I’m sure that anybody, who cane up to Toulouse while exploring France, knows why it’s called a “pink city”. Located by the Garonne River, in the south-west of France, the second-largest academic center right after Paris is full of dark pink buildings. Apart from the color of the bricks and the number of students, Toulouse is known for few different things. Among others, these include the Basilica of Saint-Sernin and the Church of the Jacobins.
St. Saturninus Basilica and the Church of the Jacobins.
The basilica is one of the main spots of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This majestic structure was built on a cruciform plan, it has an octagonal tower and breathtaking frescoes. Inside, there’s the tomb of St. Sernin, and the visitors can take a look at the prayerful Saint, who is being lifted up to Heaven by angels, but also at a great canopy. The Basilica has been enlisted as UNESCO Heritage Site, so it’s worth to see it - not only because it is a precious monument, but also because of its beauty. It cannot be classified as a typical Romanesque architecture, because it is larger than the other objects of this period. It is also characterized by spaciousness and steeple design - it has a lot in common with Gothic style. It is wonderful, full of pink light (thanks to the famous pink bricks) and you can calm down and relax inside it.
On the other hand, typically Gothic would be the church of the Jacobins. Moderately attractive from the outside, it surprises with the spaciousness in the inside. This, in turn, is thanks to long and narrow windows and 22-foot columns. Gothic cloisters of the church lead to the capitulary, and then to the fourteenth-century chapel of St. Anthony. Here, tourists can also admire the extraordinary beauty of the frescoes. There you can also find the tomb of St. Thomas of Aquins together with his relics.
It is worth to focus your attention to the local cemeteries. The oldest in the city are the Cimetière de Terre Canada and the Cimetière de Salonique. Those are the most frequently visited cemeteries in Toulouse, but the Polish people might be a bit surprised walking along the nineteenth-century graves. They will not find a single candle there – in France people don’t have the custom to honor deceased in that way.
Another monument, which should be explored by every tourist visiting Toulouse, is the Augustinian museum, with a big collection of early Christian sculptures (the huge statues of saints and apostles in the courtyard) and a collection of decorative crafts. The Cathedral of Saint Etienne (St. Stephen’s) on the other hand, delights with the baroque altar, stalls (benches) and the bishop's throne. A Gothic chancel also attracts the attention of the visitor.
But Toulouse is not only about the cathedrals and churches. It is a place, where plenty of students are living, so it is quite bustling, at least in the districts where there is no lack of dancing clubs and discos with flashing lights. The enclave of the night craziness is St. Peter's Square (Place Saint Pierre), a place crowded with young people. It is located near the bridge of the same name. The area is a real paradise if you want to party – there’s quite a selection of bars and pubs, for example Le Bar Basque (7 Place Saint Pierre), where you can spend a lot of evenings with your friends.
Speaking of the night life of the city, it is worth noting that Toulouse changes completely after dark. The banks of the famous Canal du Midi (which is another pearl of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites) is highlighted after dark, what makes the atmosphere very magical, and enables to see the extraordinary beauty of the canal. Similar thing happens with the basilica, the banks of the Garonne and bridges. The romantic climate of these lights amaze nightly wanderers going to another club.
Next interesting spot, The Place de la Daurade, turns into a beach during the summer. Both inhabitants and tourists like to hang out on the banks of the river, bivouacking without any hurry. There’s Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Daurade, which remembers the old pagan times, located in the vicinity of the square, and originally it was the temple in honor of Apollo. In the sixth century a church was built and decorated with gold mosaics, from which comes the modern name - "deaurata" which in Latin means "gold." It’s peaceful and quiet in the center of Toulouse. The Place du Capitole located here is fringed with the arcades of cafes, in which you can sit with a coffee and enjoy the ambience of the area. Fans of the so-called sophisticated culture will be also satisfied - in one building, a huge Capitole, they will find the town hall, a theater and opera. It is also beautifully illuminated at night.
The City of violets
In the nineteenth century the people of Toulouse were devoted to farm the violets. Hence that charming centre got its name – “the City of Violets”. These small, modest flowers of captivating scent perfectly reflect the atmosphere of Toulouse. It doesn’t have to cast a spell as roses do, or stun with a beauty as orchids do. When someone will lean over a shy, little violet, hidden in the grass, will surely fall in love with it- just as the tourist, who got to know Toulouse. And surely will come back here very often, longing for the ambience of streets leading somewhere along the buildings made of pink bricks.