I made a detour exploring Toulouse old city center with the short time I had in Southern France.
I was unprepared with this Southeastern France trip. The original plan was after the opening of Photoquai 2013 in Paris, will go directly to Barcelona. There I will meet up with my friend, Eduard. He has 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. Unfortunately, I mistakenly booked a hotel far from the city center. And instead of going to Lourdes for the Marian site I had to drop it due to time constraints. 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, 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, 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 nearby 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. The Basilica is considered the biggest Romanesque structure in Europe or even the world with interesting bas reliefs and artifacts that dates back to the medieval period. The Cathedral is typical Gothic with all those interesting vaulting and rose windows. On the other hand, the Eglise is 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.
But time is short
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 do slower exploration.