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Toulouse, Friday pm.  I had a short break in SW France recently. I flew into Toulouse Airport, and spent two nights in the city, which I had not visited before, followed by three nights in the countryside, based at Lisle-sur-Tarn.  I had been in the rural area in April/May 1990, and ever since then had wanted to go back to see the lovely countryside, and particularly the wildflower meadows, which I hoped were still there.

The weather forecast was telling me that Friday would be lovely, that Saturday would be awful, and that the remaining three days would be light grey and showery.  About Friday it was right.  It was gorgeously warm.  By the time I had taken the shuttle bus into the centre ville, found my hotel (the excellent two-star Ours Blanc – Victor Hugo, but NB there are also three- and four-star Ours Blancs in the immediate vicinity – as I found out before finding mine!) and had settled in, it was mid-afternoon. Wanting to take full advantage of the only good weather, I planned a walking route, starting at the tourist office in Le Capitole, the fifteenth century keep (Confusingly in French ‘donjon’!) prettified many years later, right by the Hotel de Ville, which was quite animated. 

I walked on to the Garonne, which, like all the rivers I was to see in the following days (the Tarn and the Aveyron were the others) is very wide, an effect exaggerated by my panoramic photo of it.  I was beginning to suspect that Toulouse had an awful lot of students, though I was puzzled to see them here on a Friday afternoon.  From my experience when I had lived in Poitiers, and had taught at its university, I would have expected all the students to vanish back home after lunch that day.  But I was to learn the following evening from my neighbour at a concert, a retired geography professor at Toulouse University, (who had ‘loved’ her job) that its status was such that students came from far and wide to study at the huge university, unlike most in France which attract just fairly local young people.

A 16th century Merchant’s house, the Hotel de Bernuy, now a state high school

This was shut for restoration works

I arrived too late to visit the church of St-Sernin, but found its exterior very pleasing.

I couldn’t work out whether this was a heavily restored old building or a brand new one. It appeared to be a small apartment block. Its detail certainly seemed quite old.

All the road names were in French and Occitan, though I read later that using this old language for place names was somewhat fanciful, since no-one now speaks it.

Would I resist this chocolate shop right next door to my hotel?  I was intrigued by this drawing of a bear in the lobby of the hotel.  Had they had some famous illustrator to stay in 2013?  I took dinner at ‘Le Murano’, a short way away on the Boulevard de Strasbourg.

Magret de canard on a bed of varied and unusual vegetables