If asked to choose a city which spells romance, Paris is likely to be among the first places to spring to mind. However, venture a couple of hundred of miles south to Toulouse, La Ville Rose, and you will find a worthy contender. This laid back, dream-like city is situated on the banks of the River Garonne and is home to world class galleries, numerous cafés and remarkable architecture. To add to this recipe of romance, Toulouse gets its nickname, La Ville Rose (The Pink City) because of the dusty pink and ochre façades of its buildings. Now, what could be more romantic than a pink city?
My reason for visiting Toulouse couldn't have been more apt, the wedding of one of my favourite people. The wedding which was held just outside the city, in the provincial town of Merville. For most of the weekend I was staying closer to Merville with friends, however I booked myself into a hostel, La Petite Auberge de Saint-Sernin (highly recommend!) in the city centre for the first night so I could do a bit of solo exploring in the city before the celebrations began.
My first impression of Toulouse in the daylight (I arrived quite late in the evening) was made all the more exciting, because just down the road from the hostel was a Space Invader mosaic in a very Toulouse shade of pink. There are ten Invader pieces around Toulouse, I kept an eye out but the one on Saint Julien Place was the only one that I spotted.
The 'Vieux Quartier' (Old Quarter) I would say is ideally where you want to base yourself in the city. Toulouse is compact, so therefore ideal for walking around and losing yourself exploring. Most points of interest and places to eat and drink are based in the Old Quarter, a charming labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys. Outside of this area, while still architecturally interesting, seems to be more residential.
A few recommendations..
My time in the city centre was fairly brief, but it was time enough to discover and also miss out on a few noteworthy places to visit.
Toulouse is the home of Airbus and a number of other aerospace companies. The Aviation museum is one of the most well known attractions in Toulouse. I attempted to go on the Monday before I flew home - by time I got there it was raining torrentially, so I gave it a miss as a lot of the exhibitions appeared to be outside. I did get a glimpse of the Air France concord from the tram - it's SO tiny.
I made another accidental trip to the Airbus museum later on the same evening. I was heading to the airport from the city centre on the tram and got off at the 'aeroconstellation' stop, which I mistakenly thought to be the airport. It is in fact the Airbus museum stop. I quickly realised my mistake and unfortunately, it seemed I had just got off the last tram of the day. I was rescued by a very kind bus driver, who patiently listened to me trying to ask for directions in my fading GCSE-level French. He had just finished his shift and drove me to the airport in his blacked out 'out of service' bus. A little unexpected adventure to end my trip and another warm reminder of the kindness of strangers around the world...
Another attraction I saved until the Monday... only to find out that it (like many things in Toulouse) are closed on Mondays. They had a pop-up exhibition in the airport which I had a little look at before catching my flight... although I can't vouch for the gallery personally, Les Abbetoirs is a world class, contemporary art gallery, and probably shouldn't be missed on a trip to Toulouse...
This rose tinted marvel of architecture is very much the centre piece of the city. You can't miss it on a stroll around Toulose. It is the backdrop to weekend markets and much of the everyday goings on in the city.
The Frog & Rosbif provided the ideal spot for a post-wedding catch up. Super chilled with friendly staff, loads of microbrewery labels and a great (not particularly French) menu. For when the croissants and pain au raisin get too much..
Hands down the best pizza I had in 2017. Very reasonably priced and the only place i've been where you pay for pizza by weight. This cosy little spot is conveniently located across the road from a little gelato shop where you can continue your Italian foodie adventure, I managed to fit in a much unneeded double scoop of hazelnut gelato post-pizza.