Toulouse

Back in October 2017, I took advantage of a mid-week day off and decided to visit the French city of Toulouse. Prior to this trip I had previously visited the region on a family holiday and had toured the Airbus facilities at Toulouse airport, however I had never had the opportunity to visit the city itself. The return flights from London Stansted cost a total of £19.98 courtesy of Ryanair and was an offer I felt was too good to refuse. Pro-tip! If you’re not fused about your destination, Ryanair’s ‘Fare Finder’ page is great for finding cheap flights on days you want to travel. One-way flights can cost as little as £5!

Transport from Toulouse airport into the city is easily accessible with both bus services and a tram line. I picked up a ‘Pass Tourisme’ from the travel information shop at the airport for 18euros, which allowed me unlimited travel all days as well as providing free or discounted entry to some attractions. Given that the cost of a ticket from the airport to city centre is 8euros one-way, I felt the ‘Pass Tourisme’ was an excellent deal.

Place du Capitole

The journey via tram and metro into the city (with a change at Arènes) takes approximately 35 minutes. Unfortunately fog over southern France delayed my arrival by about an hour and so I didn’t make into the city centre until about midday. I decided to start my visit to the city in a similar way to many of my city trips, with a trip round on the city’s sightseeing bus service. The difference with Toulouse is that due to the narrow streets of the historic centre, the sightseeing bus was in fact a sightseeing road train! (Okay there was also a minibus sightseeing tour, but where’s the fun it that!)

The Petit Train de Toulouse took a slightly confusing route not matched by their map due to some roadworks taking place around the city. However, the route did include the major sites of the Basilique Saint-Sernin, the city walls, Pont Neuf and Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. The tour took about 45 minutes and as usual was a good way to see the city. After finishing the tour I decided to grab some lunch and try out the region’s famous culinary delight, duck! I found a pleasant little restaurant called ‘Au Coin de la Rue’ approximately a five minute walk from the Place du Capitole and due to unseasonably pleasant weather I enjoyed a relaxing hour sat outside enjoying some excellent food. The restaurant had a “Mon Canard” menu which allowed me to taste duck in three different ways; foie gras mi-cuit as starter then excellent duck confit and half magret for mains.

Our Lady of the Daurade church viewed from Quai de la Daurade

Feeling refreshed and pleasantly full, I decided to go for a wander down to the nearby square on the banks of the Garonne river. Between the Place Saint-Pierre there is a pleasant riverside path that leads to the Quai de la Daurade, named after the adjacent Catholic Church, Our Lady of the Daurade. Around the edges of the park area there were numerous information boards about the history and redevelopment of the area.

I headed back down Toulouse’s narrow streets through the market in the Place de Capitole, and up Rue du Taur towards the Basilique Saint-Sernin. Construction of the church was completed in the early 12th century and it was built to serve the crowds of pilgrims who passed through Toulouse en route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Standing 21 meters high, 115 meters long and 64 meters wide it is the largest remaining Romanesque style church in Europe, if not the world! The UNESCO World Heritage site also has a very interesting five-tiered bell tower which was constructed over the 12th and 13th centuries.

Basilique Saint-Sernin

Due to the timings of my flights and the unfortunate delay in arriving, I couldn’t visit Toulouse’s many museums or fully immerse myself into its fantastic historical centre. Once again it is a city that has cemented itself onto my ‘re-visit’ list, not least due to its fantastic cuisine. If you do visit, I would certainly recommend the Pass Tourisme as it essentially paid for itself and there were plenty of benefits that I didn’t get opportunity to use.

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