50 YEARS OF TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
50 YEARS OF TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
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The Hôtel d'Assézat, just off of the Rue de Metz, is a fine representative of the beautiful hôtels particuliers, or private mansions, of Toulouse. Even if you decide not to visit the museum, at least take a look at the mansion and courtyard. The mansion was built in the 17th century for Pierre d'Assézat, a merchant who made a fortune developing woad, a plant used to make dye. The mansion consists of 13 rooms, all beautifully decorated. There are rooms which focus on paintings, sculptures, bound books, portraits, furnishings, modern works. And other rooms feature works by Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec. There is also a small outdoor café on the terrace just before you enter the museum, a nice spot for lunch or a coffee.
The Royal Garden was the first public garden in Toulouse and is one of the remarkable gardens of France. Created shortly before the revolution of 1789, it is a very quiet place, conducive to meditative walks and poetic reverie - featuring a water element with a romantic bridge crossing over it. This garden continues to have very old exotic species even today. It is made up of remarkable species of trees and a lake that houses ducks and swans. A footbridge connects it to the garden of the Grand-Rond. Enter the garden through the west door, between a micocoulier of Provence and a ginkgo biloba. Its orange-yellow fruits, placed on a calyx with four sepals arranged in crosses, are edible after the first frosts.
What would the ‘Pink City’ be without the Place du Capitole? If there is one building in Toulouse not to miss and worth visiting, this is it. The Capitole complex hosts the City Hall and the National Theatre of Toulouse. This is, in fact, the heart of the historic city. Toulouse's magnificent main square is the city's literal and metaphorical heart, where Toulousiens turn out en masse on sunny evenings to sip a coffee or an early aperitif at a pavement cafe. On the eastern side is the façade of the Capitole, the city hall, built in the 1750s. Inside is the Théâtre du Capitole, one of France's most prestigious opera venues, and the over-the-top, late 19th-century Salle des Illustres (Hall of the Illustrious).
The Carmelite Chapel, built in the 17th century, features wall paintings created in two parts by two different artists - Jean-Pierre Rivatz and Jean-Baptiste Despax. These paintings evoke the virtues of Carmel. The chapel of the Carmelites was built from 1622 under the direction of the architect Didier Sansonnet, also architect of Saint-Exupery. Completed in 1643, at the end of the 17th century, it received a first decoration, the work of the Toulouse painter, which was directly inspired by the abundance of gothic Toulouse of the fourteenth century, but revisited, notably by the use of a ceiling in paneling on which are marouflé painted decorations. Jean-Pierre Rivalz's first set, made at the end of the 17th century, has only the four virtues of the first bay, the rest being created between 1747 and 1751 by Jean-Baptiste Despax. If you like classic painting, then do not miss this impressive set.
The Pont Neuf is the most famous bridge in Toulouse. In the fourteenth century, it became necessary to replace the two old bridges of Toulouse: the Old Bridge and the Covered Bridge. In 1541, the king wanted his troops en route to Spain to cross the Garonne with ease, so construction began on the Pont Neuf de Toulouse, a large and secure construction. In 1597, Pierre Souffron took command of the works and resolved any issues arising during its construction. The new Parisian architect Lemercier, imported his Parisian workers, and built the beautiful low arches still visible today. Construction was completed in 1632. After taking nine decades to finish its construction, Louis XIV finally opened the Pont Neuf of Toulouse on October 19, 1659.
Foods You Must Try In Toulouse
Cassoulet is the obvious star of the Toulouse culinary show. This traditional dish is a slow cooked stew of duck confit, haricot beans, pork and Toulouse pork sausages. It is rich, unctuous and filling and usually served simply with grated cheese and a glass of robust red wine from the local vineyards. The one pot meal is named after the pottery casserole dish it is cooked in.
These famous sausages have already made an appearance in the cassoulet above, but they are also found fried or braised as a meal in themselves. The sausages have a protected status that means the genuine article is only sold in and around Toulouse itself. Made from pork and smoked bacon flavored with garlic and wine they taste about as French as a sausage can.
Whether it’s a simple pan-fried duck breast or confit duck leg the quality of the local produce really shines through. Although you can find decent duck confit in many parts of France, Toulouse and its surrounding areas are where you’ll want to indulge in one of France’s finest dishes. In the traditional recipe, all the parts of the duck are used and cooked in the meat’s fat to obtain that fantastic taste and tender texture.
Made with bread, eggs and pork meat, the bougnette is a handmade, 400-gram fritter. Once cooked, it looks like a small, golden ball. You can enjoy bougnette only from the Tarn region, famous for specializing in salted and pork-based food.
If you like pork, you will certainly enjoy some porc noir Gascon (black pork from Gascon), a variety of pork that’s not easy to find, but is worth the hassle of tracking it down. Ask locals where to find quality porc Gascon, or go to the market where a handful of merchant sell this excellent product.
If you are in Toulouse you must try (and bring back home if you can) some goose liver. Goose meat is much appreciated, but goose foie gras is becoming more and more popular in France and abroad for its taste, which is more delicate than duck foie gras.
Croquants are bound to be a heavenly experience for fans of the French cuisine. This savory dessert consists of crisp biscuits that are made from almonds and caramelised sugar and is the perfect way to finish off a traditional Toulouse meal. You can eat them own their own - or pair them with chocolate, nuts or fruit.
The garbure is another typical Toulouse dish you’ll no doubt enjoy, especially on the colder days. The ingredients follow the seasons, which ensures its vivifying and energizing properties all year long. In order to enhance the taste, duck confit or pork knuckle are frequently added. The secret for a good garbure is in its slow cooking; the longer the better.
After walking around the city, why not take a break and treat yourself to a tarte aux noix (nut pie)? Ideal for dessert or with afternoon tea, it’s a yummy specialty you’ll discover in the Ville Rose. You can eat it plain or try it with ice cream.
Used as a seasoning in some meals, pastries and candies. Violet jam and jelly are well-known in Toulouse, but you should also try the syrup and violet liqueur. Grown in Toulouse since the 19th century, the violet is a delicate flower, full of charm, and with a subtle flavor. When cooked, the violet brings an original, fragrant and colorful touch to the most diverse preparations, from fruit salads and mixed salads and meat-based dishes.
A true emblem of Toulouse’s gastronomy, the city celebrates the violet each year in February.
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The Canal du Midi is an engineering wonder, a lengthy waterway constructed under Louis XIV to link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. Deservedly inscribed on Unesco's list of the world's cultural heritage, the stretch wending from Toulouse towards Port Lauragais has 40km of cycling and walking paths to enjoy. The Canal du Midi also allows other sports, mainly in urban areas, such as rowing, canoeing, fishing, roller-skating, and hiking along the banks. A paved stretch from Toulouse to Avignonet-Lauragais and between Béziers and Portiragnes are particularly suited to cycling and rollerblading.
Creme de Violette Liqueur
Creme de Violette is a low-proof, dark blue liqueur made from the flower, violet. A glass of Creme de Violette smells flowery and sweet. The taste is well-defined and memorable, and there's a note to it that’s almost earthy. The aftertaste is the same - gently sweet and floral. It feels light on the tongue, not heavy or oily. Creme de Violette adds a distinct floral note which can change the character of a cocktail. It’s usually paired with gin, which has herbal and citrus notes to balance the sweetness. It also works well with other sweet liqueurs, such as the maraschino liqueur in the Aviation Cocktail. It provides a wonderful contrast for citrus juices, particularly lemon and lime.
Wines & Liqueurs To Try In Toulouse
Fronton, the local wine of Toulouse, is an appellation for rustic red and rosé wines from the area just north of Toulouse. Fronton wines are made predominantly from Negrette, a grape variety almost exclusive to this part of France and said to have been brought here by the Knights Templar on their return from the Crusades. The rules say that Fronton wine, red or rosé, must include 50 to 70% Négrette, but a blend it must be. A handful of other grape varieties may be used in Fronton wines. The most significant of these are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec. Fronton wines, both red and rosé, are typically best drunk within a few years of vintage.
It was called “Black Wine” for years - the French Malbec wines from Cahors in France’s Southwest region. The British were the main consumers of this rich, unctuous and tannic drink until the root louse phylloxera decimated the vineyards in the late 1800’s. 100 years later, after replanting with terroir in mind, the Cahors wine producers awakened to a different Malbec world far from their shores, in Argentina. In 1971, Cahors wines made from Malbec (at least 70%), achieved the esteemed AOC recognition (now called AOP – “Appellation d’Origine ProtegÈe).
Famous Waterways in Toulouse
The Garonne River runs for 357 miles through southwestern France and northern Spain. From its headwaters in the Pyrenees, it follows the Aran Valley northward into France, flowing through Toulouse on its way to Bordeaux, where it meets the Gironde estuary—which flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Biscay. In spite of the presence of some 50 locks, the Garonne is one of the few rivers in Europe that exhibit a tidal bore, a phenomenon by which a wave of water can flow back upriver. Towns along the Garonne include Toulouse, Bordeaux and Blaye.
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