Toulouse: The Ever-Evolving Ville Rose
I’ve now been to Toulouse (Frenchie’s hometown) four times, and nearly every time, I feel like I see a new side of La Ville Rose, known for its pale salmon-hued buildings, preference for rugby over soccer, and southern twang. This time around brought a whole new crop of experiences. Perhaps my favorite discovery during this most recent trip was Tariquet – a chardonnay based wine produced in the region that kicks the butt of any chardonnay and many other white wines I’ve had (and I am most certainly not a chardonnay fan). Now begins the quest to find it in New York. In the meantime, a few of my picks for a trip to Toulouse based on my recent passage:
Southern-Style, Stress-Free Shopping: Paris shopping always seems to overwhelm me. Between the Marais boutiques that seem to get more adorable as you wander down Rue du Temple and the big brands spread over 3 floors at Galeries Lafayette, I tend to leave without a single purchase. Toulouse is always a much more successful endeavor. Swing by Les Petits Poids for edible local gifts and goodies such as violet-flavored caramels, flavored syrups, and cans of cassoulet. For a more manageable Lafayette and French and Euro staple brands like CosmoParis, Kookai and Mango without the Paris crowd, stroll down Rue Alsace-Lorraine and the parallel Rue Saint-Rome.
Les petits poids: 48 rue des filatiers – 31000 Toulouse 05 61 55 52 48
Tartines and Tartes: Take a breather from shopping at the tiny Le Flowers café complete with a sprawling terrace on the sunny place Roger Salengro. I love French “formules” and this is one place where a quality plat+ dessert+ café goes for about 10 Euros. Salads are filling and the tartine – an open-faced sandwich – selection creates indecision, with combos ranging from the traditional cheese and meat to the slightly edgy (think smoked duck and aubergine). Dessert is obligatoire and a glance at the fresh-baked treats in the window should inform your decision. Try the tarte framboise chocolat for a sure bet.
Le Flowers Café: 6, place Roger Salengro, 31000 Toulouse, France
See La Ville Rose by Train: Almost every French city I’ve visited offers a “bateau mouche” tour that takes tourists through city water ways to see the sights. But Toulouse is one city that I think is better viewed from the seats of the petit train. The locomotive weaves through the city, hitting both major urban hotspots like the St. Sernin cathedral and snaking along tiny ruelles packed with boutiques and uniquely-decorated cafes. Hop aboard at Le Capitole for a mere 5 euro 50 and enjoy the ride!
Toulousain Cuisine with an Ado Twist: Resist the first restaurant you spy with Cassoulet on the menu and try out Les Sales Gosses near la Place Wilson. The cute and kitschy décor based on a schoolroom setting and “Les Crados” – a “Garbage Pail Kids” inspired card series for kids – belies the seasonal menu and truly fresh takes on classic dishes you’ll find here. The house Kir a la fraise tagada is a must just to experience the Haribo strawberry gummies infusion. A starter tartelette filled with girolles (mushrooms) and parmesan sauce was delicious and just filling enough, and the magret de canard crusted with dragees (yes, that abominable wedding fixture known as the Jordan almond) offered a salty/sweet sensation unlike anything I’d ever tasted. Reservations highly recommended.
Les Sales Gosses: 7, rue de l’Industrie, 31000 Toulouse, 05 61 99 30 31
Southwest Culture and Wine: Finally, drop by the Bar St. Jerome for a nightcap (perhaps a glass of Tariquet) just off la Place Wilson. A tapas bar by day, the bar was chill but enlivened just enough by a group of Spaniards the night we visited, while art from local artists adorning the wall elevated the St. Jerome above the usual student bars you’re bound to find in the third largest student center in France.
Le Saint Jérôme: 21 Rue St Antoine du T, 31000 Toulouse
What are your favorite spots in Toulouse?