Toulouse

Toulouse

The 9 episodes in our Toulouse series take in all the main sights of southern France’s lovely ‘pink city’. Learn about the bishop dragged through the streets by a bull before visiting the Basilique St Sernin and hear the stories of the city’s Resistance fighters in preparation for the Musée de la Résistance. There’s a chance to learn a little about the lovely architecture, the city’s pioneering role in technology and its gastronomic delights, as varied as cassoulet and the apricot-and-almond treat, fénétra, before heading out to discover them all for yourself. We’ll also take a couple of day trips in search of art and culture in Albi and Carcassonne and enjoy a blissful interlude in the beauty and peace of the nearby Canal du Midi.


Toulouse Episode 01 Introduction

Bienvenue à Toulouse. Welcome to Toulouse.

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Bienvenue! Welcome to episode 1 of City Breaks Toulouse. This opening podcast will give you an overview of the city, historically, geographically and culturally and an idea of the material to be covered in each of the remaining 8 episodes. We hope that after listening to it, you’ll be looking forward to the rest of the series and maybe also keen get down to planning a visit, knowing that what you have learned will help you get the most out of your city break. Or perhaps you have already been to Toulouse and will enjoy reminiscing. Either way, we hope you will love the ‘virtual visit’!

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Toulouse Episode 02 Churches and Troubadours

Religious wars and the wandering poets

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First, a tour of the main churches in Toulouse. The Basilique St Sernin was founded after the Bishop of Toulouse was martyred by being dragged through the streets tied to a bull. The Couvent des Jacobins is a one-time centre of the Inquisition against heretics and also the burial site of a saint who never visited the city. Find out too about the Cathars whose pious, very particular, take on Christianity so enraged the established church that the Pope sent crusaders to ‘Kill them all.’ Then hear about the troubadours, wandering poets who shunned Latin and wrote in the Occitan language, thus proving their independence of mind.

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Toulouse Episode 03 The Capitol

France’s most beautiful town hall?

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The elegant pink façade of the Capitol, Toulouse’s town hall, which overlooks the magnificent Place du Capitole, is the city’s best-known symbol. Hear about some of its key historical moments, including executions to prove a point and the slaughter of one religious group by another. Then find out what to look out for on a visit, including paintings recalling Toulouse’s great moments, such as a visit from Pope Urban II and the defeat of Simon de Montfort. Plus busts of the citizens of whom the city is most proud, including the mathematician Fermat (of last theorem fame) and Pierre-Paul Riquet, the engineer who built the Canal du Midi.

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Toulouse Episode 04 The Resistance

How Toulouse fought back in World War 2

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The fascinating Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation is tucked away near the Jardin des Plantes. Its detailed displays of documents, photographs and memorabilia pay tribute to the bravery of the many Maquis who did all they could to work against the German occupation of the city from 1942-44. It also bears witness to the terrible fate of many of the city’s Jews, deported from Toulouse to the concentration camps from which very few ever returned. Hear a little background history, followed by stories of the places in Toulouse which tell us more about the period and the people whose bravery should be re-told to each new generation.

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Toulouse Episode 05 Museums (from woad to outer space)

9 museums, 9 reasons why Toulouse is well known

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The story of Toulouse’s museums tells us what has been most important in shaping the city. We visit 9 institutions, starting with Terre de Pastel where you can discover how woad brought fabulous wealth to 15th century Toulouse and ending at La Cité de l’Espace which celebrates the city’s massive contribution to space travel. Along the way you’ll hear how a love-stuck Genoese soldier brought the first violets to Toulouse, how the pilot of the earliest night mail flights to South America turned novelist and wrote about his adventures and how the work of monks caring for medieval pilgrims led to today’s renowned Oncopole cancer research centre.

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Toulouse Episode 06 Art and Architecture

From Roman remains to cutting edge photography

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We start with a tour of some of the ‘hôtels particuliers’ which are such a feature of Toulouse architecture, finding out what kind of houses the city’s elite built themselves once money and political power had come their way. Then we visit a variety of art galleries, large and tiny, to discover the wonderful range of goodies on offer, from Roman remains to cutting edge photography, taking in plenty of medieval sculpture, ‘Golden Age’ paintings and oriental treasures en route, while not forgetting to pass by ‘one of France’s best contemporary museums’ too. Meet some local artists-made-good and a host of internationally famous ones as well.

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Toulouse Episode 07 The Canal du Midi

Float away in blissful peace

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What more idyllic escape from city-centre Toulouse than to potter up the Canal du Midi on foot, by bike or – best of all – in a boat? Hear how ‘Europe’s biggest public works project since the fall of the Roman Empire’ came to be opened in 1681, and find out what there is to see along its banks, just day-out distance from Toulouse. Enjoy the reminiscences of writers who describe sailing down it as ‘motoring though an impressionist painting’ or drifting lazily through ‘a land of sunflowers, wheat fields, vineyards, ancient cities with red-tiled rooves, crumbling ruins wrapped in mystery.’ Balm for the soul!

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Toulouse Episode 08 Carcassonne and Toulouse Lautrec

Two days out in search of history, art and culture

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Two ideas for easy excursions from Toulouse. First, the medieval citadel of Carcassonne, silhouetted against the skyline on a million postcards, whose romantic exterior belies an often gruesome history. And secondly, the equally beautiful city of Albi which boasts not just a unique medieval heritage, and a gothic cathedral decorated inside with floor-to-ceiling frescos, but also the Musée Toulouse Lautrec. Here you can learn about the life of the artist who grew up in Albi, before setting off to Paris to paint some of that city’s most iconic artworks. The museum here has over 200 of his paintings and posters, plus a large collection of his drawings.

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Toulouse Episode 09 Gastronony

Savouring the foods and drinks of the Languedoc region

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Gastronomy is a definite highlight of a visit to Toulouse and not just because it’s the home of cassoulet. Of course we’ll look at the legends behind that warming dish and get as far as we can on what might be in the highly secret recipe, but we mustn’t neglect Toulouse sausages, the great duck versus goose debate, the many uses of violet as a flavouring or sweet treats like the apricot-and-almond delight which is fénétra. And then there’s the wine. Obviously. We’ll hear too from writers who lingered in the Languedoc and wrote enticingly about the delicious morsels and gargantuan feasts they savoured.

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A Virtual Visit to Toulouse

A bonus episode to whet your appetite

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This virtual trip to Toulouse references websites, YouTube videos and books to take you on a virtual tour of this lovely southern French city, often voted the place where the French themselves would most like to live. Tour the city’s streets and squares, find out what cultural treats it has to offer, enjoy some regional cuisine and pay a few out-of-town visits to the Canal du Midi and to two nearby World Heritage Sites: Carcassone, with its medieval hilltop fortress and Albi, home of the Toulouse Lautrec Museum. Whether you are reminiscing or planning a visit, there’s plenty to enjoy.

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