Toulouse

  • Perhaps no major city in France has been transformed over the past decade as much as Toulouse. The country’s fourth-largest city has grown more cosmopolitan, in part thanks to Airbus consolidating its headquarters in this region, bringing a greater international influence even as the city thankfully lacks the hordes of tourists found in other fashionable destinations. City leaders have been pouring money into frenzied renovations of seemingly every corner of its historic city center famed for its light-colored brick facades. Much of that work has wound down and the wraps have come off. So with the coronavirus lockdown over and…

  • With the confinement over, we’ve dusted off our bikes and have started exploring the region around Toulouse on Sunday mornings. Pedaling south, we kept the Garonne river on our right. After only 15 minutes, the landscape shifted from urban to rural, and for about an hour we had a pleasant journey over a mix of bike paths, bike lanes, and local roads. Le Parc du Confluent remains closed. After passing that, we were now along the Ariège River. We made it to the south end of Lacroix-Falgarde and passed the Pont de Fer, a small bridge that is badly in…

  • La Halle de la Machine closed in January for its annual pause to make repairs on its celebrated giant mechanical menagerie and to prepare for the year ahead. On a recent visit, I got to glimpse the work that goes on behind the scenes. The focus of much of the work was the Minotaur, which made its debut in 2018 during a 4-day street opera in Toulouse. The Minotaur, made of wood and metal and weighing 46 tons, runs on a complex hydraulic system and is operated by more than a dozen people. A short time after that, La Machine,…

  • France’s craft beer boom has been building slowly for several years, but the impact of this hops revolution really struck me one summer evening while meeting a friend for a glass of wine. We had sat on the terrace of a bar across from the Marché de Carmes in Toulouse and ordered two glasses of red wine. As we waited for them to arrive, I noticed something odd as the waiter continued to take other orders. Young, old, middle age, they were all ordering beer. I craned my neck around and couldn’t see another glass or bottle of wine in…

  • Stepping inside the Maison Samaran boutique across from Toulouse’s Victor Hugo Marché is more than just a chance to forage for the essential elements of Southwestern French cuisine. It is an opportunity to visit and pay homage to the Mecca of all things duck. On a recent morning, I arrived and spent a few minutes browsing the display case full of magret de canard, duck thighs, duck confit, duck hearts, and dried duck. On the shelves, there were jars full of cassoulet, duck fat, patés, terrines, and rillettes. I had come to interview the head of this empire, Christophe Samaran…

  • Riding our bikes along the Canal du Midi to eat lunch at L’Écluse de Castanet is one of those perfect days that reminds us why we moved to France. We had been meaning to do this since just about forever, but sometimes the grind of daily life gets you in a rut. Fortunately, my wife had a fit of inspiration and suggested an outing at the last minute. Pulling away from the inertia of routine is never easy, and work’s siren song is often hard to ignore. That is particularly true for us eat-lunch-at-our-desk Americans. Still, we roused ourselves and…

  • Toulouse’s Cité de l’Espace has reopened today after its winter maintenance as the space-themed park gears up for a year-long celebration of the first human stepping onto the moon. Back in July 1969, the Apollo 11 touched down and Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. Visitors to Cité de l’Espace can relive that moment while experiencing a range of cultural, scientific, and historic events related to the moon. The celebration includes a mural 20 meters by 4 meters that honors the challenge issued by President John F. Kennedy. A larger exhibition called “Moon, episode II”, will open on April 20,…

  • ‘Thanks to its giant robotic minotaur and spider, La Machine caused a huge sensation in its new hometown of Toulouse back in early November. The 4-day Guardian of the Temple street theater production was followed one week later by the grand opening of La Halle de La Machine, its permanent workshop and menagerie for its fantastic creations. While we knew these were both big hits, now we know how big. As La Halle closed for the holiday season, the group released a statement indicating that 900,000 people witnessed the Guardian spectacle. And the 3-day inauguration drew 70,000 visitors. That included…

  • Toulouse

    A festive December in Toulouse

    by Chris O'Brien
    by Chris O'Brien

    This marks our fifth holiday season in Toulouse, and we still love the atmosphere of the city this time of year. From the Christmas market, to just the everyday sights, sounds and smells, there remains something magical about the holiday season in the soutwest of France. These are some of my favorite photos taking over the past few weeks.

  • The 6th annual Mister Freeze exhibition is just wrapping up this weekend, and this was our second year touring the astonishing works of graffiti. The exhibition was held from September 29 to October 7, and included the works of 30 local, national and international artists on display in the former Latécoère airplane factory. The exhibition covers a total of 11,000 square meters. Basically, the artists are given free rein to do as they wish with their sections of the massive concrete walls. The results are sometimes moving and sometimes just mind-blowing.

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