I was unprepared with this Southeastern France trip. The original plan was from Paris after the opening of Photoquai 2013 will go directly to Barcelona and meet up with my friend, Eduard, who has been studying and describing new beetle species that I’ve sent to him over the years. But for reasons that I can no longer recall, I booked a high speed train from Paris to Carcassonne. But unfortunately, I mistakenly booked a hotel far from the city center and instead thought of going to Lourdes for the Marian site. But it all came to naught as I eventually realized that with the short time I had, Lourdes would never materialize. So instead, I took a train to Toulouse to explore for a day.
Toulouse is the capital city of the French department of Haute Garonne and the Midi-Pyrénées region. As early as the 5th century, it was already the capital of a Visigoth Kingdom. It has two UNESCO World Heritage listed sites, the Canal du Midi which is shared with other towns and the Basilica of St. Sernin as it is part of the routes of the Santiago de Compostela in France. The city is also called la Ville Rose because of the pinkish bricks used as building material. While it is the center of European aerospace industry, like other new places I visit, I concentrated on the old quarter of Toulouse.
It’s a beautiful city. Clean and pedestrian and bike friendly with electric bikes available for use. It’s architecture is a great mix of medieval to modern. While Perpignan, another city in southeastern France and located near the sea has its Palace of the Kings and La Castillet, Toulouse has its religious structures and the Capitole. There are several churches around the city and I’ve visited only three major structures, the Basilica of St. Sernin, the Eglise de St. Aubin, a more ‘recent’ construction dating to 1847 and the unique Cathedral of St. Etienne with its asymmetric design. These three are of different style: the Basilica is considered the biggest Romanesque structure in Europe or even the world with interesting bas reiefs and artifacts that even dates to the medieval period; the Cathedral is typical Gothic with all those interesting vaulting and rose windows and the Eglise, or church, more eclectic. Another one, the Carmelite Chapel is what remains of the Carmelite convent that was destroyed during World War II. Inside this chapel are beautiful religious paintings by Rivals and Despax.
READ MORE: A day touring around the city of Perpignan
There is still so much to explore around Toulouse, places like different museums showcasing ancient to modern art, the Jacobin monastery from the 13th century, the Capitole grounds, the Sunday markets and the Canal du Midi. Perhaps, when I am able to go back, would definitely stay for a few more days and enjoy a slower paced exploration.