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Toulouse France Attractions Getting around Tours Day Trips

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The Toulouse area has been in something of a no man's land since the new regional boundaries were disclosed in the 1960s. Whilst Toulouse has always been the capital of Languedoc, it was not included in the new Languedoc Roussillon region. Nor was it lumped in with the Pyrenees, so it remains somewhere in between and is doing quite well all on its own, with the historical Albi and unfortunately named Condom nearby to help it along.

The Gasgogne (Gascony) region stretches between Toulouse and the Atlantic coast and is home to Armagnac, fois gras and other such French delicacies. Official tourist site for Toulouse.

After Paris, Lyon and Marseille, Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, capital of the Midi Pyrénées region and famous for aerospace and other high tech industries. With 110,000 students attending the 14 grandes écoles and other universities here, Toulouse is as important an intellectual centre as Paris. People call it la ville rose because the old town is built in pink granite. Until 1271, when it became the property of the northern French king after the Albigensian Crusade, Toulouse was a powerful town with much of southern France under its control. The court was where troubadour poets dreamed up tales of courtly love that inspired Chaucer, Dante and Petrarch and thus much of subsequent European poetry.

Whilst Toulouse has a métro system, you won't need it to explore the main sites of interest, all of which are contained within a fairly small area in the centre of town. The main square is pedestrianized place du Capitole where people hang out at lunch and early evening in the smart cafés, and where there is a clothes, food and flea market on Wednesday. The Capitole refers to the city hall, seat of Toulouse's government since the 1100s, where a 1750s building now flies the official flags of region, republic and continent. Around about are hôtels particuliers, built in the distinctive Toulousain pink stone by the council members in the streets near the Capitole. The Hôtel Assézat on rue de Metz (€4.57) has a fine collection of paintings and is architecturally interesting to boot. It is one of the few of the 50 hôtels particuliers that is open to the public.

An uninspiring looking Augustinian monastery on the same road houses the Musée des Augustins (€2.20) with wonderful Romanesque and medieval sculptures rescued from churches vandalised during the Revolution. The best contemporary art museum in France is arguably Les Abattoirs at 76 allées Charles de Fitte (€6). An abattoir built in 1828 has been admirably regenerated and is now the perfect space for displaying around 2000 artworks, including Picasso's massive canvas "La dépouille du Minotaure en costume d'Arlequin" painted in 1936.