Arrived in Toulouse by train from Barcelona and spent about a week toodling around the city by rented bikes Velo Toulouse, a great deal for only 5 euros! What a bargain!!! Another great flattish city to cycle around quite comfortably. You must understand that we are not accomplished riders, just your basic garden variety returning cyclists finding our way. There were a few moments of marginal terror but seriously almost none although it is HARD to cycle around, pay attention to the road and not be goggle-eyed with the architecture, the store windows and the people, so gee, we sure needed to sure keep our wits about us.

Hopping on and off was super. Our 5 euro tickets covered 7 consecutive days of bike usage and we just either locked them up outside some museum when we went in OR locked them back into their own station when we didn’t need them anymore. Smashing!

Our Airbnb studio apartment was very central, just one block back from la Capitole but wonderfully quiet. Astonishing really. It’s wonderful to be able to cook when traveling for a longer time. Eating out is fine and fun for a few days but really not super for the long haul, on your guts or your wallet. We cooked most evenings after having cycled around the entire day, exploring and soaking up the local art, architecture and gastronomic sights. Having good wifi in the flat, we tended to just chill out with our connections and photo management in the evening, never even turned on the TV. It was very comfortably set up and I would recommend it as a very good place to stay in Toulouse. Amanda was a very helpful and well-informed hostess.

We toured down the by the Canal du Midi and saw our friend’s boat from the shore. They live in cape Town and spend some of the French summer/South African winter toodling along in their comfortable but not grand 35 foot-ish canal boat. Unfortunately, our timing is wrong and we will miss them. We are too early and weather is actually quite nippy, definitely wearing our hats and scarves, especially when zooming around on the bikes.

We were here over the Easter weekend and enjoyed visiting the many fascinating churches, from small and simple to enormous and impressive. Catholic churches and cathedrals offer visitors much more than just a religious vision. Many were architectural achievements of their time and offer so much to the visitor and we certainly saw people from many cultural backgrounds taking in their wonderful visual delights, not just Christians.

For art history students, artists and photographers, visiting places of worship is a treat.

La Capitole is a huge main square with a beautiful building decorated by artist Henri Martin(I think). Quite a confection and free to visit – perfect! Don’t you just love the way the Europeans of old got to present lovely tits and ass all dolled up and made respectable?? Now we seem to have to cover everything up and voluptuous nakedness in public and civic monuments is a thing of the past, for better and for worse.

One blustery day, we cycled out to Les Abatoires, a contemporary art centre. there was an installation of Anthony McCall’s impressive light works. In a completely inky black room, very strong lights were mounted either in the ceiling and coming down vertically for 3 stories in height or coming out horizontally from the side wall. It sounds very simple to describe it but it was quite other-worldly to walk among these light sculptures which changed and morphed only subtly. Visually, they created strong solid looking walls and cones and sharp edges as you moved through them. So simple but so moving and well worth the long walk down into the underbelly of les Abatoires, a converted old abatoir.

One the way there we came across several large yarn bombing creations, must have been some kind of an organized thing as some needed scaffolding to create! Very fun and colorful and will last quite a long time as they evolve and degrade with the elements.

Scenes from the market… I’ve got to say we just don’t see this kind of thing back home, lambs brains and massive slabs of bacaloa, salt cod. Now, I’ve eaten one of those two things but it sure wasn’t the squishy one!

We came across a very interesting art gallery idea, Carr√© d’artistes, where all artwork is presented in a square format. Maybe you’re ahead of me and this is old news but we found it quite novel.

Once we noticed this formula, we did see it a under a few other names. All the art is original art, no reproductions. There are 4 specific sizes of art at 4 specific prices and a nice range of styles. Someone looking for original art for themselves or as a gift is sure to find something and at prices from just under $100 to less than $400, it’s a very good find. The art is stacked nicely on shelves like music albums rather than all out on the wall making it a great way to have lots of art available in a very small space. As they have several locations, they can boast to represent 450 artists and they move one artist along to the next location each two weeks so there is always someone new to come in and discover. What a great concept!

Toulouse is France’s 4th largest city but is very level and was easy to get around with many things to offer tourists. We passed on visiting AirBus and the big Space Center but jumped on the tram anyway and just road out to the end of the line and back, just to see what it looked like on the outskirts. Nothing amazing, the winding old center is much more our style with wonderful classy old doors, impressive museums and little shops of delightful things even though the only thing we actually bought was a few packages of interesting used stamps to add to my box of philatelic treasures and two 10 euro t-shirts at the market.

We even came across a Tintin shop where I would have bought everybody nice decks of cards BUT they were all sold out! Poop! Lots and lots of shops, from the very inexpensive Monoprix up to Jean Paul Gaultier, great window shopping for all. Just keep your credit card firmly in your pocket…

One thing I made a little study of was beautiful lingerie, something that they excel at here but the prices! Ouch! Plus why can’t we have something in the knickers department that combines comfort and sexy styling at prices that don’t need a bank loan? I put some effort in online and plan to explore something in that knickers line… but that’s a whole other blog post. Hey, if I can sew Goretex raincoats and bathing suits, I’m sure I can manage coming up with some nice knickers designs. Of course finding the nice fabrics and trims and stretch lace will be another adventure…
Published April 14, 2013

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