Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Friday, September 9, 2022

Toulouse, August 17-20

 Since our idea for next year is to backtrack partway on the Canal du Midi and then return to Castelsarrasin, we will be visiting Toulouse twice. This visit would be a short one, just to get our bearings.

With a population of about half a million in the urban area and about 1 1/2 million in the metropolitan area, Toulouse is the center of the European aerospace industry (Airbus and the CNES Space Center) as well as the home of one of Europe’s oldest universities (founded in 1229) and several other prestigious institutes of higher education.

The first historical mention of Toulouse is in the 2nd century BC as Tolosa. The city was the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom in the 5th century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the late Middle Ages, making it the unofficial capital of the cultural region of Southern France. It is now the capital of the region of Occitania, the second largest region in France. 

We left our bankside mooring just before the suburbs around 9 am and were in the city center just before lunch.There is a marina but we didn’t need any services and there’s no shade there so we stopped just a little before it; a free mooring along the well shaded bank.

Max Gerrard, the broker who sold us the boat back in St. Jean de Losne, 

happened by when we weren’t there but took a picture and emailed it to us.

Our first stop in town was, of course, the tourist office at the Capitole.

The entrance is around the side.

We loved the tower.

After the tourist office, we made our way to the Place Victor Hugo and it’s covered market. The second floor is all small restaurants where we had lunch. It was loud and chaotic but Cathy Jo was the winner with a great plate of fresh fish.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets, getting our bearings and examining shop windows.

Tutus! A store of tutus!

They had a window of toe shoes, too.

We also took a look inside one of the many churches in the city, this one the Cathedral Saint Etienne.

Thursday it was off to Les Abbatoirs, the Toulouse Museum of Contemporary Art. We walked all the way across town, crossing the Garonne River on the Pont Neuf. The main exhibit when we were there, Orlan, Corps et sculptures, is no longer at the museum but you can get a look at what it was all about here . It is a museum of Contemporary Art. The other exhibitions were pretty interesting and in the basement, Picasso’s Le d√©pouille du Minotaure en costume d’Arlequin (The remains of the Minotaur in a Harlequin costume), painted in 1936 as a stage curtain for Romain Rolland's play Quatorzejuillet (July 14) dominated the room.

(Photo from France 3)

Friday we spent more time walking the streets, visiting two more churches, the Basilica Saint Sernin and the Jacobins church and cloister.

The basilica was built to honor Saturnin, the first bishop and martyr of Toulouse who was killed in 250. A small church was built in the 5th century but became and important stopping place on the Campostela pilgrim route. The current building was constructed in the middle of the 19th century after the original larger church, consecrated in 1096, was destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century.

Speaking of Compostela, along with the many bicyclists, the path alongside the canal is very busy with hikers, their backpacks decorated with the scallop shell indicating they are on a Camino.

Buildings have a very different look in Toulouse. Stone was (and is) expensive here so almost everything is constructed of the pinkish Toulouse bricks. It makes the appearance of buildings very different than what we’ve seen in northern and central France.

That tall thing is the facade of the Eglise Notre Dame de Taur

facing the street where St. Saturnin was dragged to his death by a bull. 

Reconnaissance complete, we shoved off Saturday morning to head for the Canal de Garonne. Unfortunately, just as we were about to pull away, a peniche (30 meters long) passed by. He also informed us he was being closely followed by another barge, this one 19 meters. We had three locks through the center of Toulouse before we would enter the Garonne canal and we would have to share locks all day with the 19 meter barge. It would be a tight fit with our 16 meters but, as they were all down locks, off we went. It was going to be a very long day.

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