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A view of the 16th century Pont Neuf bridge over The River Garonne in Toulouse

A quick look at Toulouse from a campervan

October 23, 2019

On Monday we had an appointment in the city of Toulouse and as it is a seven-hour drive from us, we decided to head there for Saturday and Sunday night and take a look at one of the very few cities in France we had never visited. I’d like to say we saw it all and can offer you a great guide on what to do and see but truth be told, the city is huge (the fourth biggest in France) and we only had time to take a cursory glance at it.

A view of the 16th century Pont Neuf bridge over The River Garonne in Toulouse

A view of the 16th century Pont Neuf bridge over The River Garonne in Toulouse.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon having booked one of the two city campsites online the day before (we don’t usually book campsites ahead at this time of the year but have been caught out a couple of times in cities lately with no room at the inn). Neither campsite had stellar reviews so we went for the one that promised a good sanitation block and a bike route into the city, along The Canal du Midi, “Camping Le Rupe”. The campsite was pretty much as described in the reviews – in a really grotty area (don’t plan to eat out!), lacking maintenance with fortress-like security and excellent loos/showers. I’d add that the reception staff were really helpfull and it was a very convenient base from which to set off into the city on bikes. There was a good Boulangerie just around the corner from the campsite and the receptionist told us the public transport options into the city were good and regular too if you don’t fancy the bike ride.

The St Pierre bridge from a more flattering angle

The St Pierre bridge from a more flattering angle.

Once we had cycled the 12 kms into the city (all on cycle routes, no hills), we enjoyed our Saturday afternoon there. Toulouse is known as “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City) due to the many buildings built with pinkish coloured bricks/roof tiles and there are multiple architectural treasures to see from the 16th century Pont Neuf bridge that spans the mighty River Garonne to the Basilica de Saint Serin, the oldest Romanesque building in Europe (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Is this a young woman dangling from the St Pierre brige over the Garonne.  No just some brilliant art that had every visitor studying it intently

Is this a young woman dangling from the St Pierre brige over the Garonne. No just some brilliant art that had every visitor studying it intently.

This city has a lovely atmosphere with plenty of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants as well as street performers and interesting street art plus the one thing that makes everybody feel good – the warmth and sunshine you get this far south. I’m sure the fact that is was sunny and 24 degrees C added to the relaxed atmosphere as it felt more like August than October and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring on bike and foot, pausing to listen to the best busked rendition of “Redemption Song” we have ever heard.

Our brief glance of this city told us we like it but we did not even scratch the surface of what it has to offer so we’ll be back to explore another day.

You see interesting architecture at every turn as you explore the centre of Toulouse

You see interesting architecture at every turn as you explore the centre of Toulouse.

If you are planning to visit Toulouse in a motorhome or campervan, we’d recommend staying at “Camping Le Rupe” for security and convenience. There are gorgeous parts of Toulouse but some suburbs clearly have real poverty and crime issues. There were makeshift homes in tents along the canal and any of the city fuel stations make you pre-pay before you can fill up (we have never seen this during daylight hours in France before!) which is a sure sign not to leave your vehicle unattended in a public carpark. We did not once feel threatened in the city centre or the scruffy suburbs but with this much visible contrast between the haves and the have nots, security of one’s possessions is vital.

Camping Le Rupe charged €40 for the night and whilst it would never be a holiday destination, it was a convenient and secure place to visit the city from and we were made very welcome.

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