Day 1 - arrival
I was looking to take a couple of days off so decided to take the short journey to Toulouse as a few people had recommended it. Walked to the local station to catch the train to Carcassonne, unfortunately it was cancelled, and a replacement bus service was in operation. This was a sign of things to come. The bus arrived just after the connecting train departed and it was an hour to wait before the next train to Toulouse.
Had a coffee and sat out in the sunshine and made the 13.00hr train to Toulouse. It was a good journey and arrived on time into Toulouse Matabiau.
The Hotel President was about 5 minutes’ walk from the station on rue Raymond IV. It was a two star but clean and convenient for two nights stay.
Made my way down to Place Jeanne d’Arc at the end of the street where there is a bus station and a Metro link. From there a walk down the Boulevard de Strasbourg which is one of the main streets for cafes, bars and restaurants. Very vibrant and apparently Primark has arrived in town as every other person seemed to be carrying at least two full bags.
First stop of the weekend. A good place to watch the rugby.
Carried on down the street to the corner of Place Wilson, quite a popular area with a small park, then onto the Donjon du Capitole. Here you will find the tourist information office and the City Hall. There is a small market here on Saturday and a regular flow of couples going to get married. About one couple every half hour.
After getting my bearings (and a map), it was back to Place Wilson for a well-earned drink.
Le Cardinal at Place Wilson. Next to the cinema, which seems to be extremely popular. If people watching is your thing, you could be here for hours.
The Goudouli fountain, Place Wilson
Time to eat so it was to Hippopotamus at the end of Boulevard de Strasbourg for an early dinner. Walking back up towards the hotel, there seemed to be a large queue forming outside the restaurant L’Entrecote. It opens at 7pm and there are no bookings so if you want your steak, better get there early.
The queue for L’Entrecote
Started out from the hotel back towards the Capitole and down to the river Garonne. There were lots of smaller shops in the narrower streets down to the river. Also, there are traffic restrictions, so it is relatively easy to walk around this part of town.
The river is a lot bigger than I imagined and it was a pleasant walk along the water’s edge.
La Garonne, towards Pont St Pierre
However, approaching the bridge, there seemed to be something quite disturbing hanging from the right-hand arch. It appeared to be a young girl swinging below the bridge. On approaching, it was creating a great deal of interest from passers-by. It was, in fact, an art installation by American Artist Mark Jenkins for the Rose Beton festival. I believe the police were called out by concerned onlookers when the piece was first shown. It was extremely lifelike.
‘The Swinging Girl’ – Pont St Pierre
Walking away from the river and into the university area along the banks of the Canal de Brienne. A pleasant walk in a quieter area with just the student population doing what students do.
Carried on walking along Boulevard Marechal Leclerc and was looking for Rue des Lois where there was a recommended pub. Unfortunately, it hadn’t opened so will leave that for a return visit. Onwards into the Place du Capitole for coffee. There was going to be a marathon taking place so obviously I didn’t stay around too long in case I got involved in unnecessary running.
Time for lunch at Pizza Pino, extremely reasonable prices considering it is in the centre of a tourist area, then up to Place St Sernin to see the Basilica St Sernin. A very quiet area to sit until the high school empties out at lunchtime!
Walking back to the hotel, by a circuitous route admittedly, I dropped in to try out The Melting Pot. It appears they were selling their beers for 4 Eur after 6.30pm. Sounds very reasonable.
From here, just a short walk back to the hotel.
A quiet night, except for the fire alarm going off! Half asleep, we all arrived in the lobby in various stages of undress. Not sure what would have happened if we had to assemble outside. Fortunately, it was someone just smoking in their room, so no real harm done except for broken dreams.
The next morning was beautiful, really warm. The train was due to go back early afternoon but there had been a crash the previous night and the drivers were withdrawing labour protesting at staffing levels. The train back to Carcassonne was still shown as running fortunately.
Spent the morning enjoying the sunshine and the market at Place Victor Hugo, just over the Boulevard from The Melting Pot. It is a huge indoor market with a lot of meat stalls. Not a place for vegetarians. There were bars scattered amongst the stalls and you could take your drinks out into the sunshine and listen to the jazz band.
Finally, a walk back to the station for the train home. The train had disappeared from the departure board. Found a SNCF customer service agent who said the train had been cancelled, no more trains today or tomorrow and Monday looked overbooked. C’est la vie. The one thing I noticed about everyone at the station was that no one was getting upset, it was a thing that happened.
Toulouse Matabiau – a station without trains
Off to the bus station next door where it was just a mass of humanity. No chance of getting away by bus. Nothing was showing on BlaBla cars website. I thought of flying to Stansted and back to Carcassonne but although the prices were as cheap as staying in Toulouse for two more nights, the flight times didn’t work out.
Time to sit in the sunshine and wonder what it is about Toulouse. I have been diverted here previously now I can’t get away!
To the taxi rank, real bite the bullet time. The deal was 200e back to the house. The driver said don’t worry about the money now we can stop at an ATM when you are home. (Never known that in Glasgow).
The journey was good, and she treated the speed limits as advisory. She dropped me off outside my bank and even though her meter stopped short of 200e, she was worth the tip.
As usual, I didn’t scratch the surface of Toulouse. I will definitely be going back; it is a beautiful city.