August 6, 2018
We took our time leaving the lovely seaside town of Sète and stopped to view castles and sunflower fields. We were lucky to find the latter since the epic harvests are in June.
Our Airbnb in Toulouse, France is in an incredible centuries old building, in the heart of the action and very close to the Toulouse Capitole – a massive government building housing incredibly acclaimed art and situated on a square built in the middle of the 18th century. We toured the building and it’s art, ate on the square and meandered over a few of the famous bridges.
Toulouse is the capital of France’s southern Occitanie Region and is is bisected by the Garonne River, sitting near the Spanish border. It is situated at the junction of the Canal Latéral à la Garonne and Its 17th-century Canal du Midi, where the Garonne River curves northwest from the Pyrenean foothills and links to the Mediterranean Sea.
Founded in ancient times, it was developed as Tolosa during the Roman period and after many changes in ruling powers, resisted the anti-heretic crusade in the 13th century. Afterward, many religious houses and the university (1229) were founded.
Toulouse has numerous medieval churches—notably the Gothic cathedral of Saint-Étienne – it’s across from another, Basilique de la Daurade, which has one of the “Black Madonnas” . The Romanesque basilica of Saint-Sernin, and the Gothic Église des Jacobins.
Another noteworthy attraction is The Musée des Augustins de Toulouse, a fine arts museum which conserves a collection of sculpture and paintings from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century – very gothic.
Aa mentioned, we had a late lunch (and later our dinner) in one of the lively cafés decorating the Place du Capitole. Since the 12th century, the passion of Toulouse pours from this very place. From here, the streets weave deep into the tapestry that makes the “Ville Rose,” named for its dark pink, brick buildings.The colorful streets in the old part of the city provide a view into its rich and vivid past, with their town houses, fountains and squares, museums and churches.
Developed in the 19th century, the Place du Capitole is modeled after the famous square in Madrid. It covers two hectares, making it the city’s largest square and focal point for many public events in Toulouse. A thorough redesigning and restructuring in 1995 allowed space for pedestrians, yet maintained the square’s traditional and historical grace. Restaurants and cafés line three sides of the square, and each side gives a splendid view of the famous pink stone building, formerly a Grand Palace, that now serves as the Capitole.
The Capitole is an impressive building whose neo-classical façade and pink marble columns were completed in 1760 after ten years of construction. Beginning that year, it served as the head office of the old town magistrates. The original 1189 building sat in the same location and ruled Toulouse throughout the Middle Ages. It was also the death place of the assassinated Duc de Montmorency in 1632.
Today the Capitole houses the Theatre National du Capitole, built in 1736, and the Town Hall. The works of local 19th century artists such as Jean-Paul Laurens or Henri Martin are displayed in the Henri-IV courtyard. Nearby, Toulouse celebrities are honored in the Hall of Fame. The doors open out onto the Place de la Capitole, embraced by red-brick buildings and the mark of the Toulouse Cross, a symbol of the town’s historic past.
Even though the Place du Capitole boasts a rich history, it lives for the present. On Wednesdays the Place du Capitole hosts an open-air market from morning until evening. Tuesday and Saturday morning markets are dedicated to shoppers preferring naturally cultivated organic foods at the marché biologique du Capitole. Locals, students, and tourists sit side by side on the terraces of Toulouse’s best-known cafés like Le Bibent, Grand Café de l’Opéra, Le Florida, and Mon Café.
So much to see – so little time! Tomorrow my beloved daughter and her betrothed leave and my Camino buddy Dixie arrives – aahh, life’s transitions!! Bittersweet.