Toulouse Off The Beaten Path Tips by mikey_e Top 5 Page for this destination
Toulouse Off The Beaten Path: 49 reviews and 72 photos
The Ostal de l'Occitània
The Maison de l’Occitanie is a sort of cultural and activist centre that strives to protect the Occitan language and culture and to encourage their adoption and reinvigoration by the people of Toulouse. It offers all sorts of courses on Occitan and the culture of the area, as well as small art exhibits, performances and the like. I don’t believe that there is a bookstore – at least I didn’t see one. In truth, the Maison de l’Occitanie is nothing special if you are not interested specifically in the culture and language of the south of France. There are no big exhibits or explanations (unfortunately) and the centre serves more as a meeting place for enthusiasts than a pro-active centre for recruitment of Occitan speakers. Nevertheless, if you’re traveling through the Pyrenees and are interested in the local cultures and the movements in their defense, it is instructive to stop by the centre and have a look at what it is engaged in.
The Maison de l'Occitanie is at 11 rue Malcousinat, just off of Rue des Changes, a block north of Rue Metz.
Phone: +33 05 61 22 13 31
Warehouse guardwall on the quay
While the centre of Toulouse clustered on the eastern bank of the Garonne can sometimes seem lacking in green space, the western bank (Saint-Cyprien) of the river provides a much more open and green atmosphere. In addition to the park along Avenue Charles le Fitte (see my tip about that attraction), there is also ample opportunity for those who want to go for a bit of a walk and enjoy views of the river. In particular, if you Rue de la Viguerie past the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques, you will eventually come to a quay along which you can follow the river until you get to the Hôpital de la Grave. In order to skirt the Hôpital, the city has created a special catwalk that, while not exactly glamorous, both cuts time off the longer trek around the bulk of the hospital and also allows you to get a more peaceful view of the river and of the opposite bank of the river.
Every French city and town has it Halles - literally the halls, but essentially the municipal market where you can find the usual sort of scenes people generally associate with shopping for food in France. Or at least used to be - from what I can tell, this one in Toulouse has been converted to a musical performance centre.
At the divergence of Place Dupuy and Rue Metz.
The Monument from afar
Those who are history buffs (and I am admittedly not one) will be better placed to provide a more detailed account of the French invasion of Egypt. What I do know to tell you is that Napoleon, in his quest to destroy England and Spain and to convert the known world to the French Republican/Imperial system, embarked on an invasion of the British protectorate Egypt, an adventure that cost plenty of French lives. A commemoration of that military excursion, those who died and the bygone French desire to rule over the Middle East can be found close to the Canal du Midi, in front of Les Halles. It is perhaps not as sombre as the Monument aux Combattants de la Haute Garonne, but it does evoke the sort of grandeur and pomposity so often associated with the Napoleonic era.
Where Rue Metz branches off from Rue Dupuy, at subway stop François Vernier
The Monument from afar
The Monument aux Combattants de la Haute Garonne is a monument to those soldiers from the Haute Garonne (the départment in which Toulouse is found) who fought in the First World War and died for France. In line with tradition, this is monument follows a neo-Classical style with a more sombre touch - although there are columns, the flourishes you see on other such buildings are absent. The truly impressive parts, however, require you to go up close to the Monument. There are incredible bas-reliefs carved into the interior sides of the structure (the has the names of those who died engraved into the stone) showing the anguish of those who died in the trenches. The top of the monument has the names of the fronts on which the sons of Haute Garonne died, including the Somme, Champagne and Flandres. For all the bon vivre of the city, this is a sombre and impressive reminder of the sacrifice France made to defend her lands from the Kaiser's advance.
Allée Forain François Vernier and Rue Metz; subway stop François Vernier
The marché des puces
As the old saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Now imagine that you sift through the trash of a man who lives not only in another country, but in one that is world-renowned for its love of style and fashion! Imagine the treasures you’d find then! That’s exactly what you can do at the Marché des Puces across from the University and the Musée d’histoire naturelle. I don’t know exactly when the flea market is held (I was there on a Sunday), but I’m willing to bet that it is a weekend affair only. The same sort of goods you’d find at flea market in any part of the world predominate here – old books and comics, furniture, records, toys, lighters, buttons, pins, some old clothing, postcards and paintings. I have no idea what the prices are like, although I seem to remember that the comics had price stickers and they were not all that cheap. Still, the fun is in wandering through the market and seeing what’s on offer. Indeed, it provides a nice break from the high-brow attractions of the Musée Georges-Labit and the Musée d’histoire naturelle, both of which are in this area.
Rue Boulbonne's fountain
The Rue Boulbonne isn't anything particularly special - it simply cuts off to the south from Rue d'Astorg right after the Place Saint-Étienne. Nevertheless, it has a beautiful fountain here, one that will certainly delight those looking to get a few interesting pictures. For those more attentive than I, there is a plaque explaining the significance of the statue.
This is the fairly large square onto which the western doors of the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne give. It's kind of a funny square, not because of the architecture (it is absolutely beautiful) but because the sheer size of the Cathedral dwarfs the square and somehow makes it seem slightly ridiculous - sort of like one of those deserted Plaza Mayors in a sleepy Mexican town. The Place Saint-Étienne has an exquisite large fountain and immaculate stonework that nevertheless makes it feel like a throwback to the Ancien Régime, and a few permanent book-stalls with some odd titles (a lot on Communism) but that give your feet a bit of a rest while you browse through the titles.
Place Saint Georges looking to Rue d'Astorg
I don't know how to classify this, as it could go under shopping, siteseeing or nightlife, so I figured that it would be best ot simply classify it as "off the beaten track". In truth, Place Saint-Georges is very much on the beaten track - you will come to it if you decide to walk from the Place du Capitole towards the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne. It is a large, semi-circular open area that, during the morning, is just a quiet bourgeois shopping area, but which comes alive at night with cafés, restaurants and ice cream sellers. It is a good idea to go at least twice, in different parts of the day, to get an appropriate feel for the area. In the morning, you'll be able to see the pretty fountains and window shop (the stores are all fairly high-end) and in the evening you can enjoy a drink or coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés while watching the fashionable people stroll by.
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