Well! It was a long but very interesting day. We started in Paris this morning, getting a bright and early start in order to get to the train station in time.
We passed the École Militaire, or Military School, on our way out, the last Paris sight we would see. Yes, those are real cannons out in front!
From there we got to the train station just in time to catch our ride south to Toulouse.
This is what the inside of a TGV looks like! TGV, or train grande vitesse (high speed train), has assigned but fairly comfy seats, as they know TGV rides tend to be very long. For example, today we were on the train for 6 hours! They have folding tables much like an airline tray that you can have up or down depending on what you are doing, and small bags can fit under your seat. There are also two shelves above the seats, one wide one and one smaller one, for your other bags. There are some services on the train such as a special car with food and drink if you forget your own, and some trains even have Wi-Fi now!
Getting off the train and into Toulouse immediately gives you a different feeling than Paris. The featured image shows what the very first street you see looks like. It is much wider than Paris, with smooth, long paving stones in the sidewalks and no real difference between the sidewalk and the street. That is because in this area of Toulouse, you can walk wherever you want to! If a car needs to go where you are, they have to wait for you, not you wait for them. The local French accent has a strong Spanish influence since we are not very far from the border, leading to a very different sounding French from Paris. My husband had never been to Toulouse before and he said his first thoughts were how nice it smelled (you enter this section of the city through a giant flower garden!) and how much more relaxed everything seemed compared to people in Paris.
This is two streets down from the first one on a street called Rue du Taur. There are 2 medieval churches here: St. Sernin, which was built in the 1100s and whose tower you can see in this photo, and the Notre Dame du Taur, a 1200s church which is unlike any others I’ve seen in Europe before.
The classic European church to go visit is made of stone, is extremely tall and airy, and decorated with all kinds of statues, fabrics, framed paintings, etc. The Notre Dame du Taur, on the other hand, is small and nearly entirely made of wood. But the really impressive part is the walls! Every inch of the church is covered in old paintings, done by hand primarily in the 1200 and 1300s. It is an amazing experience to stand silently in the church and just take it all in!
Here is another great example of a Toulouse street (two more streets further west)!
Finally, here’s something pretty darn cool I learned about Toulouse today! There are 3 languages spoken here: everyone speaks French as either their first or second language, and there is a very small Spanish speaking community (since, again, we’re near the border). But there is another, even smaller community that still understands a language called Occitan! Occitan is an ancient French tribal language from before France was one single unified country (pre-1400s) that was nearly lost, but about 5% of the people here speak it and twice that many can understand it when they come across it! In order to honor this heritage, Toulouse and several other cities with similar backgrounds make sure this group is not lost forever by providing then with several spots around town such as Occitan bookstores and even posts their street signs in both languages! The top sign is in French but the bottom one is in Occitan. Pretty awesome!
And the one thing you’ve all been waiting for – the comment section winner today is Hallie! Keep on reading and commenting – tomorrow is our last full day in Toulouse (already!)