Before I hop on the plane and head to Europe, I thought it would be timely to share 10 do's and don'ts on Toulouse by someone local.
Mamina does not live in Toulouse yet she is a frequent visitor to La Ville Rose since her daughter Anne who practices nuclear medicine moved there 3 years ago. Anne enjoys her life by the Garonne and is always happy to share her Toulouse discoveries with her mother.
Here's Mamina and Anne 10 Do's and Don'ts of Toulouse.
TO DO :
1-Must see Basilique St Sernin, beautiful sight day and night, wall, find your way there from Place du Capitole walking in the shade provided by historic homes that line the streets of the neighborhood. If you visit St Sernin on a Saturday morning, Place St Sernin hosts a flea market.
2-Place du Capitole, the heart of la ville rose and its pillar, Glacier Octave (homemade ice cream). Do not skip a stop there under any circumstances. You will find other ice cream shops in the vincinity yet nothing compares to Octave. Enjoy their ice-cream creations on the terrace or take it to go.
3-Take a walk along the banks of the Garonne river and admire its bridges especially Pont Saint Michel where you get a great view of the sights. Walk along Canal du Midi in the Rangueil neighborhood.
4-Make time for Marche Victor Hugo (food market, open Tuesday through Sunday from early morning to around 1 pm). The fish stalls are outstanding and butcher shops have few equals in France these days. Let yourself fall for charcuteries, especially Noir de Bigorre (black Bigorre pig) specialties
5-Have dinner at Au Nez Rouge (The Red Nose), a wine bar in an old 'colombage' house. This no fuss place has a very good wine selection (some by the glass or the carafe) and a simple and tasty menu. Prix fixe options are offered for lunch including 'plat du jour' at 10.50 €.
6-If you want to add to your kitchenware collection, check Maison Habiague (44, rue Alsace Lorraine), the equivalent of Ali Baba's cave for the discerning cook. Chefs and amateurs alike frequent this place in search of perfect or rare kitchen tools. Store is opened Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. Note that as many stores in Toulouse, they close for lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm Monday through Friday.
7- Fans of aviation and industrial history can take Airbus Tour on the outskirts of Toulouse.
8-Feel like Haute cuisine, Michel Sarran, his cooking will make you melt. More home than restaurant, the dining rooms are artfully decorated. If dinner prices are out of your range, try the lunch prix fixe 'Capitole', 3 courses for 49 Euros (wine and coffee included). Sommelier Jean-Luc Planelles will be happy to introduce you to local wines. Restaurant is closed from August 4 to September 4.
9-Buy cheese (if only one) at Xavier, place Victor Hugo, they do their own affinage. Francois Bourgon was named 'Meilleur Ouvrier de France' in 2011. The shop is full of 'fromage' treasures.
10-Have lunch at Chez Navarre (49, Grande rue Nazareth). It is a Table d'Hotes which means that you will eat what the chef Jerome Navarre had in mind that day at long communal tables. Opened Monday through Friday, it is closed during the summer.
1-Never expect to be served quickly in shops...In the south (midi), people pace themselves.
2-Don't walk alone along the Canal du Midi in the Gare Matabiau (train station) neighborhood.
3-Do not select an hotel without air conditioning. Summers are hot, sometimes very hot in Toulouse.
4- Make no mistake, Pont-Neuf is the oldest bridge in Toulouse. Garonne is a 'magnifique' river that should be crossed numerous times in various places via different bridges.
5- Do not have dinner at Bibent on place du Capitole. Serice is very often very bad and food quality lacks consistency.
8- When driving do not take 'peripherique' at rush hour. Traffic is horendous, even during the summer.
9- Don't forget that police has radars on bridges to check motorists speed when peripherique is not crowded.
10-Don't think that St Sernin and the Capitole are the only sights worth checking. Pay a visit to the stunning Black Virgin at Notre Dame de la Daurade church, visit the many museums.
A big thank you to Mamina and Anne for their guided tour of Toulouse.
(* Photos and video from respective spots mentioned in this piece except for image of Black Virgin of La Daurade from piece on Laws of Silence blog)