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Toulouse

I am putting together a trip for myself and my parents in May. We’re looking at 17-18 days (not counting travel days here) that will take us through the Dordogne, Languedoc-Roussillon, and Provence. Our plan is to fly into Toulouse and out of Marseilles.

I was just wondering if anyone could give me advice regarding Toulouse. My parents would like to see the city before we drive to Sarlat and also because we’ve learned it’s pretty much a terrible decision to drive anywhere on the day of arrival, having nearly crashed on the way to Rouen a few years ago.

For those who have been, is it a half day city? Full day city? Is there anything you particularly enjoyed seeing? Anywhere you particularly enjoyed staying? Eating? Rick pretty much ignores it in his guidebook.

Depending on the flight we choose, we’ll either get potentially greater than a full day to enjoy Toulouse or very little time in the city at all. The flights available to us just aren’t very convenient.

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We spent ten days in Toulouse and never ran out of things to see and do. Stay as close to the main plaza, Place du Capitale, as possible. Here’s the website for a podcast about traveling in France, Join Us in France. The speakers are based in Toulouse, so a few shows are about Toulouse. https://joinusinfrance.com/

Edit: Adding that there are restaurants in the two covered markets. Most close at 2:00 pm, so are for midday meals (which we prefer).

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If you enjoy churches then Toulouse is absolutely brilliant - Basilique Saint-Sernin, Musee des Augustins (a former convent), the Couvent des Jacobins (where you can find the relics of Thomas Aquinas), and the Cathedrale Saint-Etienne. Architecturally they are all very interesting and you could spend a while just exploring them. There are also some very pleasant parks (Jardin des Plantes/Jardin Royal and the Jardin Japonais). A walk along to the river is also a nice way to pass some time and I believe there are cruises along the Canal du Midi (although we didn't have time for that). As for food, Toulouse has some great food! Definitely not a city for vegetarians but if you like steak it's the perfect place! We enjoyed Meet the Meat for the sheer quantity of food you got for your money. One of the more famous places is L'Entrecôte, but personally I think it's overhyped and there are much better places around. Food in Toulouse does tend to err on the more expensive side, so if you're looking for a cheaper eat we liked Le Grenier de Pepe for their galettes. We spent a very leisurely 3 nights in Toulouse and still feel as though we could've been there longer, but if you like to pack a lot into your day you could do it in much less.

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Toulouse is a very nice visit. Head to the TI located in the dungeon on the south side of the Capitole. They have nice self-guided walking tours of the city as well as a lot more info as to what is happening. If flight is a passion, visit Airbus outside the city.

My main reason to visit Toulouse was to enjoy dining on Cassoulet at Le Colombier, one of the restaurants which developed Le Charte - the official recipe for Cassoulet. Here a a few passages from my blog:

Bonjour Toulouse
On the banks of the River Garonne, Toulouse is France's fourth largest city and has the third largest university in France. As a result, over 25% of the population are students so the city is a bit more electric than Lyon or Strasbourg. The tourist office has maps with walking routes and descriptions for five self-guided walks around Toulouse. Easy to navigate and some interesting sights and museums. The most noted museum is Musee des Augustins which houses a collection of historical, religious and architectural exhibits that are basically from Toulouse's medieval past. In itself interesting, there was also a marvelous exhibition of paintings by Benjamin Constant. Though not familiar with his works prior to seeing this exhibition, it was a pleasant surprise. Intimate and sometimes frightening views of life and death in Turkey, Egypt and Morocco. Portraits and family scenes in France. Quite a contrast and very interesting and enjoyable. Another noted museum is Fondation Bemberg. What once was a private mansion now shows a varied collection including 18th century Venetian furnishings and paintings, 16th - 19th century French furnishings and a great art collection with works from Caneletto, Renoir, Modigliani, Toulouse (appropriately) Lautrec and Degas among others.

Street Food
Having some time while waiting for the Fondation Bemberg to reopen after lunch, I ambled back to a boulangerie I had passed earlier. Secret de Pains is actually part of a chain. Their display of artisan bread beckoned me. The shop had a young female baker who turned out some amazing breads. And they also sold quiche, tartes, salads, and deserts. Seating was outside in the bustle and charm of Toulouse. I had spicy chicken sandwich on a multigrain baguette with lettuce and tomato. We should be lucky to get a sandwich this good in the US. Price, about $4.75. Take that Subway.

Le Colombier
And now cassoulet. Le Colombier is not in the touristy or upscale part of the city. It reminded me a bit of Marseille. I arrived at 8 on Wednesday and was seated immediately. The waitresses both spoke English very well and service was above my expectations. I chose the 39€ menu which included the cassoulet, a starter and desert. What a starter. Foie gras. Two beautifully fatty slices of different foie gras that melted in your mouth and were perfectly prepared. Served with little rounds of slightly toasted baguette, tiny cubes of a spicy aspic and a mini sprout salad, it was one of the best starters I have ever eaten. This was followed by a perfectly prepared cassoulet. What else would expect at a restaurant that is part of the original association that created the Charte for the dish? Tasty country sausage, those great white beans, a few tender slices of pork topped by a piece of goose with beautifully crisped skin. All baked for for hours and seasoned to a “T”. For desert, a cheese course with generous amounts of six different cheeses. The one with the strongest taste is always eaten last. In this case it was a goat cheese rolled in cracked peppercorns. The cheese was so runny that it was difficult to keep on your knife while spreading it on the bread. I normally am not a big fan of chèvre but this was an exceptional fromage. Washed down with a bottle of their own label wine and topped off with a glass of Armangac it was a perfect meal.

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Awesome replies and much appreciated! We just booked flights today and elected for the longer stay in Toulouse. Arrive 130 pm on a Saturday and will not be leaving until Tuesday am. I’ll be sure to check out the little museums. Art and History are passions for both myself and my father.

If anyone else has suggestions, I will very much continue to take them