Toulouse is the only major southern city in France without a beach right on its doorstop. However the largest city in Occitanie is conveniently located not far from the sea or the ocean and indeed the mountains. The Mediterranean is an hour and half away by car and the Atlantic is around three hours away. You can reach the Pyrenees in a little over an hour. The waterways that run through the city are the Canal du Midi and the Garonne River, both offering cool respite during the heat of summer and other activities year round.
Summers are long in Toulouse. Spring is fleeting, though it seems much longer because of my allergies. Officially the seasons are the same as they are everywhere else but summer seems to go on for a long time and October and even November can be gorgeous. From the beginning of June long warm days of sunshine turn the metropolis into a summer playground. This year there will, of course, be some restrictions due to Covid but the good news is that the world will be reopening its doors on the 19th May 2021. Cinemas, museums and restaurants with outdoor seating, will reopen and our curfew will change from 7pm to 9pm. Hallelujah! Soon afterwards we will be allowed out until 11pm (imagine watching the sunset again) and finally in July until the wee hours of the night. Yay! Who am I kidding, I rarely go to bed after midnight.
The city centre of Toulouse is nestled between the canal and the river. The paths along the river and the canal are where les Toulousains (locals) go to walk, run or cycle and generally keep fit.
You can take to the canal by kayak, or row down the river, as part of a team or on your own. You can also travel by péniche (barge) or bicycle along the canal heading east towards the Mediterranean Sea, or west towards Bordeaux.
The canal is fantastic for shade on a hot day. It is the perfect escape with calm waters and endless rows of trees cradling picnic spots along the way.
The Canal du Midi is a 360 km network of navigable waterways linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
It was constructed in the late 1600’s over a period of 14 years . Pierre-Paul Riquet succeeded in building the canal in harmony with its surroundings, creating an amazing feat of civil engineering as well as a work of art. It is considered a masterpiece of French engineering. In 1857, the Canal Latéral à la Garonne linking Bordeaux to Toulouse was constructed. This idea was conceived in Roman times, to avoid having to navigate the Iberian Peninsula. Many years later it was Riquet who finally made it happen. He was the son of a lawyer from Bezier who fiercely opposed the construction of the canal. The young Riquet made his fortune from salt tax, used to preserve food at that time. Instead of settling down to a quiet life with his fortune, he worked for the rest of his life on the construction of the canal. Unfortunately, he died shortly before its inauguration.
The main section, running for nearly 250 kms, connects Toulouse to the étang de Thau, behind Sète, a jewel of a city on the Mediterranean Sea. For more about the city click here: Sète and The other side of Sète regarding la Pointe Courte.
For nearly two hundred years the Canal was used to transport people and merchandise between Toulouse and Sète. With the arrival of the railway line in the middle of the 19th century, transport along the canal slowly declined and was eventually replaced altogether by train travel. The canal has been saved by boat tourism as well as by hikers and bikers.
It doesn’t take very long to get out of Toulouse and find yourself in the countryside. As close as Castanet Tolosan you will find yourself in a bucolic setting by the canal. You can make the journey all the way from Toulouse to Sète by bicycle in a few days, and take the train back after a spell at the beach. Head out on your own and follow the canal if you have your bike with you, otherwise…
Riverside: On the Garonne
The Garonne flows from the central Spanish Pyrenees to the Gironde estuary at the French port of Bordeaux.
Locals like to gather on the river front and watch the sunset, play guitar, shoot the breeze, and walk through the city along the waterfront admiring the cityscape.
Learn to row : http://www.aviron-toulousain.fr . Created in 1979, Aviron Toulouse is affiliated to the French Rowing Federation. The club is located on the Garonne, on the Ile du Ramier near the centre of town. It is for all levels from total beginners to experts and offers classes in short boats with one or two rowers and long boats with four or eight rowers. Tried it once, couldn’t find my biceps! Where have they gone?
The Garona Cup involves mixed rowing teams of 8, with some of the most important schools and businesses from the city, competing in a race between the Pont Saint-Pierre and the Pont Neuf with a splendid view of the La Grave hospital in the background. See @garonecup for details, although it seems there may not be one this year due to Covid.
There is a restaurant at the club called Le Rowing. I am so excited by the idea of someone else’s cooking, and I am sure my husband feels the same way. Restaurants have been closed since the end of October in France!
Visit http://www.lerowing-restaurant.fr which is known for bbq fare. Also in the area is the restaurant de l’Ecluse Saint-Michel, www. lecluse-toulouse.com for bbq, fish and salades with a lovely view of the river.
With summer around the corner and the imminent easing of restrictions, here are just a few restaurants that will make you feel like you are on holiday:
L’Envol Coté Plage is an unusual and charming restaurant and bar located at the Aérodrome Toulouse Lasbordes @ 32 Ave Jean René Lagasse 31130 Balma overlooking a small airfield. It is about ten minutes from the city centre accessible by bike but also has free parking. visit : http://www.envol-restaurant.com .
Racines is an ephemeral summer ‘guingette style’ (outdoor tavern) restaurant located at the Port Viguerie by the giant Ferris wheel on the south side of the river, which adorns the city during the summer months. For reservations call 06.45.43.78.92. The Ferris wheel will give you a gorgeous view of the city. There are sometimes people waterskiing in front of the bar. Not a lot of beginners in this highly visible section of the river where it seems to be reserved for the adept water skier. More of a demonstration of expertise than a wipeout show.
The return of entertainment 🎷🎺: the slow come back of culture is on the way…..hopefully live music will come back in full swing around town.
La Festival Rio Loco will take place at the Prairie des Filtres, a park on the banks of the Garonne, with a limit of 5000 people this year. Spectators will have to wear masks and remain seated at this years event which will last for 8 days instead of 4 from the 13 until the 20 June. The 26th edition of this festival will have an African theme this year.
During the summer months you can feel the breeze from one of the roof terraces for a superior view of the city. Here at Mama Shelter the service is great, and the ambience and the rosé are chilled. There is a restaurant and a hotel downstairs, as well as a little cinema. visit https://fr.mamashelter.com/toulouse/ for reservations. Ma Biche sur le Toit has great views too although a little pricey.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post about Toulouse follow me to keep up with me on my travels around Occitanie…………………………..à bientôt Christina
Beautiful photos of the canal and the river. I have fond memories of my visit to Toulouse in the summer of 2014.
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Thank you! I have just been reading your posts about Toulouse. Very interesting. Hopefully you will be back in the lovely autumn here to enjoy an opera.
I enjoy travel, but for whatever reason, my time in France has been minimal – so I have already given it a higher priority. Thank you for sharing about your beloved Toulouse with its river and canal that I would no doubt enjoy.
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One of these days you will find yourself in this neck of the woods and when that time comes I will tell you about an amazing beach 3 hours from here where you can walk for miles and miles…
Toulouse is a very attractive city, I hope to visit again soon. Thank you for these tips.
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