A weekend in Toulouse: 5-7 Nov 2022

Monday 31 October 2022

Having arrived back from Washington DC in the US yesterday, and with Tuesday being a holiday and Sylvia having today off, we decided to revisit Toulouse.

We set off early for the 250km drive to Toulouse following the toll roads for the 3+ hour journey.

Stopping at the old town fortress of Carcassonne for lunch, on what was a rather windy and overcast day, we tried the local dish, cassoulet, which we both decided would not go on our favourite list.

I know I have said it before, all the main roads here are smooth, wide and easy to drive on with the 130km/h speed limit only reducing at interchanges and for the odd patch of road works. When road works are being undertaken they paint the road markings with yellow paint and usually put up concrete barriers to protect the workers. Very few road cones are seen.

Arriving in Toulouse, we checked into the very nice Hotel Soclo, a short stroll from the town centre. Car parking is always a bit of a problem in these old town centres. The parking was some 800m from the hotel.

After settling in we took a stroll into the town centre. Toulouse is a very pretty city with mainly old red brick buildings. It dates back to well before the arrival of the Romans with the town being established around 800 BC. People originally settled in the hills around 9kms from today’s town centre. Originally called Tolosa, pre 200BC it was a trading post with access to the Atlantic, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. Occupied by the Romans for around 500 years from 118 BC; from then until 877 it was part of various kingdoms. In 877 it became the country of Toulouse. At the end of the 11th century Count Raymond IV headed off to the Crusades and wars of succession followed. In 1229 The Treaty of Paris introduced a university. For a time it was the capital of the south of France and in the 17th Century it came under the rule of the French King. Like just about every city in France it has survived many wars, plagues and famines, even being invaded by the British in 1814, just after Napoleon abdicated and headed off to Saint Helena for a long, and probably undeserved, holiday.

We had briefly called in here last year on the way home from a trip down the west coast of France and were struck by its beauty hence the return visit. After strolling around a few streets we took a seat in the square which was full of activity including a group dance competition, which seemed to go on forever. The local rugby team had a stand also in the square. As the sun set the square was nicely lit up and being Haloween lots of people were wearing costumes.

Toulouse City Hall

We wandered the 300 meters back to the hotel through the busy streets to for a quiet night.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

We headed down to an excellent late breakfast in the courtyard behind the hotel. This place is well set up with a nice outdoor are including a pool. It was good to relax as the week before we had been in Washington DC, where Sylvia attended a Mars Senior Leadership Meeting, plus she has been working really hard with her additional role as VP Enterprise Effectiveness.

Breakfast over, we woadered the picturesque streets; this is a city where there is a photograph around every corner.

We headed into the Cathedral Saint-Etienne

Leaving the cathedral we headed back to the square, passing Saint Sernin which is quite deceptive from the street, with a narrow tower perched above what look like the normal street buildings with a large church hall behind it.

We headed through the square as there is another square behind City Hall, which has a row of nice tents set up in it as a market selling a great variety of food from pork to cheeses.

As we carried on wandering the streets we admired the variety of buildings and the way they have been built in various shapes to fit every spare piece of land. There is even a reasonably new carpark building looking like a ship. There are many more churches and administration type buildings along with some very well presented retail shops. The Garonne River runs through the town with a number of house boats parked up in places.

The city tour over we checked out of the hotel and got on the road, taking the long way home through the pretty farmland of south central France. Even though we are away from the toll roads the surfaces are smooth and the lanes wide. We made our way northwest, soon arriving at the city of Albi, another old city with evidence of human habitation dating back to 3000 BC. It was fought over by various clans and religions over the centuries and hit by plagues and other tragedies. In 1282 the Palace de la Berbie was completed, looking more like a fort than a palace. Bishop Castanent started work on the Cathedral of Saint-Cecile. From a distance it almost looks like a grain silo with its rounded walls, each of which houses a crypt of to the side of the main church hall. We parked and wandered into the central square which houses shops, the palace and cathedral.

We lunched at the La Boussole restaurant, which with its slow service, tough streak and bad wine I can highly not recommend. We then wandered through the palace grounds as the building itself was closed. The grounds are impressive with views over the Tarn river holding the reflections of the surrounding buildings on this clear blue sky calm day. Here even the rubbish bins have imitation stone like wrapping on them, which looked good. The rest can only be described through photos.

The drive home was an uneventful one through more farmland and crossing the Millau Viaduct over the river Tarn, until, reaching more arid lands as we approached Montpellier.

We took the Grey route to Toulouse and the blue rout back.

7 thoughts on “A weekend in Toulouse: 5-7 Nov 2022

  1. Carol & Jim Gibson says:

    Always good to read of your travels. Great pics too. Enjoy!

  2. Remi says:

    Dear Roger,
    thank you for this beautiful travel report guide of our city of birth and student.
    Really objective on everything …. you can find there excellent gastronomy too and restaurants who are not turistic like for example “le canard sur le toit ” or “la cuisine à mémé” or “le saint sauvage”…

  3. Maureen and Neil Hawkins says:

    You certainly get around the world Roger. Have fun and enjoy your travels. We have moved nth to Kerikeri. Cheers Neil and Maureen

  4. Chadon says:

    I really enjoy your story and very nice pictures.
    Thanks

  5. Don Buchanan says:

    sounds like a nice weekend away apart from the food.
    I’ve been there twice and loved the place, did a bike ride along the river path and found a lovely cafe that served some great food with a cold beer.
    Like to get back that way some day

  6. Stan says:

    One day we’ll get to retrace your steps. Good travel guide

  7. Alister Johnston says:

    just wonderful fun for you -enjoy

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