Located in the south-west of France on the banks of the Rover Garonne is the industrial, student city of Toulouse.
Toulouse was an impromptu break for us, based primarily on it being one of the cheapest flights available (under £200 for both of us) to a country with food that we love. We departed on 12th June and returned on the 15th.
We arrived at Hotel St. Sernin at about 5pm. It was a lovely little boutique hotel. Steps led up to the reception that operates until 11pm. In our hotel room we had the pleasure of two Juliet balconies that have a quite magnificent side view of St Sernin’s Basilica.
The room was quite small but still big enough to stay in comfortably.
The shower was amazing, it was really spacious with a huge shower head. The room was very clean. The bed however was very soft, which was not for me but is great if you love that type of mattress. We didn’t have breakfast however, you could purchase it for €13pp.
As hinted by the views from our balconies, the hotel was ideally located. A stone’s throw from the basilica and about a 10 minute walk from the Capitole Square.
We both love French food and Toulouse didn’t disappoint!
Le Bistrot – On the first night we stumbled across this small restaurant. It wasn’t full but it looked appealing so we thought we would give it a try and we were glad that we did!
Firstly, the the waiter was fantastic. One thing to note about Toulouse is that most menus are in French. We had a basic understanding of French, enough to know the main meat and accompaniment however, perhaps not the finer details. Our waiter however, was very kind to go through all of the options in English for us very thoroughly. The waiter was friendly throughout and made us feel incredibly welcome whilst not overstaying his welcome.
After we made our choices we were presented with a snack of fried duck skin bites which were heavenly. We wolfed them down in a matter of minutes.
We were then given our starters. I opted for the raw salmon and my husband the foie gras.
Both were lovely however, I think we both agreed that my starter was slightly better!
The main was the real star of the show though. We both chose the same; steak with cheese and frites. We asked for the steak to be cooked to the chef’s liking and it was lovely. Very flavoursome. The frites were also delicious, well seasoned and cooked perfectly.
All in all a very successful meal that I would recommend. We were even given a complimentary brandy with our bill.
Cost for two starters, two mains and a bottle of white (I know with steak!) wine £75
Le Genty Magre – This was our place of choice for night two. You may notice that I have skipped straight to dinner. This is because we made the mistake of trying to find somewhere to eat lunch at 2.30pm and was advised that most places (in our vicinity) had stopped serving lunch. Conscious of the time we reluctantly had lunch in a McDonalds.
We chose La Genty Magre based on its reviews and the fact that it served both duck and cassoulet – Toulouse cuisine.
When we arrived at the restaurant we were advised that downstairs was full but we could sit upstairs. Upstairs didn’t quite have the same ambience as downstairs but it was still quite nice.
Again we were given a snack to start, this time some green olive tapenade and bread which was yummy.
This restaurant was pricier that Le Bistrot so my husband decided to have two small plates and I had one large.
My husband chose the langoustine and gaspacho to start followed by the duck.
I chose the cassoulet.
All of the dishes were great and presented very well. We enjoyed it!
Cost for two small plates, 1 large and a bottle of white wine £81
La Santine – we were drawn in by the popularity of this place with locals and it didn’t let us down. This was a good place for a quick but wholesome lunch. It did have a lunch menu for around €14 pp however we wanted duck and that wasn’t included in the deal. We ordered two cokes and two duck confit with frites. Again the frites were cooked to perfection. The duck confit was unsurprisingly very tasty however, and this bothered my husband more than me, the skin was soggy rather that crispy.
The over cost came in at about £35.
Du Plaisir à la Toque – for our final meal we sampled this restaurant. We were able to get a seat outside, great for watching the world go by. This restaurant has the option of two courses for €26 or three courses for €29. I opted for three courses and my husband 2.
For starter we both chose the duck pastilla which was gorgeous. The flavours worked well together and it was beautifully presented.
We were therefore both really looking forward to our main of beef carpaccio with a potato rosti. However, we were disappointed. As expected the beef was raw but it was weirdly presented on a skewer. The rosti was very bland and I found that hard to eat. I didn’t mind the beef so much however, my husband didn’t like the dish at all.
Finally I chose the brioche with caramel and apples and that for me helped to redeem the previous course.
I feel that this restaurant wanted to be a bit different and out there. For me it was successful on 2/3 courses but I do still recommend it because the starter and dessert were lovely.
Total for 1 2 course menu and 1 3 course menu + a bottle of white wine £63.
By way of sites Toulouse didn’t have hundreds, but there were still some great places to visit
Capitole de Toulouse – The main square of Toulouse which houses it’s city hall. During the day the sqaure is filled with market stalls selling everything from sunglasses to wicker furniture. There are also many (pricey) restaurants and bars there.
Churches and cathedrals – Toulouse has many churches to visit. We spent our first full day there visiting them. Entrance to all of these was free. The main attraction is the Basilica of Saint-Sernin with its magnificent exterior. You also have the option (for a small fee) to visit the crypts of the basilica which is full of relics and shrines. There is also Notre-Dame du Taur – an interesting looking church that from the outside looks very thin but inside is like a tardis. You can also visit Couvent des Jacobins – this has a rather empty interior however, the real gem of this is it’s cloister. This part attracts an entrance fee of €5 for an adult. However, it is free for stidents since they encourage students to use the lovely area to study in. This is worth a visit as it is very pretty and peaceful and serene. Cathedrale St-Etienne is the main cathedral of Toulouse. The entrance is rather interesting and is reminiscent of a fire station and the inside is spacious and beautiful. Finally there is the very small but jaw dropping ceiling in the Chapelle des Carmélites.
Parks & Gardens – Toulouse also had a lot to offer in the way of outside spaces. On our final day we visited Jardin Japonais – a park with a Japanese inspired garden. It was truly beautiful and peaceful and even had turtles. Definately worth a visit.
We also visited Raymond IV Garden – a popular park that had a great view of the river Garonne. Finally there is Parc Daurade. This is a small park located on the banks of the River Garonne, right next to the iconic bridge of Toulouse, Pont Neuf. We were lucky enough to walk past it on our final night and it was filled with students drinking and performing circus skills. It was a great atnosphere. There is a little restaurant/ bar (Pêcheurs de Sable) there that served beer so we sat there for a while sipping beer and soaking up the atmosphere.
Museums – there are a few museums in Toulouse however, we only had the time to visit one – Musée Saint-Raymond. This was an archaeological museum that also gave some history of early Toulouse. It was very interesting and worth a visit.Again it was free for students and €4 for an adult.
Vantage Points – We love a view however, I found it very hard to find a site with a vantage point. After taking to the internet, the only really viewing platform in Toulouse was a sky bar called – Ma Biche sur Le Toit. Located at the very top of Galaries Lafayette ( a shopping mall) it didn’t disappoint. Yes you had to buy a drink to get the view but that made the experience all the more special. You could sit and look out over the city of Toulouse in a cool and relaxing way. I definitely recommend, especially if you like a view!!
Toulouse was a great city to visit for a few days. The food was lovely, the people were friendly and there was lots to entertain us on our short stay. It was a little pricey for food and drink however, we had lots of fun and enjoyed our trip!