Toulouse France history | Pink City with Shades of Blue

Written by on January 14, 2014 in Midi-Pyrénées

toulouse france history

Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France. Located in the southwest of France, within a few hours of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterreanean Sea and the Spanish border. Rich in architecture, history,  heritage… and colour.

Jane Gifford looks at the town the locals call La Ville Rose with a nod to its blue past…

La Ville Rose Toulouse

toulouse france historyAll the tables outside the cafés on Place Saint-Georges are full. This is the place to be towards the end of a winter’s day in Toulouse.  Four hours ago I was driving through sleet to Bristol airport. Now the last rays of sun are glancing across the rooftops and there’s a party atmosphere in the air. The streets are vibrant. Young people on bicycles swerve through the crowds, carrying musical instruments on their backs and a passenger on the crossbar.

Toulouse, ‘la Ville Rose’, glows red in the evening light. The city is built of bricks stained red by iron found in the clay from the flood-plain of the Garonne. The view is stunning from the sixteenth Century Pont Neuf (New Bridge), which spans the river with seven elegant arches. Toulouse was the cultural centre of medieval France. Its prestigious university was founded way back in 1229. The old language still survives. Signs here are in both French and Occitan. Because Toulouse had little industry, it escaped major destruction during WWII, preserving its rosy maze of cobbled medieval streets and colossal red-brick monuments. Today the city has gained a reputation for ground-breaking high tech research and development. Both Concorde and Airbus were built here.

Being here, soaking up the atmosphere certainly makes me feel “in the pink”.

toulouse france history

La Ville Bleue Toulouse

toulouse france historyIt was blue that made Toulouse wealthy. Varying shades of the colour are everywhere on shutters, on lamp-posts, doors, windows and ornamental ironwork. It’s a subtle blue-grey that perfectly complements the ancient red brickwork. Trade in pastel (woad, the yellow-flowered plant whose leaves yield a blue dye) allowed Toulouse merchants to amass vast fortunes. The mansion of Pierre d’Assézat, a fabulously wealthy 16th Century pastellier  is first glimpsed through a gated arch, giving  little away of the Renaissance-style courtyard beyond, a sumptuous mix of ornamental pillars, stone lions, palms, elaborate staircases and stone-mullioned windows. Inside is the Fondation Bemberg, a private art collection open to the public, which includes many French masterworks from the nineteenth and twentieth Centuries.

Around the corner on a narrow cobbled street brimming with atmosphere – rue de la Bourse – another arch leads directly into 15th Century Hôtel Pierre Delfau and the shop ‘La Fleurée de Pastel’. Under high vaulted ceilings, you’ll find all that the modern imagination has made of woad. A blue heaven of hand-made designer clothing, heavy cotton lace, swatches of silks, jewellery, inks and water-colours. Women be warned. You could spend a fortune here. Woad’s curative properties are long known. Sample the contemporary range of cosmetics produced by Graine de Pastel.

Jane Gifford is a writer and photographer specialising in travel, garden, wildlife and environmental issues: janegifford.net

Toulouse in the Pink
Weekend in Toulouse
The Towers of Toulouse
Toulouse Tourist Office

 

Related Articles

What to see and do in Auch, Gers

Located to the South West of Toulouse on the River Gers, Auch is the capital of the Gers department and the historical capital of Gascony. One of the best way to explore towns and cities is just follow your nose and get lost. But, there was much to find out about Auch before doing that. […]

Continue Reading

One day watercolour painting workshop in Gers

Enjoy a one day watercolour painting workshop in Fourcès, a Plus Beaux Village de France – officially one of the prettiest villages in France. In the heart of the Gers department, this isn’t a holiday experience that you’ll find in the tourist guides. But – that’s what makes it so special. Renowned teacher Ray Johnstone […]

Continue Reading

What to see in Fourcès Gers | Jewel of Gascony

Fourcès in the Gers department is officially one of the prettiest villages in France. With medieval arcades, beautiful walkways, quirky shops and several restaurants, it’s a fabulous place to while away a few hours admiring its beauty. Here’s what to see in Fourcès… What to see and do in Fourcès “It is” said my guide […]

Continue Reading

The extraordinary village of Larressingle in Gers

When you enter the walled castle village of Larressingle in the Gers, which some call Gascony, you’d be forgiven for looking around to see if a knight in shining armour is lurking nearby. Or maybe  a Princess hanging out of a window at the ruined chateau. This place doesn’t just look like it has somehow […]

Continue Reading

Pastry class with a master chef in the Gers

If you have a sweet tooth and a yearning for learning how to make the most amazing French cakes – this pastry class with a master chef in Gers is perfect for you! Close to Auch, the capital of the Gers department, the little village of Vic-Fezenac has a surprise. On the outskirts, in his […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top