Toulouse, France, Pink City
We arrived in Toulouse the week before Christmas 2014. We came by train from Turin, Italy via Chamberly and Lyon, France.
Our first train ride to France was kind of a dramatic entrance, as when we arrived in Chamberly the train officials informed us that the train was broken and not going to be coming to take us to Lyon. But they cheerfully informed us that a bus would be summoned to take us, and sure enough a few minutes later a bus arrived and we all scrambled onto 2 buses bound for Lyon.
We barely made it in time, about 12 minutes before our train was supposed to leave for Toulouse. The Lyon train station is rather large so it was not that easy to find our train platform, but a nice official told us the correct one and we ran to it, jumped on with our luggage, and sat down. A few minutes later we realized we were in the wrong car, but it was too late. We were in someone else’s seats too, but the sweet ladies very nicely told us to sit across from them and it would be okay.
Sure enough, pretty soon the ticket master came by, looked at our tickets and just smiled. That was our introduction to the French train system and the politeness of the French people. They are not at all like what their reputation suggests.
Everywhere we went they went out of their way to help us! At every station men would ask me if they could help me with my luggage or just start putting it on the train, or take it up or down stairs. And complete strangers would offer to translate to the officials for us and check our tickets to make sure we were on the right train and in the right car. Plus when we were walking around in the cities, people would hear us speaking English and stop us to suggest good places to eat! I love the French!
On the way to Toulouse a very nice lady asked if she could sit with us, and how could we refuse? We weren’t even in the right seats ourselves, after all. It turned out that she spoke some English, and I spoke enough French for us to have a wonderful conversation all the way to Montpelier where she got off. She gave us lots of suggestions of where to go on our trip too.
Where to Stay in Toulouse
So we arrived in Toulouse a little late in the evening and got to our hotel which had a wonderful room, and very nice receptionists who went out of their way to help us with suggestions of where to go for shopping, eating, and sight seeing.
We stayed at the Privilège Hôtel Mermoz, in the heart of the city, close to the train station. In fact we walked to the station on our way out of town, as it was that close. But since we arrived at night, we took a taxi to get there. I think it was only 6 Euros for our fare. Again, the French are so hospitable! Don’t believe the hype!
Here is where we booked our hotel. We love Hotels.com. They give you one free room for every 10 nights you stay and it really adds up fast, so we got lots of free hotel rooms. But more important, we loved the hotels we found on their site!
What and Where to Eat in Toulouse
I really don’t think you are going to find bad food in France, period. They consider it sacrilege to cook badly. And like I said, many times locals recommended places to us when they heard us speaking English. We were there in Winter and still people sat outside on town squares eating and drinking coffee and eating croissants. Coffee and croissants seems to be the National breakfast. So I don’t have any specific recommendations. What we did was go to little cafes that were somewhat crowded as we reasoned that they were popular with locals so probably good. The restaurants all have menus posted outside so you can see what they offer and the prices.
Things to Do in Toulouse
As for Toulouse, we totally loved it! It’s called the Pink City because the buildings are mostly all built from Pink bricks and at sunset it looks beautiful! To me it’s kind of like a mini Paris. It has a beautiful river and bridges, and wonderful cathedrals, and gorgeous architecture, with lots of iron balconies like you see in Paris. The food there was amazing, and it was almost Christmas so everyone was in a good mood. Shoppers were shopping, the lights were twinkling, the architecture was stunning.
Basilica of St. Sernin: We were also very happy to discover that unlike in Italy where they often charge you to go into churches, the French don’t. Toulouse was the first of many cities in France with stunning cathedrals and it’s free to go inside. We went into several beautiful cathedrals there. This one had a beautiful tower! Just look at that architecture!
Jacobins Church & Cloister: This was the inside of the Jacobins Church & Cloister which is sometimes called the Palm Tree Cathedral. You can see why right here What you can’t tell is how tall the ceilings are. Several stories high to get to the top!
The stained glass was also stunning. It’s hard to get photos though, as flash photography is not allowed. Here is one of the windows.
Garonne River Cruise
Gardens There are several gardens as the French love their gardens almost as much as they love their food. But it was Winter while we were there, so we stuck to walking around the city and going into churches and seeing all the beautiful architecture.
Carmelite Chapel Another church to visit. I love to see the inside of churches and the stained glass so we went to all of them in Toulouse I think.
The Shopping District The architecture is so stunning it is fun to walk around and gaze at it.
Walkng Tours There are a few of them. What we always do is ask our hotel for recommendations, look at their brochures and decide what we want to pay for and what we want to find on our own. We also use Google to find the tourist office and ask them for recommendations. We have found some gems that way.
Toulouse was the first of many river cities in France that we visited, and we were mesmerized by its beauty and atmosphere. I could easily live there, and many Americans do. It’s extremely charming. I totally recommend visiting there. It was a glorious introduction to France!
All Photos © Heather Burns, 2015. Please do not copy.