29 June 2012

Toulouse....My introduction to the south of France

It was a hot, sunny day in which I began my adventures in South France. I was shown Toulouse by two wonderful ladies, Maud (my exchange student from a year ago), and Christine (her Mom). They wanted to be sure that I saw everything Toulouse had to offer.
We started at the Tourist Info office, which is housed in the tower of the Capitole (city hall). This building was built in the 1600's, and it stands facing a huge square/courtyard, around which one observes buildings that exemplify the neo-classical facade of the 1800's. These buildings alternate red brick and stone.

Speaking of red brick, it's the generous use of red brick, that gives the town it's nickname: la ville rose, the red village.

We walked on to see the Taur Church (Taur -- think Taurus, the bull). This church recalls the martyrdom of St. Sernin, the town's first bishop. He was dragged through the streets by a bull.
Speaking of the streets, I noticed that the streets were narrow, buildings were tall and the windows were also tall and narrow. Christine also pointed out that many of the buildings had an uppermost level where the windows were either square surrounding the level, or it was simply screened like a balcony. The windows all had a purpose. The streets, as I said before, are narrow, thus the tall windows allowed for as much light as possible to come into the building, no matter the angle of the sun. The upper level was previously open-aired and was used for drying meats etc, so that the people of Toulouse would have provisions for the winter.

Our next stop was the Saint Sernin Basilica. The basilica is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the largest Romanesque churches in Europe, built from the 11th to 14th centuries.

We continued to make our way through town, through the winding streets. The buildings were lovely, I saw so many interesting styles of shutters on windows, door knockers and architectural styles. It should also be noted that I had to actively work hard to figure out how to avoid being run over by cars. Yes that's right, after 15 days in the United Kingdom I had so acclimated to their traffic directions, that the ones in France (identical to the US I might add), confused me.
Then we made our way down to the Garonne River and walked along it's banks. La Garonne is a huge river spanning much of the south of France. Eventually it merges with other waterways and empties into the Atlantic. The Garonne also flows directly behind Maud and Christine's house.

We wrapped up our time in Toulouse with lunch. I had an amazing salad with lettuce, tomato, asparagus, artichoke, onions and of course, wonderful French bread!

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Location:Toulouse, France

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