It was late by the time we arrived in Toulouse, after spending a little too much time looking in shops in Andorra. Fortunately, our friends that we were staying with were able to wait for us to arrive (9PM) to share dinner – including a delicious coil of sausage, and some amazing soft cheese. Julien and I used to work together at Meraki, so after catching up on all that had changed in the 15-months since we’d last seen each other, he helped me migrate my blog to another provider.
The next day, Monday May 1st, was a public holiday. We headed into central Toulouse to have a look at the Rose City, starting with the beautifully decorated City Hall. The interior walls were covered in delicate paintings and golden gilding. It might not have been palatial, but it wasn’t far from it – and it was free to enter!
Between showers, we strolled to the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse, with the unique tiered tower of red bricks. Inside were large, light coloured columns, with a simple, yet elegant design.
Interestingly, there was a small collection of impressionist art inside, which seemed out of place –but I thoroughly enjoyed looking at.
We timed it perfectly, as by the time we’d left the church, the majority of the rain had passed, and the skies were clearing again. It was lunch time, so we took our friend’s suggestion, and went to try aligot, as well as cassoulet. The aligot was an interesting mix of stringy cheese combined with mashed potatoes – and was my kind of food! For the cassoulet, we decided to go for the full experience, with a leg of duck confit, as well as some sausage, and the usual haricot beans. My only other experience with cassoulet was out of a can, so understandably, this was far, far superior – and something that would be amazing on a cold day. We shared these dishes, but I think I could have gobbled an entire set down myself – it’s the kind of food I could over-indulge in.
And, to top it off, it came with a choice of deserts. One of the historic significances that made Toulouse wealthy was the trade of woad – the plant used in medieval times to make a blue dye. Everywhere you look in Toulouse you will find reminders of this history blue history – including this beautiful pastel blue dessert!
We strolled along the riverside, past the squares that fill with rowdy partygoers in the evenings – I loved the name of one place, La Couleur de la Culotte ‘The colour of the panties’, named for the slightly perverted glass flooring/ceiling.
From the outside, Basilique Notre-Dame de la Daurade, was not much to look at. Even the entrance was quite plain/humble. But, stepping inside, I was really taken aback. So many churches are light and airy. Not this one, this was dark, and it felt atmospheric and ancient. It also had a really colourful, though still dark, Black Madonna in one of the chapels.
The central shopping district could be a historic area (if you don’t look at the ground floor) with the upper floors a colourful collection of shapes and constructions. It sounded like Toulouse was spared from the destruction that so many cities suffered during WW2, so there are still many original historic sites remaining, which is really nice to see.
To finish off the day, it was another Takoyaki party (I remembered photos this time). Though, with it being a public holiday in France, the supermarkets were closed, and as it wasn’t possible to find fresh octopus, instead we had to substitute for some tinned octopus, as well as some frozen prawns. It was our French friend’s first experience of this amazing Japanese food, so we were glad to have been able to share it with them.
We abused their internet and their washing machine – and their hot showers – and continued on our journey eastward the next morning.