This was our second visit to Toulouse. Last time we didn't see a great deal of the city as we were pretty well confined to port waiting for the elusive courier to pick up our dud air conditioner. So we were keen to get out and about- The port is situated less than a km from the centre and so very convenient including for the one with the gammy knee as this city has embraced cycling in a big way. There are great cycle lanes and bikes for hire everywhere. The city centre is pedestrianised but unlike many towns bikes are permitted as well.
Toulouse is known as The Rose City thanks to its lovely pink building bricks which are particularly attractive in the sun's glow. And glow the sun did whilst we were there. Most days were around 35- 38 degrees so our sightseeing involved a large amount of searching for shade. Here's a list of some of what we did. In no particular order and almost certainly not what you'll find on Trip Advisor's list of top 10s.
1. Shade. Take a blanket, a baguette. some brie and a bottle of water to the Grand Rond, a large circular park with a beautiful fountain (bagnade interdit unfortunately) and lovely sculptures. Lie under a tree and have a picnic. Watch out for the parkie if you take a bike but you should be safe later in the afternoon. Small cafe serves good, cold pression (draught beer) but pass on the food. The Grand Rond is a favourite place for joggers to do circuits. Marvel at the different running gear, styles and levels of fitness (or lack of). The Grand Rond is connected to the the Jardin Du Plantes by a footbridge over the busy road. This is also a pleasant botanical garden and features a pond/creek and waterfall with ducks. This is just about the only place we've seen ducks in this part of France other than on the menu. They must lock them up at night.
2. Food and drink. There are, unsurprisingly, loads of options for eating out. We enjoyed oysters and tapas a couple of times at the Bistro next to the port. Artisinal ice creams were delicious beneath the colonnade around the Place Capitole in the city centre and spoiled only by a waiter deliberately misunderstanding my attempt at casual conversation in French as speaking in English. His idea of a joke I think. Then there's the Irish pub also near the port. Great fish 'n chips and on a Wednesday night, a bilingual quiz night. The questions are read out by a French barmaid first in French and then in English. I have to say that sometimes the French was easier to understand than the English. That's my excuse for our poor performance anyway.
Eating in? Well, we bought a new gas barbecue at a shop near the port whose name begins and ends with L. As we've found previously with products in the middle aisle of this shop (and another beginning with A) there's sometimes a fatal flaw. In this case they didn't sell the gas cartridges required for the model. In fact, probably no one in France does. It needed good old British gas. Anyway, our ever inventive resident engineer 'slightly' modified a camping gaz cartridge which eventually worked and we had Toulouse sausage. We both felt a bit sick afterwards.
3.This one will be on Trip Advisor. Visit the Airbus factory. I didn't but Rob was kindly invited along by another boater with a car - it's quite far out of town. If you go take your passport. Rob did but his helpful driver forgot his and wasn't allowed in. From what I can gather you might just as well go along to the viewing platform next time you're at an international airport. They got to look down at an A380 from behind glass. The plane was already assembled and all the work was going on inside. At least at an airport you can watch them refuelling and loading up the baggage. So, nothing to see here, let's move along and watch some videos about building aeroplanes. You can probably see them on you tube and you won't need your passport.
4. Another possible Trip Advisor one. Ride the Petit Train. I know it's a bit naff but I quite like them. We'd done the open top bus on our last visit so decided we'd take the Petit Train around the historic centre and along the River Garonne. For those who haven't seen them they are little trucks not very cunningly disguised as steam trains pulling open carriages full of tourists. There is a commentary pointing out places of interest with some history and headphones with translations for foreign tourists. I like them because they're quite cheap, show you where the highlights are and if you want to go back for a further look you have an idea where you're going. The only problem with this one was the view from the carriages of the River Garonne was pretty well non existent because the wall along the river was too high. So......
5. Bike ride along the Garonne. Easy and very enjoyable. There's a good sealed path down at water level and a convenient cafe sited in the wall on one of the quays. Another very popular spot with lovely views over the river is Port Daurade which has been beautifully restored - it was once an ugly car park. Now there's a park and another cafe. Parks are always interesting for people watching and this one was no exception. The largest group lounging on the grass was a 'dreadlocks and dogs' one. Perhaps it was some sort of hippy dog show. One guy turned up with a supermarket trolley full of puppies pulled by the mother.
6. Cathedrals and churches. Religion aside, churches are a good place to rest your weary feet and are cool sanctuaries on a hot day. Whilst there you can marvel at the architecture, admire the beautiful stained glass windows and appreciate the hard work and craftsmanship on show. Sometimes you can be lucky and someone will be playing the organ or, if it's Saturday, you might find yourself sitting in on a wedding. I went to 2 weddings in Toulouse.
7. Window Shopping. As in most French cities most of the shops seem to be clothing ones. You might wonder how they all manage to stay in business but there are many seriously stylishly dressed people around. All the more mundane shops are in the commercial centres outside the cities which is where we actually buy stuff.
8.Midsummer Music Festival. All over France towns and villages celebrate midsummer night with music in the streets. In Toulouse the main square, the Place Capitole, was hosting a huge concert which was broadcast live. It was ticket only but I was able to watch the rehearsals in the afternoon. Around 5pm an enormous number of police and emergency workers began moving everyone out. As I walked back to the boat there were people setting up stages on every corner and square. The boulevards leading to the Grand Rond had competing DJs each 50m or so. By night time there was music blasting out everywhere. Anyone who could sing, play, dance or rollerskate was out doing it, sometimes all at the same time. French crooners, folk, blues, jazz, rap, rock, trance, you name it, it was there. The only drawback was there wasn't a seat to be had at a cafe or restaurant anywhere. The most incongruous sight of the night had to be the gospel singing and dancing monks and nuns (genuine ones not dress ups) outside the cathedral doing their level best to outdo the techno DJ in the corner of the square.
Ok that's it. Didn't do any museums or art galleries this time so can't make it to 10.