Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T - Toulouse

Toulouse is a jewel in the crown of France. It is steeped in history as long and involved as that of Paris, though most Parisians would disagree. Toulouse was the seat of the Count of Toulouse who was basically king of the Languedoc, Occitan. During the 1200s, the renaissance, art, culture and progress were bursting into bloom here, before the “King” of France decided he didn’t like the rivalry. Toulouse was much too prosperous for “France” to allow it to remain independent. The king of France arranged an alliance with Pope Innocent III, you get the souls and I get the land. The only “crusade” against Christians then lasted over 56 years when France waged war and eventually incorporated Toulouse into its sphere. This is the main reason behind the animosity between the north and the south (sound familiar?) in France. Yes, this is a simplified version of the history, but still accurate. It’s interesting to know that Lebanon was also part of the Comte de Toulouse, and was referred to as the Comte de Toulouse de l’Orient. It played a major role during the Crusades since it was the only Christian land in the Orient that honored the local Arabs and was therefore respected by Saladin. Perhaps the King of France was also envious of this territory? My husband was raised in Blagnac, which used to be a small village on the outskirts of Toulouse. Thanks to Airbus, Blagnac is now on the world stage, which does much for my mother in law’s property values!
The city is known as “La Ville en Rose” as the vast majority of older buildings are built with natural brick from the area which is light red in color. One can walk it’s streets for days and not see everything. It has culture, traffic, progress, museums, churches, is laced with canals, and a subway system/tram system which is state of the art. The Toulouse area is also known for its violettes (not to mention Toulouse Lautrec!). Violettes are grown here and made into candies famous the world over. Provence has nothing on the Midi-Pyrenees, which is where Toulouse is located, for beauty. On a clear day one can see the Pyrenees in the distance. If you ever decide to visit Toulouse, the “Eglise des Jacobins” (Church of the Jacobins) is a must see. Its claim to fame is the “palm” like arches holding the domed ceiling in place.

Place du Capitol

The red flag is the regional flag of the Midi-Pyrenees

A street in Toulouse lined with the "rose" bricked buildings

Strange architecture can be found everywhere in Toulouse

A roof top view from an apartment

Notice the name of the restaurant at the bottom? It reads, "Angels and Demons."

The Canal du Midi...

Public bikes for rent, just like in Paris and most large cities in France now.
This shop owner was so friendly and new her wares, even with so many lining walls and crowding floors.

One of many colorful tables...

A Salon de The, a tea salon. Look at the name of the next one...

Gotta love this! "L'autre salon de the" means, The Other Tea Salon!
A statue made for children to climb without sacrificing its art by Jean-Louis Toutain.

Another look at some interesting architecture. And again, the "rose" colored bricks...

Lucky enough to happen upon a lazer light show one night!

Taking a shortcut down a small picturesque back street in Toulouse

Le Pont Neuf. The "new" bridge (1542-1632) spanning the river, took over one hundred years to build.
Eglise des Jacobin

The Palm-like interior ceiling. Unique and worth seeing...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S - Sarlat

Okay, today is a special treat because this “little” town known as Sarlat (pronounced sar-lah) or
Sarlat la Canéda, is one of the most captivating "ville." that I've seen in France. You will find a literal “Kodak” moment anywhere you go here. Sarlat has not been "properly" introduced into the 21st century, (only a very little for tourism) thank goodness for us. The town dates (it is said) from the fourteenth century, and the buildings are as picturesque as the narrow streets, some of which are cobbled, some paved. Even the manhole covers are distinctive and decorated. The region is known for its fois gras and so there is a bronze statue of geese in "center court." We spent an afternoon here and wished to stay longer. There is so much to explore and discover. You can walk everywhere. There simply isn’t that much car traffic because when the town was restored (in the 1960s by order of André Malraux, Minister of Culture 1960-1969), they kept it the way they found it and that meant there wasn’t much room for anything but pedestrian traffic. Sarlat is a lovely town and very much worth seeing if you’re in the Dordogne. I didn’t put the photos in the “Dordogne” post, because I wanted this whole “S” post to go uniquely to Sarlat.

The main square with market in swing.

An artist selling his wares next to the fountain of Sainte Marie - Sarlat

La Fontaine de Sainte Marie
House of La Boétie, the immortal friend of the writer Montaigne...
Captivating architecture

You find these all over Sarlat in the tiles and cobblestones.

This tower is called "the Lantern of the Dead" or "The Lantern of the Moors."
Cathedrale Saint-Sacerdos de Sarlat
Here you can see the "pig" gargoyles...

This "house" is owned by two different people, as you can see from the upkeep on one side as compared to the other!

The front view of one side of the previous photo
The bronze geese...

Interesting adaptation of a window

Detail from the intricate iron-cast cover protecting the glass in the lovely door below

If you notice the door knocker on the left side, this is a style of door knock that you find all over the southern regions of France. Very popular.
A mishmash of buildings, with flowers and foliage...

A door and its frame in the sun.

Very small sign advertising a restaurant. I loved the play of light and shadow in Sarlat, which seemed to deepen the views.

A typical street. Not made for cars, only people.

We happened upon a Fete honoring bosses and sometimes married people. This sign, which you only find in the southwestern regions of France goes up on May 1st to celebrate proprietors by their employees with a pine bough and French flags.

This is a style they put up for married folks on May first...
A memorial to those who fought in WWII. Told you they are everywhere in France...