Tidbits from Toulouse

For reasons related to our love affair with points, we are staying in a very modern hotel at the Toulouse airport. This makes sense when you consider that Toulouse is the center of the French aircraft industry. Rockwell and Airbus offices surround us! We went from the 12th century in Carcassonne last night to this totally contemporary hotel and very chic room. Can you say Radisson BLU?! Must confess that modern also has its charms…

Having gotten here in a very convoluted way – Gwyneth didn’t intuit that the Toulouse airport is not exactly in Toulouse – I would have done anything to avoid driving back into the city. Thank goodness that Toulouse, like any sensible city anywhere in the world except New York – has a lovely tram system that goes right into town and connects for the same €1.5 to the metro system. Wonderful.

So we ventured into town today and immediately encountered the carousel. I say “the” carousel because it seems to be obligatory for every town in France to have one. In America, we hoped for Carnegie libraries; here they must have a carousel. Sweet. The gluten-free news is spreading – free samples were being distributed, and shopping was rampant all through the city. Had to get some new socks, so I did my share. We saw a beautiful city with some of the elegance of Paris, but a robust character all its own.

We stopped at the Church of the Jacobeans, a 13th century church that was the first of St. Dominic’s order. Architecturally, it is called Southern French Gothic and pre-dates what we usually think of as Gothic. No flying buttresses appearing at this time, so the architect used a series of “palm trees,” 22 columns right down the middle of the church, to support an incredibly high vaulted ceiling. Simple, elegant and very impressive.

We then saw the outside of the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, which was built at almost the same time, but in a more dramatic style. Glorious on the outside, it was closed at noon. Don saw the inside later, and proclaimed it wonderful.

Moi? I proclaimed it a day to take care of personal grooming, so I went off to have a hair cut and a pedicure. The results were very satisfying…

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