Tootling off to Toulouse

It’s amazing that we made it there at all thanks to Garmin our GPS pronouncing the city as towel hours. It’s no wonder half the things he mentions don’t appear on sign posts. After a few of the obligatory ‘Baroness’ spirals around a few central gardens, we arrived at our accommodation for the next 5 days.

Our little gîte was in a suburb very close to the city and ideally located for exploring. Stephane and Patric were most welcoming and informative. The accommodation was situated at the rear of their property along with 2 other small gîtes and was a 10 minute walk to the driverless Metro which had us in the city centre within another 10 minutes. Or you could just walk it in 30 minutes.

Very, very modern and about as long and as wide as a train carriage, the gîte had a bedroom at one end, then open plan living/kitchen area with sofa bed and TV, then at the other end a tiny bathroom with a shower smaller than a phone box. It was very compact. Just outside there was a separate little 1-room timber hut with table – our dining table – and 2 bench chairs. Separate to that again, and under a vine-covered pergola, was an outdoor setting and lovely garden we loved when the weather was good. And all very quiet except for the chirping birds. I know it sounds all too cute, but in fact one of them was nesting in the vine on top of the pergola.

However our arrival coincided with 5 days of questionable weather – mostly raining. Trying to read a map with both hands while contorting my head to hold an umbrella with stick tucked under the chin is a pain in the proverbial – and the neck. So unfortunately we didn’t see the city at its best.

But we still got a sense of a large, modern city with a lot of creative energy. (It’s the fourth largest city in France.) We knew the Concorde came from here, but didn’t realise the Airbus does as well, (which employs thousands of people) and that it is also the largest space centre in Europe with accompanying hi-tech activities such as building satellites (again the biggest centre for this) the Galileo positioning system, and of course it’s a university town.

Alongside this modernity, the Cathar cross is the city flag and found on every street sign and the city’s past is very evident in the old city, buildings and monuments. Toulouse is Occitan heartland and central in the Cathar story. I guess it has always been forging ahead into new territory come hell or high water.

And, in spite of the cloud and drizzle, there was an overall rosy colour to the place. Red bricks have been preferred building material for here for centuries – quite different to what we’d seen thus far over here.

Tina and Heather

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