When people talk about France, mostly they will talk about Paris. It’s the same thing for me, eventhough I’ve never been to Paris before my last holiday. But since my sister and her family moved to Toulouse last year, the city’s name began to sound familiar to me.
When my plane landed on Blagnac, Toulouse International Airport, the first thing that caught my eyes was the oddly-shaped Airbus Beluga airplane, the airport’s most voluminous inhabitant. This airplane is modified to carry aircraft parts and oversized cargo. Toulouse is known as the center of European aviation industry, home to the Airbus headquarters and Aerospace Valley. You can even book a tour into Airbus factory to see how they assembled the planes.
Besides all things related to aerospace, Toulouse still has a lot to offer. This fourth largest city in France is known as “La Ville Rose” or the pink city for its pinkish terracota bricks, used by the old buildings. Not as glamour as Paris, but somehow I like Toulouse more than Paris. It’s more laid back, simple, and not too crowded. According to my sister, Toulouse is prettiest in spring time because you can see lots of pretty flowers. Even the one that grows wild on the grass turns out to be beautiful. As for me, I came to Toulouse around the last month of summer season. Coming from tropical country like Indonesia, the summer weather fits me the most because it’s not as cold as the other season. There are also a lot of special events took place in summer, like the Toulouge Plages, and summer sale! :p
There are no beach in Toulouse. So every summer, the banks of River Garonne will be transformed into “beaches” called Toulouse Plages with badminton fields, children outbond area, huge sand box, inflatable castles, and a big ferris wheel. You can go picnic at the Plages or read a book while basking yourself in the warm sunshine. Lots of people took this opportunity to enjoy a little sun bathing time. I preferred to sit on the plump green grass, watching the people go canoeing or cruising along the river while I captured the scenery in a painting. Usually, every year during Indonesian Independence Day, some PPI Toulouse members throw a little picnic at Toulouse Plages. Me and my family joined them to celebrate the special day.
Like any other cities in Europe, Toulouse also has a lot of flea markets. I had an opportunity to visit St. Aubin open market that sells pre-loved items as well as new products. I’ve bought myself some coloring book and children literatures with a very reasonable price. You can also find some homemade products in this market like artisanal jams and honey, hand-stitched children clothing or handmade accessories. Feeling thirsty? Why don’t you sip a cup of juice, freshly made from organic oranges and berries without sugar added.
During my last week at Toulouse, I was eager to find stores that sells art supplies, stationery, or interesting knick-knacks. I was so happy when my sister took me to Graphigro, a two-storey art supplies store at Rue de Metz. I bought some coloring books and Pentel Aquash brush pen that I was longing for quite a while. Hema is another place I loved, about two blocks away from Graphigro. The store has a variety of products ranging from make up to ceramic, stationery to toys. They also sell dutch-made chocolate and snacks like nougat or cheese balls. Although it’s not as big as their other outlet in UK or Netherland, but it’s enough to make me drool over their cute candles and cooking utensils.
Not too far to Hema there’s a concept store called Trait where you can find interesting stuff like gift wrap, home accessories, bags, etc. It’s soooo cool! But it’s a bit pricey for me. Walk straight from Trait towards Rue Baronie and you can find Le Petit Souk, a home decor store that sells cute stuff for kids room and nursery. Across the street there’s Espace Tintin, a small shop that sells Tintin books and merchandise.
If you’re using the metro or bus, take the direction towards Esquirol station. All those shops I’ve mentioned above are within walking distance from the metro station.
INTERESTING THINGS TO DO IN TOULOUSE
Stroll around the parks. I love the parks! You know it’s hard to find a good and spacious park in Jakarta. So I was more than happy to visit the gardens and parks around Toulouse. Bya loved it too since she could play with her cousins and enjoy the lush greenery. Too bad I didn’t have a chance to visit Jardin du Grand Rond. A big garden connected to Jardin Royal and Jardin de Plantes. It would be lovely to spend the day exploring each corner of those gardens.
Visit the farmers market. There’s a lot of market in Toulouse, but not every market opens everyday. I’ve visited Jeanne D’Arc Marche near the metro station. It opens from 7AM to 12 PM. You can find fresh produces like fruits, vegetables, bread, even cheese and meat! I was so thrilled to finally taste some fresh cherries and peaches, and also tomatoes with their stalks still attached. It’s hard to find those fresh fruits in Indonesia. If there’s any, usually the price is pretty expensive. Oh, there’s also this one stall that sell 21 variety of olives and many types of grains, nuts, and dried fruits.
Ride a bike or run along Canal du Midi. The canal runs from the city of Toulouse down to the Étang de Thau near the Mediterranean. The photo I took is part of the canal near Rangueil.
Explore the old town area. There’s a lot of interesting architecture around Place du Capitole. You can start walking from Capitole or Jean Jaures metro station. Every wednesday there’s flea market in front of the Capitole building. After wandering around, I’d like to treat myself with a cup of Amarino’s gelato. Their mango and strawberry gelato are so refreshing! And did you know that you can order all their 22 flavors in a cup?
Almost all public transportation are operated by Tisseo, including the metro and local buses. To enjoy Toulouse, I would suggest you to buy the day pass ticket (Pass Journée) for 5,50 €. It can be used for the metro, buses, and trams without a limit for a whole day. Two-days pass ticket (Pass 2 jours, 8,50 €) and three-days pass tickets (Pass 3 jours, 10,50 €) are also available. Riding on a bus took longer time, but it lets you enjoy the lovely view along the route.
It was a fun time for me and Bya. We learned new culture, saw beautiful landscape, and amazed by every little things we met. Bya loved to play with tiny ladybugs that she found at the front yard of the apartment. It has cute tiki-shaped pattern on their back. We also collected some wild flowers for Kitty’s Buku Bebungaan project. Our time in Toulouse was a wonderful memory that we’ll both treasure forever.