Tag Archive: Toulouse

Steampunk Chic!

The French are known for many things, such as gastronomy, haute couture and bureaucracy…and blockades!

My friend took this photo of revolting farmers, who brought Auch to a standstill earlier today. The issue is loosely to do with subsidies and has clearly stirred up great passion and the need to burn tractor tires. Ignorant of this issue, I headed off myself to Auch this morning only managing to get to the outskirts before realising something was up and returning home. What tumultuous times we live in!

It wasn’t only tractor drivers that felt compelled to take to the streets. Whilst in Toulouse this weekend, we heard a tremendous cacophony of motor bikes crossing over a bridge on the river, sounding just like a scene from Mad Max and realised we were watching a protest against the speed limit being reduced to 80kms from 90kms. Feeling a bit like we were in Revolutionary Paris merely added an extra frisson to our Toulouse adventure!

Living where we do, right in the Boonies, there is a danger of seeing Toulouse merely as the gateway to Blagnac Airport, the place where we collect and drop off loved ones. Having ventured into the Rose City, we have discovered a place that beckons and charms, where the past nestles happily into the present. What do I mean? Look at this photo:

An incredible ancient doorway, juxtaposed with a modern car, or this one:

A stylish entrance to some flats, just tucked down a tiny sidestreet. I felt completely enamored, just like the feeling I had on my recent visit to Tallin, or Venice. You can lose yourself exploring and every road you turn down reveals a curiosity, such as a glorious church, or mural, graffiti or a view over the river:

And where we were staying was incredibly stylish too, in the chi chi Hotel des Beaux Arts, right next to the Pont Neuf. Each room was painted by a different artist. Here’s ours, clearly inspired by D’Stael:

I loved the foyer

We popped over to Les Abbatoirs, the city’s former slaughter house, which has become a huge sprawling gallery of eclectic art. Aware that what I was looking at looked subversive and groundbreaking, I tried really hard to reason it out, but in the end it was enough to absorb it without understanding it very much. Looking at art is thirsty work, so we headed back into Old Town for an Aperol spritz

in a really edgy, grungy bar we passed, where the staff looked like extras from the latest Mad Max film, then moved on towards a bar recommended by our french teacher, via another bar, where we spotted France v Ireland beating seven bells out of each other in the Six Nations. We perched on bar stools, drank pastis and glorious red wine and ate stinky cheese…staggered out of there towards the bar- recommended- by- our- french- teacher, hic, got lost, but nevermind, look at this night-time snap

and finally found the bar-recommended-by- our-french-teacher, called Au Père Louis. It dates back to pre the French Revolution and indeed transported us to another era (or was that the effect of our umpteenth glass of red??)

What a place! Steampunk chic! Service was fittingly odd. A bow backed waiter in a long sleeved stripy T shirt was talking animatedly to a beautiful lady at the bar, pouring her ice cold champagne in a steady stream, totally ignoring us and another touristy couple. But, when you are in a fabulous bar, what does it matter? Eventually wine arrived, was dispatched, dogs came in with their owners (I think) and then off we wandered again.

Our wine goggles slightly skew whiff by now, we nevertheless managed to find our way back to an Indian restaurant to have a curry, that totally resembled ones we have eaten and loved in the UK, but minus the poppadums

Yum! We drunkenly came up with an elaborate plan to hire a coach, come to Toulouse for a bit of culture and shopping with all our new friends, have a curry, then go home…then there was a power cut…all in all, a fabulous visit to a place that we both felt filled the Bristol shaped gap in our lives. Thank you Toulouse!! We’ll be back 😆😎


Madame Becs


I worried that I might hit a week where I have nothing to relate, apart from ‘gosh, it was hot’ and I did some gardening, but actually, things have a way of filling your days, so I think there will always be something to write about.

My head is still full of smokey tendrils from reading A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara. It was an intense, painful book to experience; I felt bereft when I finished and keep returning to it in my thoughts. I rather think it is not a book for everyone as it can feel overwhelming and relentless and I can indeed imagine one friend hurling it into a metaphorical bin, with a snort of ‘How bloody depressing!’ but for me I believed in the writing so completely that the characters are almost people I might have known. There is merchandise, t shirts and the like and I am quite tempted, just as a way of keeping them with me a bit longer.

Anyway, back to the South of France. My little tiny village of 326 people was swelled by loads of party goers with a night of fabulous gypsy music:

and the day after, in the next village, there was a Fete of ancient times, with people in costume, recreations of a school room and lots of art and tat:

And sunbathing fat geese:

And really furry chickens:

And old vehicles:

I couldn’t resist this photo of old bikes:

We’ve been swimming in the municipal pool, which is just down the road. It is now packed with brown smiling bodies of all shapes and sizes, as kids are on their grande vacances.

Oh, I will just mention our favourite cake shop, in Saissan. Each time we walk towards it we think it will be shut; its not that it’s unwelcoming, it just has a very quiet aura, very relaxed about attracting passing trade. Its just near the pizza emporium on the corner. Anyway, you cautiously push open the door, see it is open, then smile and drool. Its very simple fare, but delicious:

My current favourite is the coffee or chocolate religieuses (éclairs). Actually, my phrase there, ‘ its simple fare, but delicious’ sums up all my foodie experiences so far in France. For instance, yesterday in Toulouse, we had veggie and also salmon burgers at a place opposite the market and they were so tasty: perfect chips, nice salad and brioche buns and moist salmon. No apologies for talking about food in this blog and no simpering about weight worries. Its good food here in la belle france and I intend to delight in every mouthful 😆

So, critter of the week award goes to this guy:

Award for gadget of the week goes to this petrol generator. It means we can finally cut back all the brambles at the ends of the gardens ( yes, the plurals are deliberate )

We spent a happy morning chopping down our poor old fig tree, that collapsed in a storm. The smell was pure Jo Malone, peppery, exotic and fragrant. I roasted some of the baby figs, chutnied some and pickled some:

Can you believe this? A car pulled up and a very tidy, middle aged pair got out, with shiny glasses and ruffles and high waisted beige trews. They wanted to talk to me about God and were Jehovah’s Witnesses! In rural France!!! It turned out I was very busy, so they tootled off, but how surprising!

Another surprise was how gorgeous Toulouse is. I previously associated it with the airport and being very stressed by the motorway, but, the very pink, beating heart is really lovely. We simply wandered around, popping into dark churches to cool down:

The architecture is stunning:

I loved all the views of roads going off to exciting places

and look at this door knocker

I recommend this ice cream Parlour:

and I loved my lime and basil sorbet, which was like a mojito in food form. Mmnnnn

I’ll leave you with this goofy picture of Luna, with one of her favourite humans.