Leaving Tours we decided that we would have a couple of overnighters on the way south, which meant we stayed at a site, de Montreal, a little south of Limoges. A lovely little site set out of the way on a lake in St Germaine-les-belles. We had chosen to take the toll road from Tours to Poitiers, which we regretted as it came at a cost of over 35 Euros!
The next night was spent in another lovely site, de Bois-Redon, in a village outside of Caussade called Septfond. We then headed down towards Toulouse where we had decided to stay for 2 nights (overnighters are all very well, but, for us, 2 in a row is more than enough!)
Having rocked up just outside of Toulouse we decided that we really should make the effort to go into the city.
We were staying at Les Violettes, a campsite just south of the city (and very close to the Canal du Midi) and managed to find out that we could use a park and ride at Ramonville, about 4 miles away, to get on the metro taking us straight into the heart of the city.
At a cost of 6.10 Euros each we were in the city within an hour of leaving the site – even though both car parks were full when we arrived. Just a little tip here – it is worth waiting at the barriers as people do come and go and the barriers will go up when there are a few spaces available; we waited about 10 minutes and then we were in!
Ramonville is the end of 1 of the 2 metro lines that serve the city, and you change after about 11 stops (at Jean-Jaures) to go to Capitole, which is a good place to start your visit.
This is where you will find the Tourist Information centre (in a rather impressive building), and where you can then head down to see the Hotel de Ville (a much more impressive building – mostly hidden by the preparations for an event whilst we were there, sadly).
Here we sat and had a drink before wandering aimlessly along the narrow streets (buying nougat along the way), before finding the Basilica of St. Sernin amongst all the works going on. An impressive building but some of the areas only open to those booked on a tour. Having exited and walked further around the perimeter I heard the organ start up, so we went back in by another door (following another couple through).
At this point a security guard started speaking to us quite aggressively – of course we couldn’t understand what he was saying, so he motioned us to go back out through the door we’d come in, to point out that we shouldn’t have done (the sign said ‘entree’, but there was a small arrow pointing to the other door which we’d missed) and then made us go in through the other door. This rather spoilt our visit as I felt it was completely unnecessary, so we moved on.
For us there wasn’t anything particularly engaging to see, but we had a pleasant walk around eventually finding the riverside, which was where we stopped for a bite to eat. We had arrived on the first day of a local wine, a little like when beaujolais is ‘released’ but this was ‘Gaillac mon primeur’which was being celebrated with balloons and badges 🙂 We didn’t partake as we already had a drink.
Our lunch was okay – we do find it very strange that neither vegetables or salad are served as a matter of course with meals that we have in France.
After lunch we found our way down to a lovely open area by the water by the Pont Neuf, from where you could see the remaining pillar from the original, and first, bridge across the River Garonne. You can also see a curious red sculpture sitting in one of the arches – this turns out to be ‘The Child in a Donkey’s Cap’ (click here for an explanation).
This was my favourite part of Toulouse, Daurade Port, the open area being enjoyed by many in the sunshine used to be where the laundry women hung all the washing out to dry – and quite a sight that would have been! It was also where bathing boats would moor to allow people to swim in the river.
Crossing the bridge we found the Chateau D’Eau, built when a major benefactor provided the funds, and vastly improving the quality of water supplied to the city, it now houses a gallery that you can visit.
From here we started making our way back to the metro, taking many a wrong turn along the old, narrow streets on our way. We got on at the first station we found (oh, the joys of having a open day long ticket!)
We could have jumped on the navette (free shuttle bus) that journeys around the city had we seen one…
It is true that there is a faint pinkish hue to most buildings; unfortunately we didn’t enjoy enough sunshine during our visit to appreciate the full effect that this is meant to convey.
Once safely back in the car we decided to look for some bread on our way home and ended up going off-route (the way back to the site was just straight, straight, straight). Yep, you’ve guessed it – we managed to make a hash of this and get ourselves lost. Again! If you look closely on our polarsteps map you can probably see where we went wrong!!