Toulouse - The Rose City
This is a wonderful city to explore; small enough to walk round yet big on restaurants, shops, theatre and music with the famous Capitole Opera House. It is called the Rose City after the red brick (Toulouse brick) that adorns so many of the magnificent buildings. Its lies halfway between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and north of the Pyrenees and a perfect location to visit Carcassonne, the Black Mountains (Montagne Noir) and in just an hour and half you can be in the tiny principality of Andorra for some duty free shopping. Toulouse is also the centre of Europe’s aerospace industry and Toulouse Space Centre (Cité de l’Espace).
To get a flavour of this wonderful city then enjoy reading below the delights that it has to offer from young and old alike. No-one is ever disappointed when they visit the Rose City.
Shops & Markets
Toulouse is like a mini Paris for shopping with an abundance of shops from designer labels to high street brands. The main street has the famous Galeries Lafayette department store but venture down the side streets to find some fabulous shoe shops, florists, gift shops and some fabric and furnishing shops.
The daily market that runs along the boulevard adjacent to the Capitole is perfect for fresh fruit and vegetables but if you want something posher and very famous then go to Victor Hugo which is near the Capitole in Rue Victor Hugo. It’s a covered market and in the main hall there are chic stalls selling seafood, meat, fruit & vegetables, flowers and not forgetting foie gras that is so fabulous in this region. You can sip champagne which is sold by the glass as you gaze upon your purchases. At the top of the market is a restaurant where all food served is from the market below.
Place du Capitole
Day or night, there’s always something happening in this vast square which is in the centre of Toulouse. On two sides are shops and on one side are lots of restaurants and pavement cafes that are all undercover. You can have anything from a grande café crème to oysters and the atmosphere is always “buzzing” whether its winter or summer. Facing these is the magnificent red bricked building which houses the city hall as well as the famous Opera House. Inside the town hall, a grand marble staircase leads up to the Salle des Illustres, a sumptuous Baroque hall, its walls and vaulted ceilings covered with elaborate paintings and frescoes.
Seeing the biggest passenger airplane in the world, the A380, under construction in its vast hanger makes this visit a thrill for young and old. The tour begins in the darkened Telemetry Room where a video shows the inaugural flight in 2005 and you can even hear the pilots’ cockpit conversations.
Your guide will explain the exhaustive testing the 850-seat plane has undergone to ensure it’s safe and the company filled an A380 with staff posing as passengers and locked half the exit doors then ordered an evacuation. Within minutes, everyone was out.
The two-storey plane has an 80-metre wingspan and is fitted with 500 kilometres of electric cables and were all constructed in the giant hanger below the viewing window. The United Arab Emirates alone ordered 90 of them as well as other airlines around the world.
Part of the tour entails a visit to the mock-up cabin interior and here’s where the purchaser gets to customize the interior of their new baby, choosing the colours, upholstery and even the configuration of the seats. Singapore Airlines ordered for their first class passenger’s mini suites with king size beds while Emirates’ best customers will have private showers, Air France is building an in-flight art gallery and Korean Air is building onboard duty-free shops.
Toulouse Space Centre
The Space Centre is a science park based around space and space exploration and situated on the edge of Toulouse. Here you can explore the centre and uncover the secrets of the Universe. Since 2012 the space adventure park in Toulouse has been completely redesigned and renewed its permanent exhibitions. The result is an interactive adventure into man's enthusiasm for the stars and it’s “a must” to see even if you don’t think that space travel is “your thing”.
Like a VIP, you are taken behind the scenes in a centre where rockets are launched and satellites are manufactured and you find out how human beings are sent into space. You can also get to know the history of the space adventure. You will see the life size replica of the Arian 5 rocket (53 metres high), the Soyuz spaceship and the ERS Earth observation satellite. With the giant screen cinema and the Planetarium, you can immerse yourself into the picture and become a special passenger on a voyage through the cosmos.
A selection of villas to stay near Toulouse follows below.