend Café L’Opera—and old brasserie on the main square with traditional Catalan cooking. We were very glad we made the return trip and came away with a very different impression of Toulouse.

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