La Ville Rose

So why Toulouse? The Venn diagram isn’t complicated. I was looking for a place in France, broadly between Valencia and San Sebastian, with a good train line, and a good french school. Toulouse isn’t the only one of those, but it also has the advantage of having three World Heritage sites in town (those of you who know me know that I am a bit of a collector of World Heritage sites).

It took me all day yesterday, and three trains, to get here, but it was definitely worth it.

Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose (the pink city) for the slightly prosaic reason that many of the oldest buildings are built of bricks rather than stone – there is a lot of clay in the area and not much stone. And the clay has a lot of iron in it, so the bricks are pinker than average as well. As with many places in this area, we can thank the romans – they moved in here, displacing the locals who had already called it Tolosa, and building with bricks in the first century.

Donjon de Toulouse – classic pink Toulouse

So far, my strolling hasn’t taken me all that far yet, but purely by chance, my stroll last night took me to one of the World Heritage sites – the Basilica of Saint Sernin – one of the oldest Romanesque churches in western Europe, and also a key stop on the Chemin de Compostelle, as they call the Camino de Santiago here. It is known as a chill place to take in the sunset – and with Toulouse being a university town, the gentle smell of weed added to the ambience as the locals enjoyed a game of petanque.

A good start to a french fortnight.

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