Toulouse is known as la ville rose for the pink bricks used to build the oldest buildings. It also has a large student population thanks to its many universities and colleges. I would call Toulouse la ville rose for the young.
Toulouse witnessed firsthand many historical moments. For example, during World War I the city became a weapon and plane manufacturing center. Nowadays, Toulouse is an important aerospace engineering centre.
Toulouse, and the surrounding countryside, was the epicenter of Cathar activity. When the Catholic Church authorities felt threatened by these so-called heretics, they consorted with the king of France (the territory of modern-day France was divided into small independent kingdoms at the time) to extinguish them. The army led by Simon de Montfort did a thorough job helped by the Dominican order.
A famous Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, is buried in the Church of the Jacobins, which was built by the Dominican order in 1096. As soon as I saw his tomb, memories of philosophy class at university popped up in my head. I could never grasp the true meaning of his quinque viae, or five arguments for the existence of God. And what, pray, is the unmoved mover? I still don’t know what it means but I’ll never forget being asked that question at my final exam. The blank expression on my face must have been quite amusing. I scraped through, though. I stood in front of St. Thomas’ tomb and told him in no uncertain terms that he made my life difficult for a while. But I forgive him now.
Toulouse was a major stop in the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). The route that begins at Arlés -passes through here. Its Latin name is Via Tolosana. The basilica of St-Sernin was an important stop for the pilgrims then and now.
My husband sat on a bench with his book while I visited the basilica. I went down to the crypt, which holds the remains of St-Sernin –Toulouse bishop and martyr. The crypt is neither very deep nor too enclosed but the combination of damp, incense and the pungent body odor of a party of European tourist (their country shall remain nameless but it is very close) made me fell faint. I went to tell my husband, which piqued his interest. We went down the crypt together and I felt faint again. Will I ever learn!
The Place du Capitole, across from the town hall, is Toulouse’s most important and active square. Except on Mondays, when most businesses don’t open. We arrived on a Monday before 10 am and the city was practically deserted. Fortunately, the cafes on Place du Capitol were open so we were able to have a delicious cup of coffee and croissants while people-watching.
Toulouse is the capital of the Midi-Pyrenées region in the southwest of France.
You can fly into Toulouse-Blagnac International airport from many other European cities.
Desde Paris, se puede tomar el TGV (tren bala) en la Gare de Montparnasse o el tren Corail en la Gare de Austerlitz.
The TGV train from Paris (Gare de Montparnasse) or the Corail from Gare de Austerlitz also in Paris reach Toulouse.
If you drive, bear in mind that it can be difficult to find parking in the city centre.
Toulouse is a pedestrian friendly city and has a network of public transport (buses and metro).