Toulouse: A Profile of The Pink City
The fourth largest city in France, Toulouse is nevertheless really quite small. Yet for a weekend away this means a certain small-town charm, with even the most spatially unaware visitors feeling they know their way around after just a short time.
Parisian snobbery still emanates towards La Provence, areas dubbed so regardless of whether they are metropolitan or bucolic. There is the distinct sense in Paris that anything outside of the capital is not worth thinking about, aside of course during the summer months when all flock south for the sun. Economically, this projection may well be true since jobs in the south are scarce.
Toulouse does trump this assumption a little serving as headquarters for the French aviation company Airbus, yet any industry remains very much within the fields of agriculture and engineering. A shame perhaps since the south has so much to offer otherwise: from Toulouse in 2.5 hours you can be in the Pyrenees, in an hour the Mediterranean coast and in 3.5 hours in Barcelona.
Toulouse itself, despite its size, also has plenty to offer. When the sun is shining, the pink roofs the city is famous for give off a stunning warm glow. No more can this be admired than from one of the many bridges arching over the River Garonne, the stretch of water that separates the two halves of the city.
It is on this southern side that Galerie du Château d’Eau can be found. A renovated water tower, its labyrinth of rooms are currently occupied by an interesting Lars Tunbjörk photography exhibition.
This beautiful gallery should serve as an art pick-me-up for anyone who is a little depressed after a visit to Les Abattoirs, a much publicised gallery who’s story of renovation from abattoir to exhibition space is actually far more interesting than anything contained within its rather ugly walls.
Currently under construction, there is only one tiny room of loosely related objects including two tortoise shells, vaguely claiming to say something about modernism. The space around the gallery however is charming.
When the sun is shining Jardin Raymond VI and the riverside balcony adjacent, serves as playground, promenade, foot ball pitch and sun bed to residents of all descriptions. It is within spaces such as this, as well as the grassy banks of the river, that is possible to see how demographically diverse Toulouse is.
Toulouse is a university city and this youthful exuberance sits side by side with older generations and young families alike. For this student population Toulouse offers a vibrant cafe and bar culture. Across the river from Galerie du Château d’Eau is perhaps one of the most attractive examples of which, Les Jardins du Bar Basque. The sun trap courtyard based around a stone fountain is packed with tables of young people enjoying a drink and the perpetual summer-time vibe of the south.
Toulouse is a network of narrow streets which open suddenly out onto beautiful squares. The most famous example of this is Place du Capitole, where the outskirts are lined with restaurants and cafes, the centre holds a weekend market and all is framed by the impressive government buildings.
A lesser known example would be Place Saint Georges, just a few streets away from Place du Capitole. This smaller square is home to some great cafes such as the Au Jardin des Thes, which boasts hundreds of varieties of tea, a kitsch salon interior and an outside terrace ideal for people watching.
Toulouse is a place to explore and take life slowly- one cathedral, cobbled street and sun-drenched cafe at a time. The southern culture pervades and while this may mean that the bigger industries and attractions of the North will not be found, the weather and its accompanying warm culture absolutely prove Parisian snobbery wrong.