A surprise trip to Toulouse!

When I look back at the photos from our 24 hour trip to Toulouse last October, it instantly makes me want to dive right in and re-live it all over again (or book a flight!). It was a complete surprise from start to finish and full of memories I want to hold on to forever.

I hesitated over sharing all of the details of our trip, but decided I wanted to capture it all whilst I could fully remember it. So let me take you back to where it all began…

James and I had booked a long weekend off at some point during spring 2017, with the idea that we might book a city break somewhere. We discussed a few possible options, including Toulouse, and that was it. We moved to Woking and were meant to book it all in before we went on holiday to the Channel Islands. But we didn’t and as the summer ended we realised we still needed to buy things for the house, so we agreed to cancel it and enjoy the time at home. Or so I thought…

On the morning of our first day off, James got up in the dark and I groaned “James, we’re not going to work today!”. He turned the lights on and carried in a tray of pastries, a couple of macrons and a coffee. “We’re going to Toulouse!” I rubbed my eyes as they adjusted to the light “What did you say?” “We’re going to Toulouse! We’re flying out today!” “WHAT?! That’s crazy”. Then I started quizzing him on our plans, what time were we flying, how long were we staying for, where were we staying. I checked out the weather, “27 degrees!!!” and did a little happy dance as I sent out smug messages to my friends. I threw two outfits into a bag and a few essentials and I was ready to go. It’s amazing how quickly you can pack with little time or warning.

We were flying out of Gatwick and had SO much time to get there we managed to go into Guildford, check out a few shops, and enjoy a glass of champagne in the airport (which FYI we never do!). I was straight onto Pinterest and Instagram looking for a few places to visit, but to be honest didn’t have time to add any plans to our trip. I was soon to discover that would be the best way to see Toulouse.

We landed and got stuck in passport control (which I got quite frustrated about knowing we only had 24 hours). As we got on to the train from the airport (which is just outside and SO easy to get into the city, I think it’s quicker too,) I suggested that perhaps as we only had a small bag each we should go straight out rather than checking in. James let out one of those long sighs and said it’d only take a minute to check in and the hotel was in a great location (Place du Capitole)

As we stepped off the train it was love at first sight. “La ville en rose” The Pink City, is as beautiful as it sounds and I was full of that feeling you get when you find yourself somewhere completely new. Small alleyways inviting you to go for a wander, people drinking wine in the bistros lining the streets, a sense of relaxation as the sun dropped on a Friday afternoon.

After I had hurried James out of the hotel we made our way to the Garonne for sunset. Gosh was it stunning!

We ambled along and I snapped away. We thought we’d go over Pont Saint-Pierre to see what was on the other side. As we got about a third of the way, I decided that it didn’t look like anything interesting would be there and suggested turning back. James said we should go to the middle at least “in case there was a good photo”. We got there and I took a few pictures, then I turned around and James was down on one knee. “Will you marry me?”

It was all a bit of an emotional blur after that, with the ring secured on my finger with some plasters James had carried with him in case it was a bit big. But here’s our happy faces.

THE most beautiful setting, I couldn’t quite believe it was all real. But wanted to capture the feeling in a bottle.

We sat on the riverside and I asked for James’ side of the whole proposal. We chatted about the wedding and exchanged ideas until we realised we needed some food.

We wandered back towards our hotel, spotted a place with tables outside and delicious pizza. (Not authentic french cuisine but neither of us were in the mood for searching for long. This is where we ended up.)

Then went to the square near our hotel to share a celebratory bottle of wine.

Before crashing out in our hotel from the adrenaline of the day.

The next morning, we got up early (mostly because I was desperate to see it all in day light) and set off down the streets near our hotel with the general aim of getting to Jardin Des Plantes.

It was so quiet, as if we’d got up way before everyone else had (at 9am). So different to London, which would be busy already by that time on a Saturday morning.

We made it to the garden and enjoyed the autumn colours.

Whilst it being wonderfully warm too!

At some point I saw this bridge in the distance and made a bee-line for it. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all bridges were like this?!

I think we ended up in this park. It’s small but so beautiful. I still couldn’t believe it was mid October.

We then wandered some more in the direction of Cathédrale Saint-Étienne. Naturally I was soaking up every little detail.

There’s something a little worn-down about Toulouse, in a similar way to Porto – on the one hand it feels quite neglected but on the other it’s quite charming. It adds a more laid-back vibe, particularly if you compared it to Paris.

We found our first market full of antique books and paintings.

Nothing I wanted to buy really, but I still loved how a market had sprung up out of nowhere and hoped it wouldn’t be the only one we found that day.

I tucked my head down a couple of side streets before settling in for a hot chocolate at Crillo. Amazing. If you like thick and indulgent hot chocolate you’ll love it (and their chocolates are to die for.)

We carried on exploring and I wanted to go down every street possible. Toulouse is a maze of intriguing streets, I was part full of wonder and part full of fear of missing out on something. I often wonder whether the internet has spoilt the possibility of being fully relaxed (particularly for those who often suffer from Fear of Missing Out!)

We eventually found our first food market and I wanted to fill up a few bags to take home. The produce was full of colour.

Then we stumbled on an even better food market and the photographer in me leapt for joy.

French markets are exactly as brilliant as everyone has made them out to be. It really made me want to spend a week somewhere in the city or a nearby village to be able to taste it all for myself.

But the afternoon was closing in so we made our way to Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse.

An awe-inspiring building to rival St Paul’s Cathedral. It played the most joyful songs too.

And if that wasn’t enough it was surrounded by beautiful streets.

We had lost track of time and suddenly realised we were hungry so we found a crêperie nearby. James had the traditional Toulouse sausage.

I went for something vegetarian.

It was delicious and exactly we fancied at that moment.

We grabbed our bags from the hotel and made our way to the train stop. I took in as many details as I could on the way.

We were only in Toulouse for 24 hours but I really feel like we saw its best bits. I love a good plan but it was just as fun stumbling upon things at random and reminded me we should travel like this more often.

I’m sure we’ll go back one day. I’d certainly love to find more restaurants and explore villages outside the city.

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5 Comments

  1. January 24, 2018 / 3:38 pm

    Awh this is just so lovely – what a wonderful double surprise! You definitely have me longing for a trip there, bling aside… I’m intrigued by the Porto comparison given I loved it there too!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      January 29, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      Aww thank you!! Despite the wonderful memories it is a beautiful place, really manageable to see a lot by foot in a weekend (without any hills I should have added!) and so much more to discover outside of town! We didn’t manage to enjoy much of the food but I’ve heard that’s amazing too.

  2. January 30, 2018 / 3:53 pm

    Congratulations!! I’d never considered Toulouse as a venue for a short break but your photos are stunning and I’m definitely adding it to my list!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      January 31, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      Thank you!! 🙂 It’s such an affordable city break and perfect for the slightly cooler months of the year (peak summer may be quite hot in Toulouse!).