Toulouse, Saturday. It had clearly rained overnight and was just starting to clear as I left L’Ours Blanc after breakfast. A major daily market (Le marché Victor Hugo) was just opposite, so after a quick look around that, I set off on another walk, which was planned to include some considerable time indoors. In fact the weather was not as appalling as had been forecast, and for most of my tour today I did not open my umbrella. I made my way down to the Cathédrale St-Etienne, which curiously was made up of two very different and offset parts, as can be seen from this plan,
The small print includes the word ‘romane’. This is not Roman, but romanesque, a trap for many tourism translators.
from this backwards look,
(forwards look from the same spot)
and this sideways view, taken from as far away as I could get. I have to say, I was not particularly thrilled by this building, but perhaps the weather, which was not only damp but cold, was affecting my mood.
My planned walk took me past via the Monuments aux Morts, where there was a ceremony going on.
Apartments lining a long green walk
At the other end, a monument to those who died in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian war
A series of adjacent public parks was my next goal, and I was amused to discover that the Grand Rond was also known as the Boulingrin – from ‘bowling green’! (Though I saw no-where for that game, or boules for that matter, to be played.)
Now why did I suddenly think of the UK Parliament when I saw this duck-house?!
In due course I arrived at the Jardin des Plantes, where the grey sky did not enhance the vegetation, of which I took few photos.
A recent monument to those in the Midi-Pyrénées region who saved the lived of Jews during WWII
I could find nothing about this, but imagine the gateway itself dates from classical Roman times.
But I was delighted to find that around this waterfall was not just one family of ducks and recently hatched ducklings, but another with rather older ones. There was other wildlife in the park.
Red squirrel, common in France as grey ones have not yet spread much from the SE of the country to oust them
A proud cockerel, in fact leading his harem
After this I spent a long while in the Muséum de Toulouse, a really excellent earth sciences collection, the entire subject of the next post. From here I made my way to the Canal du Midi, which runs at this point roughly parallel and about a mile from the Garonne. I hoped for lovely views, as I had experienced elsewhere on that canal some years previously. But no, there was a main road running beside it on both sides, and again the grey skies made it look even less interesting. And it was starting to rain, and it was cold. Looking backwards, shortly before I left the canalside, I was able to confirm that the water, as I had sensed, had indeed for a short while been above the level of my head. My walk took me past this commemorative statue, and to a bookshop to find a map for the second part of my trip.
As I left the FNAC (which chain I had been told 30 years previously was ‘a very good bookshop’, but which is now much more concerned with multimedia) it was pouring once more and I was only too pleased to get back to my hotel, via Le Capitole where I bought a ticket for an evening concert, and an organic food store where I picked up a snack for my evening meal.
You would think that since: I had bought my concert ticket at Le Capitole; which had an auditorium (well, I learned later that it was more an opera house); the orchestra giving the concert was called the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse; and there being nothing on the handbill or ticket to say where the concert was – that it would be at Le Capitole itself. So when I turned up a in very good time for the start of the concert and found not a single door opened in either Le Capitole or the Hotel de Ville, after two complete tours around both, I was completely mystified.
I found one light on behind one door, the stage door. So I was pleased to find that this would open, and that a concierge was there, so I was able to ask how I could get in to the concert. He told me there was no performance that evening, to which I replied that I had bought a ticket for one that very afternoon. Ah, I wanted the Halle aux Grains, he told me. Where was that I asked. (Le Capitole being so close to my hotel, I had left my map in my room.) Did I know the Metro? No, I hadn’t used it (and didn’t fancy having to faff around now discovering how it worked.)
Anyway, thanks to him and a couple of other good citizens of Toulouse, I arrived on foot at the Halle aux Grains (via the afore-mentioned Monuments aux Morts) just in time not to get in for Schumann’s Manfred Overture. When I was let in afterwards to a convenient seat marginally better than the one I had bought (its proper tenant had not turned up), I enjoyed an excellent Prokofiev Second Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (called Héroique in French).
Photo snuck during applause, French horns taking their bow
This really was a first-class concert and I was glad to have made the effort, the enjoyment added to by a good chat with the geography professor mentioned in my previous post. She told me that this hexagonal building, the home of this orchestra for the last 40 years, had, after it stopped serving as a cereals market, been among other things a boxing venue!
It was absolutely tipping it down when I emerged after the concert, and I decided that the time had come to find out how to use the metro (i.e. how to buy a ticket for and follow that metro plan – with only two lines the latter was not a problem). I was very pleased that I did not have to walk back the half hour, two stops, to my hotel in that downpour.