Toulouse Plus 2005: Toulouse

Friday, 7 October 2005

Our last major travel day, as we leave the lovely Corbières region for Toulouse. We travelled northwest from Lagrasse on some secondary roads that we hadn’t previously gone on before picking up the autoroute. About 90 minutes later we were navigating the unknown streets of Toulouse.

We got lost immediately, but recovered quickly; found our hotel, double-parked and unloaded; drove to the train station and dropped the rental car; walked back to the hotel and checked in. Congratulations all around on a job well done (navigating and driving). All of this just in time for lunch, so we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather (a perfect 3.0 today) and found a sidewalk cafe near the Marché Victor Hugo, grabbed a table in the sunshine and had some wonderful moules et frîtes.

The rest of the day we rested and oriented ourselves a bit before enjoying the early evening on our small balcony for an apértif anisé (wonderful chilled with fresh lemon and ice). Then a light supper in our room at the open balcony door, enjoying the evening air.

Saturday, 8 October 2005

Toulouse is sometimes known as la ville rose because so much of it is built in red brick. It is a very lovely and vibrant city, with many diverse and distinct neighbourhoods. We are staying within sight of the Marché Victor Hugo, a huge market that is open every day (except Monday) until 1:30pm. So, it is only a short walk to pick up whatever victuals we might need for the day. Our favourite boulangerie is about a 10 minute walk on Place du Belfort, while we just go around the corner for morning noisette and pain aux raisins at the Dame Brioche.

Since we have no specific plans while in Toulouse, we spend a great deal of time just walking around. And, it’s a great city to do that. Just to the south of our hotel is huge Place du Capitol (which was taken over by roller-bladers on Friday night), and a very short walk east of that is Place Wilson, which is circular and has six streets running into it.

We lunched today (al fresco) at La Gourmandine, having a very nice tarte au jambon et oignon accompanied by une salade composée. And, because we ate out for lunch, we ate in for dinner, supplementing our usual fare with some tasty gravlax from a Norwegian stall in the market! It was very good, comparing favourably to Susan’s wonderful rendition. We accompanied our in-house feast with some of the Fitou wine we had purchased on Thursday.

The great weather continues – another perfect 3.0 today.

Sunday, 9 October 2005

As our trip slowly winds down, so do we. Nonetheless, there is lots to explore in Toulouse, and we are doing so (after a fashion). This morning we stumbled into a huge flea market, which completely circled Basilique Saint Sernin (we subsequently found that this particular market is weekly and called l’Inquet). It took us some time to get out, because at the time we were just looking for a place to enjoy our second café of the day. Because it was Sunday, there were fewer places open and it took us some time to find an appropriate place, finally settling for a sunny spot on Place du Capitole. The coffee was good, but a bit pricey – location, location, location. So, we enjoyed the continuing good weather (yet another perfect 3.0) while doing a little Sudoku and people-watching.

We were also able to get the week-end Guardian (which isn’t available in Toulouse on Saturday) today, which we both enjoy. The weekday versions (Monday-Friday) are available same day. Occasionally we also buy l’Equipe to stay abreast of the latest French football goings-on.

Our meal out today was a very nice Italian lunch at Piazza PaPa, which is a small chain (ten stores) in southern France. Homemade pasta for both of us, which was excellent. After our evening repast, our post-prandial stroll found us back at la Garonne, where we tried some night photography (only somewhat successfully). However, the river and the bridges are quite beautiful in the conditions that we enjoyed tonight.

Monday, 10 October 2005

One thing about Toulouse that stands out is the amount of well cared for public space that exists. There are parks (small and large) everywhere. Today we picnicked in one of them – the Jardins des Plantes. While today’s weather was not perfect (rating a strong 2.0), it was great for a long walk to the park; a leisurely picnic; and a long stroll back (different route, of course), which included a stop for café.

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, so we went out to dinner in France at an Italian restaurant. Seemed about right!

After a shared entrée of insalata caprese, Steve had pasta à la carbonara and Susan had tagliatelle à la mer – everything was very tasty. As we have been drinking very good wine at lunch, we simply had a pichet of red with dinner. A while later, back at the hotel, we had dessert – amazing chocolate bought at a nearby artisan chocolatier the other day. Yum!

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Our last full day in Toulouse (and, France) was ‘typical’ (for us). The Marché Victor Hugo was open after a one-day respite, so we were able to fill a couple of small orders for supper tonight: smoked salmon and a tomato. This went nicely with our remaining chèvre and a flute campagne.

Earlier, after another great lunch at la Gourmandine, we took a long walk southwesterly to Pont Neuf and crossed to the left (west) bank of la Garrone. We explored there a short while and returned via Pont Saint-Pierre.

Mostly, we just got sorted out for our return tomorrow, packing, etc. We scouted our route to the nearest pickup point (there are four in the downtown area) for the airport shuttle (la Navette Aéroport), so that there wouldn’t be any surprises in the morning. And we cleaned out our wine cellar (kept nicely on our north-facing balcony) with dinner. We had parts of four bottles remaining, all purchased in the preceding two weeks and all rather good.

Another nice day, easily hitting 2.0 on the Knowmark Weather Scale.

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

We were able to leave this morning without undue haste, as our flight (from Toulouse to Paris) didn’t depart until 10:35am. So, we indulged in our morning café (noisette) and pain aux raisins at Dame Brioche before checking out. One of the great things about a place like Dame Brioche is that by the third morning (sometimes the second!), you are a ‘regular’: just a simple confirmation when you walk in, because they remember you (and your order) from prior visits. And, that is the rule, rather than the exception.

After checking out, we trundled our bags to the pickup point for the airport shuttle. It was only five minutes from our hotel door, so with rolling luggage it was a snap. The shuttle is a great deal: 3,90€ (each) and we were at the airport in about 20 minutes. The return to Peterborough was somewhat tiring (as usual), but uneventful.

Until next time (we were humming April in Paris on the way back). And, as you often hear in France upon leaving any commercial establishment (whether you’ve purchased anything or not): Au revoir, merci!