Toulouse In 8 Discoveries
First Discovery – The Pink City
It was in Toulouse I discovered that dusk can be pink, particularly if you watch it from the banks of the river Garonne. The light can be rather fickle, especially when it strikes from a high or low angle on the marble of the grand edifices which bedeck the city’s historic centre. The Place du Capitole, its daytime beauty matched at night by a lighting display, is the point of departure for any route through this city in the new Languedoc-Roussillon Midi-Pyrénées region. This is where the Capitole building stands, now home to the City Hall and National Theatre. Its eight pink marble columns symbolise the power of the eight districts that made up Toulouse in the 18th century. The square also has some hidden treasures, like the paintings under its colonnade where the city’s history is recounted.
Second Discovery – Home to Carlos Gardel and the Inquisition
In Toulouse I learned that Carlos Gardel was born in France, despite the Uruguayans claiming the king of tango as a fellow countryman, as I did that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince, had stayed at the Hotel Le Grand Balcon, like all the pilots in the Compagnie Générale Aéropostale. Toulouse is also the birthplace of institutions, as antagonistic as they are important, like the Inquisition – founded to combat the Cathars – the Jeux Floraux, and the Gay Science, dating from the 14th century.
Third Discovery – A Vast Heritage
Toulouse is the site of the largest Romanesque church in the West, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, also one of the major stopovers on the Road to Santiago on its passage through France. Close by stands the Convent of the Jacobins, a magnificent example of monastic construction and, further along the Garonne, we come across the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Daurade, consecrated to the Black Madonna, draped in mantles made by great dressmakers.
Fourth Discovery – Pablo Picasso
It was in this city that I realised how passionate Toulousians are about Pablo Picasso. Les Abattoirs Museum, regarded as one of the leading cultural centres in Toulouse, features as an exhibit The Remains of the Minotaur in a Harlequin Costume, the work of the universal artist from Málaga.
Fifth Discovery – Aeroscopia
Toulouse is France’s aerospace capital – the Airbus factory is located at Blagnac – particularly after the inauguration of the Aeroscopia Museum which, covering an area of 7,000 square metres, houses such legendary aeroplanes as the Concorde and the Super Guppy, the forerunner of the celebrated Beluga.
Sixth Discovery – Its Markets
In Toulouse I discovered that markets have a life of their own in France and that, apart from being venues for shopping, their restaurants attract a host of customers. The Victor Hugo Food Market, the Marché Cristal – where fruit and vegetables are sold in the open air – and the Marché des Carmes are some of the best known ones.
Seventh Discovery – N5 Wine Bar
Here, as in the rest of the country, the wine bar concept is very much in vogue. A fine example of this is the N5 Wine Bar, where you order wine by the glass (choosing both the type and the amount) and your order gets chalked up on a card which keeps track of your consumption. Be sure to try their tapas, such as the culatello di Brozzi, foie gras or Bronat cheeses.
Eighth Discovery – Toulouse Nightlife
Lastly, Toulouse is the French city with the most pronounced Spanish influence. You can tell as soon as you arrive when you start chatting to locals or when you give yourself over to the Toulousian night. In France’s fourth largest city, the people go out onto the street, regardless of the cold, and live it up for as long as they can hold out. Toulouse nightlife draws droves of locals and foreigners, many of them students, who gather at the nightspots on the Rue des Filatiers and the Carmes, Trinité, Wilson and Victor Hugo squares.
Toulouse is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. Check out your Vueling here.
Night-time in Toulouse
Toulouse is the university city par excellence in France and that makes ita great place to go out in at night. Toulouse is one of the cities where the night is youngest, busiest, most active and most frenetic. Here is a list of 10 best places for experiencing the night life in Toulouse.
Place de St. Pierre:
This square is the starting point for countless students on a night out. It is located next to the River Garonne and here is where you will find many bars for a few beers before starting the night and a number of discos for ending it. Whether on the banks of the river or on the lawn area, seeing a group of students who have brought their own drinks with them is not an uncommon sight.
Le Bar Basque: this is a popular bar among young people and among all fans of rugby. It has two rooms and closes at 02:00, except on Saturdays when it closes at 05:00. There is a great atmosphere and a wide selection of beers and spirits.
Le Saint des Seins: A concert hall and disco. Good concerts by indie bands from Europe and America and good music until 02:00 on weekdays and 04:00 at weekends. A young vibe and a terrace for smokers.
Rue Gabriel Peri:
This is the area around the Jean Jaures metro station, famous among Erasmus university students and with an excellent atmosphere at night.
Café Populaire: This Toulouse café is famous among Erasmus students for being very cheap, especially on Mondays when practically the entire university crowd gathers here for a good time.
La Maison: This is a perfect bar for chatting with friends while enjoying a beer, wine or anything else. Low lighting, relaxed conversation and an atmosphere that dodges the frenetic vibe of the university city.
Le Purple: the most fashionable disco in the area. The place is always full but the decoration and numerous settees make this almost essential stop off for any night out in Toulouse.
Centre of Toulouse:
Le Rex: An authentic cabaret in Toulouse. Le Rex offers a variety of shows with singers, dancers, comedians and even drag artists. If you want to re-live the days of Sylvie Varthan and the French cabaret shows, this is the place for you.
There is a wide selection of bars and discos to be found on the boats moored along the canals.
Le Cri de la Mouette: On Allee de Barcelone (Canal de Brienne), with concerts almost every night and music afterwards at weekends until 5 in the morning.
Le Love Boat: A disco boat located at 56 Port Saint Sauveur.
The university area par excellence. If you are looking for places where you can dance until sunrise with students from all over the world, you should definitely check out the places we suggest below.
Le Bikini: You will find this place in the outskirts, to the south-east of Toulouse, and it is particularly recommendable on Thursday nights.
Le Ramier: Located on an island in the River Garonne, near the Palais de Justice metro station, Le Ramier is another of the large discos and concert halls in Toulouse.
Image: Le Purple
A great idea for a night out with friends! Check out our flights here and join in!
Carcassonne Medieval Inspiration
Set in the middle of a triangle comprising the cities of Toulouse, Montpellier and Barcelona is this spectacular walled city, a captivating sight for all who visit it. Fittingly, it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. It is one of the leading tourist magnets in the Languedoc region and the whole of France, attracting around 4 million visitors each year. Here are the reasons why Carcassonne has become a must-visit destination.
Important Strategic Enclave
The city’s strategic location, set as it is on a hillside overlooking the Aude river valley, made it the perfect vantage point for surveilling such important routes as the one linking the Iberian Peninsula to the rest of Europe, and the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Thus, Carcassonne became a key city for centuries. In Roman times it was already an important trading post and was coveted by Gauls, Romans – who built the first walled fortifications – Visigoths and Moors, until it ended up becoming a French royal army garrison.
A Walk Through the Cité
Vestiges of that illustrious past as a strategic bulwark can be seen in the upper city of Carcassonne, now known as the Cité, site of the old walled fortifications. Sightseers touring the interior of this huge walled precinct are immediately transported to a bygone era. The Cité is fortified by two concentric walls – the innermost ring was erected in the times of the Gauls, Romans and Visigoths, while the outer, far sturdier ring with four towers was added from the 13th century onwards. Once inside, visitors are encouraged to stroll through the city streets and soak up the medieval atmosphere that pervades the complex. The major landmarks here are the Château Comtal (Castle of the Counts), in the west of the fortified city and attached to the wall, and the Romanesque Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. Be sure to also visit the Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) which crosses the Canal du Midi and links the Cité to the lower part of Carcassonne.
Some Extras On the Way
The counterpoint to this journey into the past, which takes you through the streets of medieval Carcassonne, finds its ideal complement in a culinary break in one of the restaurants you will come across on your tour. Treat yourself to a good glass of wine, preferably Corbieres, the local Designation of Origin, accompanied by duck confit or cassoulet (a local bean stew). The best way to round off your visit to this city.
Viollet-le-Duc – The Other Great Protagonist of Carcassonne
Much of Carcassonne’s appeal revolves around the figure of French architect, archaeologist and writer, Viollet-le-Duc and the “restoration”, as unique as it was controversial, which he carried out on the Cité in the mid-19th century. The fact is that, following the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the fortified precinct of Carcassonne was abandoned altogether and gradually deteriorated with the implacable passage of time. Indeed, it was so derelict that some voices called for its wholesale destruction. However, by popular request, it was earmarked for refurbishment, a task which was commissioned to one of the leading figures of the moment, Viollet-le-Duc.
Rather than what would now be considered a refurbishment, visitors currently find themselves before a full-blown reconstruction of the old city, including the odd flourish of a Romantic bent added by Viollet-le-Duc himself. He actually applied what was very much in vogue in restoration work at the time, although his endeavours have subsequently drawn considerable criticism from the experts. However, the result admittedly hangs together rather well and achieves the effect of immersing the visitor in a medieval past which the architect purposely set out to reinterpret.
Book your Vueling to Toulouse, which lies less than 100 kilometres from Carcassonne, and travel back in time behind the walls of that wonderful fortified precinct in Languedoc.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Tournasol7
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