What a ripper of a day! After a cold and drizzly introduction to Toulouse yesterday, today was sunny and calm and perfect for roaming. We had a lazy start to the day, taking our time to get going but when we finally emerged from the hotel and into the sunshine, it was to discover that the city was bustling. There were runners everywhere and people out walking and there was no sense of it being Easter Sunday at all. We strolled around the corner to the velo docking station to select our transport for the day. These are such a great idea and quite a few cities have them now, but it means we can pick up a bike in one location, ride it around and drop it off at another location, then when we’re ready, pick up another bike and ride it around and drop it off somewhere else…and on we go. The locals obviously use them a lot, because we saw plenty of people carrying their shopping and using them to get around and what a terrific system for people who live in apartments and don’t have space to store a bike of their own, they can get around the city simply and cheaply, not to mention it cutting down on city transport emissions, so it’s a convenient and green system. We made good use of those little bikes today and rode all around the city, making use of the plentiful cycle paths and lanes, and despite being a bit lacking in the seat padding and suspension departments, they were terrific little bikes to use for the day.
We soon found that Easter Sunday was not the extensive holiday we had read it was going to be. The cafes were overflowing and the markets were in full swing, so I stopped off at the fruit and veg market to mingle with the locals, look at the amazing colour of all the produce on display and make a couple of purchases. After parking our bikes, we walked through a park and along the river. It was a chilly morning but the sun was glorious and we found ourselves in a nice park, where we sat for elevenses. It was such a picture, like something from a movie with the soundtrack playing in the background, because there was a lone saxophone player sitting on a bench, just playing for enjoyment. He was just leaning back on the bench, totally relaxed and playing some great mellow music on his bass sax. So there we were, sitting in the sunshine in a park with trees and spring blossom and flowers all around us, the sax playing, people walking past with dogs and families out and about playing soccer or walking beside the river. Just a top start to the day!
We hopped back on some bikes and headed off in the direction of Old Toulouse, to visit some of the historic sites. We walked into the square that fronts the Capitole building and what an amazing place. The square is a huge, open public space and there was a terrific group of buskers playing drums and brass instruments, whipping up some music that couldn’t be heard without swinging, swaying or foot tapping. They were fantastic.
We went into the Capitole for a look and this is a beautiful building. It’s basically Toulouse’s City Hall and the beautiful paintings and frescos that line the walls and ceilings are simply stunning. Looking at the paintings, one can’t help but notice just how popular the naked female form was amongst the ol’ masters and impressionists! Didn’t seem to matter what the scene was…throw in a naked lady with a bit of whispy white muslin floating around! What must the artists have been thinking I wonder?
“Oh, I think I’ll paint a picture of the villagers threshing the wheat…how’s that looking now?…I’ve got the workers, I’ve got the children playing in the fields, I’ve got the farm dogs walking through the cut wheat, now what am I missing?…Hmmm, the composition just isn’t quite right, I can’t put my finger on it..what is it…? Aaah, of course, no naked lady! Right, I’ll just pop her over here on the wagon…that’s better…perfect now!”
“My I had a jolly nice time at that dinner last week, with the feast of boar’s head, mead and tubers, I think I’ll record that for posterity with my trusty oils…there we go, that’s looking good, just need to think where I can add my naked lady…pouring wine maybe?…no that might make a mess of the white muslin and Dynamo hasn’t been invented yet…a guest perhaps, just sitting amongst us in all her naked glory?…no, I wouldn’t know which direction to paint everyone’s eyes…oh, I know, of course, I’ll just put her up there floating above us…now she’s up there, I can paint us looking wherever we like and I’ve got my naked lady in the frame! Done!”
As we were leaving I noticed the building was equipped with a public defibrillator on the wall. I’m sure that was installed in case someone had a coronary from walking around and gazing at all those naked women! Anyway, they were all beautiful paintings. We also saw a bust of Mr Riquet, who designed the Canal du Midi and a bust of Mr Fermat, who is, of course, of Fermat’s Last Theorum fame. After the Capitole, we wandered over to the Basilica of St. Sernin, another beautiful cathedral. We both commented that we had expected there to be a much greater focus on Easter and we’d expected there to be things happening or services going on, but there was really nothing that set this day apart from any other.
Back on our bikes, we made a quick pitstop back at the hotel and then cycled out to the Botanical Gardens for our belated picnic that we were supposed to have a week ago for our anniversary, before the howling gale put a stop to it. We found a nice possie on the grass in the sun and finally had a nice picnic lunch. We then hopped back on the bikes and zipped and zoomed through the city back to our hotel. “Well, that was great fun,” I said to Steve when we arrived, because it had been! A nice relaxed, easy going day, roaming and riding around and taking in the city. Toulouse is a really nice city, with an easy going feel, some beautiful buildings and lovely public parks and spaces and we enjoyed every minute of the day. We also commented that there wasn’t an egg, rabbit, chocolate or hot cross bun to be seen anywhere, not a hint of Easter at all. Not even a church bell ringing.
I rounded out the day with a run along the path beside the canal because I couldn’t leave this city that’s so perfectly set up for running and is teeming with fellow runners, without joining them, if only briefly.
So it was indeed a top day in Toulouse…good fun zipping around on our dinky little bikes with baskets, mingling with the locals, roaming the streets and historic buildings, relaxing in the parks and gardens…and all in sunshine and with no wind! What more could we ask for! With beautiful weather, beautiful buildings, beautiful gardens and musical accompaniment, the city sure gave us a picture today… [insert naked lady here!]