Despite the number of trendy barbour shops cropping up all over the city and the many tattoo parlours dotted around Toulouse, yep the hipsters are here a little late but in full force, this blog is about keeping cool during the summer heatwave.
A visit to the metropolis is imperative. I was shocked by the amount of visitors to the region who bypass the beautiful city of Toulouse altogether. To deprive yourself willingly of a visit to the Basilique St. Sernin, the marché Victor Hugo, the Couvent des Jacobins or the Jardin des Plantes, to name a few, is madness.
It takes a little more effort to visit a city, I know, but the rewards are worth it. I have observed people visiting from the country who become visibly disturbed at the sight of graffiti. One little squiggle from a can of spraypaint spotted in the afternoon and suddenly they’re looking over their shoulders nervously as if they are in a notorious favela in the middle of the night. Relax already, it is just paint, not the ultimate sign of urban decay.
This guy is keeping cool under a bridge playing tennis against a wall.
Toulouse, the largest city in Occitanie, is enjoying something between a renaissance and a metamorphasis. When I first came here I was surprised at how few tourists there were. The paths that run along the Canal du Midi, and the riverwalks of la Garonne seemed drastically underdeveloped to me. Little did I know that the wheels were in motion. L’ile du Ramier is also being transformed for the benefit of locals and visitors alike.
August is actually a pretty good time to visit Toulouse. First off, parking is free everywhere during the first two weeks of August.
Keeping cool here in the summer is a challenge but there are ways to enjoy the city despite the heat. Prairie des Filtres hosts ‘Toulouse Plage’ every summer. After Paris, many cities started following suit and importing sand to the banks of their main river to fabricate a beach during summertime for people who either don’t have the means or the time to holiday by the seaside or ocean. There are concerts and other activities like yoga, taï chi, dance lessons, singing lessons, learning centres for children and a giant ferris wheel.
L’ile du Ramier lies between two arms of the Garonne near the centre of Toulouse. This little group of islands was once isolated from the city. In the XVII century a ‘poudrerie’, or gunpowder factory was constructed . Frequent explosions caused the municipality enough concern to move the powder mill to the more isolated south of the island, where the empty buildings remain.
The Ile du Ramier was developed into a park and leisure spot in 1904 with an open air theatre, a music bandstand and a café restaurant. From 1920 certain sports facilities including a club d’aviron, or rowing club set up home here. Later came a municipal swimming pool, an indoor and an outdoor or ‘summer pool’ designed by the architect Jean Montariol in 1931 and classed as a ‘monument historique’ in 1993. There is an impressive hydroelectric centre at the entrance to the island.
A little shaded restaurant in the woods on the ile du Ramier, le Central
There is a also a football stadium and the first student residence in Toulouse. The parc des expositions is housed here until 2020 when it will be progressively moved out of the city centre to a location just outside.
It is true to say that to some extent the island has been left to flounder. It is being revamped and will undoubtedly become the awesome urban playground that it has the natural setting to become but for now there is something just a little ‘deliverance’ about it. It has been described as the bois de Boulogne de Toulouse. It is definitely still a nice little wooded getaway on a hot day in the city.
The part of l’ile du Ramier that has been fixed up already is the garden entrance and the écluse Saint-Michel. There is a new restaurant there open from midday to midnight. Very generous brochettes, grillades and the rosé was flowing.
Here is another little restaurant nearby, under the pont neuf called la Guingette which sits right on the river.
The Canal du Midi is an important part of the regions’ heritage. I will be cycling and blogging my way along this manmade canal which runs all the way from Toulouse to Sète on the Mediterranean another time. This was the portion originally constructed although it now goes all the way from near Bordeaux on the Atlantic (Gironde Estuary) to the Mediterranean.
You will see barges and tour boats meandering up and down the canal as well as restaurant boats, a spa boat and sporty people running along the bord du canal. There is lots of shade and there are plenty of watering holes canalside. On sundays there is a very lively market at St. Aubin next to the canal between le pont de Guilhemery, and le pont de l’avenue de la Gloire.
Apart from ‘Toulouse Plage’, the Ile du Ramier and the bord du canal, you can also make the most of the banks of the river. Whether you prefer rowing or water skiing or just finding a shaded terrace by la Garonne these spots will keep you cool in the summer if you want to stay outside. If you prefer to visit some of the city museums and churches you can follow me on my next blog for some inside sights.
Bonnes vacances à Toulouse! Be sure to follow my blog and keep up with me on my travels around beautiful Occitanie. Read my post Inside Toulouse