2021 – What’s Toulouse?

In Toulouse, like everywhere in France it is customary to wish people a “happy new year” during the first month of the year, and not just if you happen to be with them as the clock strikes midnight on Dec 31st. It’s a custom which continues throughout the long month of January. Sweet, no?!

So……..here is me wishing you all a happy and healthy 2021.

Toulouse, la ville rose, is the city of cosy student bars, stylish cafés , and myriad restaurants, all of which are closed. The bustling terraces are empty and more and more ‘fast food’ entities have closed down for take out and home delivery. Toulouse, the jewel of Occitanie, is usually vibrant, brimming with locals and visitors alike, chit chatting and merry making. But not right now. Things are pretty dull in the city today. It’s still beautiful  but the life has been sucked out of it in the bleak midwinter. Actually we are not even half way through this winter and it’s time for a change of strategy for this citadine.

With all the rules and regulations being thrown at us it’s kind of hard to stay upbeat. Frankly, it’s hard to even stay up to date with where we can go and until what time! Here in Toulouse we are currently not in lockdown but have a curfew in place from 20h! Adjusting to the all these rules is no picnic either, even if it is for a good cause. We are probably going to have our curfew brought forward to 18h soon.

go outside and play

To tell you the truth it has been a heck of an adjustment for me. Having left the airline industry after 25 years back in 2018 I thought I would at least try to have a go at a normal life, working in an office and sleeping at night.  Having always suspected that it was not for me, I proved myself right after a year and a half and resigned, full of hope and energy to go back into tourism after some more travels abroad and spending some time with my family on the west coast of Canada. I gave my notice on the 17 February and ended my full-time employment on the 17 March just as the world went into the first lockdown.  Not the best of timing one might say. So I changed course and am putting all my energy into learning infographics and photography and waiting for the world to open back up. I miss travelling and meeting new people. I love travel blogging which you can imagine is challenging when one is subject to confinement which limits movement from 1km from home to 20kms from home to 100 kms and sometimes even limitless travel.

view from the Pont St Michel of the Pont Neuf (note the crowd despite the cold)

This post is about making the best of each of these lockdown situations. Whether you are planning a trip to Occitanie for later in 2021 or next year, here are some day trips to consider from Toulouse:

One of the best things about being based in the city of Toulouse is the close proximity to the sea and mountains and how easy it is to escape the metropole. By car it takes about ten minutes to drive to the countryside, (and be surrounded by vines and sunflower fields) around one hour twenty to the Medditerranean seaside and an hour and half to the Pyrenees.

Honestly the 1hour/ 1 kilometre rule which we endured for a few weeks this autumn was the hardest.  When this rule is in place, the only way not to go crazy is to practice R&R. Not the classic rest and relaxation (we got that covered being locked in) but R&R  running (so that when nighttime comes we are tired enough to sleep) and reading. Running for an hour is long enough for me and here are no limits with reading. Frankly, in normal times we never had enough time to read.

When we are limited to 20 kilometres we can, at least, visit parks and stroll along the river and cycle along the Canal du Midi and even venture out as far le lac de Flourens (a breath of fresh air and picnic spot). It ain’t Lake Como but when you have been locked in for a month it holds immense beauty!

a break from walking in the city centre of Toulouse (note the scowl behind the mask)

Staying outside and social distancing is so much easier during the summer but getting out into the mountain air is essential in the winter too.  All of our ski resorts are compromised in that we can go but there are no chair lifts working and no restaurants or bars or cafés open. You can still hoof it up the mountain with your skis on your back and ski down, like our grandparents used to do, but it is a lot of work and in addition to needing the motivation you need snow tires and possibly a 4×4, which if you don’t already have makes for a very expensive day out. Snowshoeing is the best answer for now. There are loads places to snowshoe near Toulouse and wouldn’t you know it the Pyrenees are abundant with snow this year. From Ariège to Hautes Pyrenees and around the Haute Garonne department there are trails and paths waiting to be tracked. visit http://www.rando-marche.fr for ideas.

Picnicking at minus 6 makes for a few adjustments; eat fast, don’t forget a blanket and don’t stop for too long. It is amazing how warm you  stay walking in the snow.

Snowshoeing in the luchonnais (note the smile without the mask)
quick picnicking near the village d’Oo (what more do you want)

Every so often, even in the winter I need to see the sea.  One day I hope this will be a daily thing but for now we jump in the car at least once a month, when the powers that be allow it, and walk along the shore resourcing and dreaming about summer. One hour and 35 minutes from Toulouse on the A61 and you will be amazed by the difference in scenery.

Here is little charmer that I met in Gruissan. I totally fell for him, even felt like I was ‘cheating’ on my cat. Even cats seem happier by the sea.

view of Red Beard’s Castle on the big sea pond at Gruissan

Freedom in this day and age (and this neck of the woods) is quite relative.  In the words of the late great Janis Joplin “ya gotta get it while you can”.  Even if she was talking about ‘love’.  One day we will awake from this nightmare and will want to be able to say that we made the most of it. You don’t want to be the one who just stayed home and got depressed watching Netflix, or even worse the news. It’s time for creativity and letting your imagination run wild. It is also time for planning. Planning our future travels and adventures. You don’t want to miss the window when the world opens back up before it gets too busy again….and it will.  Everyone keeps talking about travel going back to where it was in 2019.  Personally I am dreaming about it getting back to where it was in 2000 (a lot more fun and less saturated 😉) Where would you most like to go? Which places will you visit first? My list is very long but starts with home to visit my family……..and into town to rediscover Toulouse with cafés, bars, restaurants and cinemas open!

I hope you have enjoyed this post and that you are faring well during this challenging time.

Join me in my travels around beautiful Occitanie………………..à bientôt Christina.

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