£22 return flights, a friends ultimate dilemma and one mans search for an authentic French croissant. Welcome to Toulouse!
Although Vruchi and I were very excited about our first trip to France since moving to the UK, we really did not know what to expect. Truth be told, this was probably the trip that we did the least research. One thing that I was especially excited for was the opportunity to try authentic French pastry. As we set off on the Friday, I was determined to find the best croissant in Toulouse.
As usual, we flew out on the Friday evening after work (#CheapAndDirtyTravels) and arrived in Toulouse late that night. We caught the metro from the airport back to our Airbnb. During the journey, our good friend Deepti was contemplating a major life decision; whether or not to accept an amazing role at Amazon, consequently leaving her friends (i.e. Us) behind in London. She decided to leave it up to fate, a Best of Three coin toss. After the first two tosses were split evenly, we gave the deciding coin flip to someone we just met on the train, an Aussie girl named Rachel. As fate would have it, the deciding flip hit the edge of a suitcase and ended up getting wedged vertically, leaving the final decision back in the hands of Deepti!!! Decisions, decisions, decisions!
As we were approaching our station, a few stops before, about 100 or so college students boarded the train. They began singing and chanting together. It was surreal. It felt like we were right in the middle of a lively crowd at a football match. This was epic! It was actually here that we learnt that one of the things Toulouse is known for is universities. There are several world renowned top universities in Toulouse, and evidently we were caught right in the middle of a college pub crawl. With our Friday night partying checked off, we arrived at our Airbnb and went straight to bed.
The next morning we got up a bit late and headed out to town. Or at least we tried to. We got about 10 metres outside our Airbnb and were greeted by some heavy rain. Without an umbrella or even a raincoat, we ran back for cover and took an uber to the town, hoping to find a good brunch spot. Pro-tip: If you can't speak French, then Google Translate is your saviour in Toulouse. We could easily communicate with our uber driver through the app :) [Dw, this isn't sponsored by Google just because Vruchi works there ;)
Unfortunately, even once getting into town, we were caught in that awkward timing between brunch and lunch, where the breakfast cafes weren't serving food anymore and the restaurants weren't serving lunch yet. We did manage to grab a coffee at Toulouse's famous La Fiancee. But not wanting to spend the rest of the afternoon starving, we grabbed some pizza at a restaurant just across the road, as we tried to plan out our day. Ok so attempt 1 of trying to find an authentic French croissant was a bit of a fail. It wasn't all bad though, the pizza was pretty good!
As we began our ad hoc research, we discovered that the other thing that Toulouse is known for is the Airbus factory. This is the factory where they manufacture the actual parts. However, we only had 20 minutes to make the final tour for the weekend and we needed to have our passports on us (which we had left in the Airbnb). We had to give this a miss unfortunately. We really didn't plan this well. Pro tip: Book your tour before hand and carry your passports with you for entry clearance.
With the weather clearing, we decided to venture out to the main town square and visit a few of Toulouse's famous churches. To be honest though, after visiting a fair few churches all around Europe now, they all start to look the same. Mother Nature decided to play its part again and we were forced to duck for cover at a nearby cafe. Ok let's make the best of a bad situation and try attempt number 2 at finding my croissant. No deal unfortunately, they only served crepes and truth be told, it was the probably the worst crepe I have had. Definitely not an authentic French crepe. Once the weather cleared, we decided to make our way towards the river and get a view of the iconic Pont Neuf bridge. On our way there, we happened to walk past a local art exhibition. We met a local photographer called Chloe and struck up a fascinating conversation with her as she told us about her journey. Inspired by her outlook on art and life, we spent the next few hours taking photos of the river watching the sunset. This was the highlight of the trip for us. We had an amazing view of the city's most beautiful landmark. Unaware of the time, we had stayed out quite late and very few restaurants were open for dinner at this time. We settled for a late night kebab dinner before heading back to our Airbnb for some board games and a good nights sleep.
:) Our good nights sleep ended up being too good, as we once again slept-in past brunch time and combined our breakfast, brunch and lunch into one meal. Please note, I strongly advise against doing this!!! We had our lunch at a local restaurant called Le Capoul. However, when we arrived we were very de-caffeinated and badly needed a coffee. We ordered our lunch but asked for our coffees to come out first and were greeted with a look of complete bewilderment from our waiter. He proceeded to explain to us that in France and Southern Europe, coffee after a meal is a common dessert option, so our pre-meal cappuccino would be the equivalent of someone ordering ice cream before their mains. Hence, you can understand his bewilderment. Meanwhile, our friend Deepti was contemplating life, London and Luxembourg. As multiple attempts at letting her fate be decided by chance had proved futile, Deepti finally made the decision to accept the Amazon role and move to Luxembourg. A massive decision and we all could not be more proud. :)
With the weather better than the day before, we decided to head out and explore the city. We began with a local merry-go-round, randomly situated in the middle of an empty park, before heading to Toulouse's botanical gardens, a beautiful sea of picturesque fauna with some lovely local market food stalls. It was a lovely way to experience some of the local culture, whilst also getting to practice our photography.
In all seriousness though, if you are planning a trip to Toulouse, I would definitely encourage you to plan ahead. Toulouse is not the kind of city where you can just land and figure out things to do. On top of that, the language barrier was probably harder than any other European city that we had been to so far. All in all, despite some poor weather and me not getting my croissant, this was definitely a fun trip and for £22 return flights, I can safely say that we had nothing Toulouse. ;)
Have you been to Toulouse before?
Let us know what you thought of the city in the comments below :)