The Midi-Pyrénées, might not be the most well-known region of France, but that is exactly what makes this region between the massif central and Pyrénées so fascinating. The Midi-Pyrénées is for most people still a mystery, that has yet to be uncovered.
With huge stretches of woodland, mountains, rivers and old enchanting villages – the region is exploding with culture, history, architecture, and cuisine.
From cities such as Toulouse to towns such as Cahors and to villages like Albi – you will definitely not be lost for things to do, eat and drink. To help you on your way, we have compiled the best tips on the region from experienced travel bloggers. Enjoy!
You really can’t go wrong spending a week or two in the Midi-Pyrenees
There’s always something happening, whether it’s buskers in the streets, events in the central Place du Capitole, outdoor dining, great shopping, activities in the parks, you name it, Toulouse is probably doing it. There’s plenty of attractions to keep keen tourists happy such as museums, churches, galleries, etc., or if you’re like us then a walk around the city will be a joy as you discover beautiful buildings and charming, narrow, cobblestone laneways.
The great thing is that Toulouse is small enough to see everything on foot. We made our way along the tree lined Allées Forain-François Verdier, then turned left at the Monument aux tree-lined Rue de Metz.
Just after turning the corner, on a small side street on the left, the huge St-Etienne Cathedral appears out of nowhere! We stuck to the back streets in this area rather than stay on the main Rue de Metz.
The Les Carmes district is probably the most beautiful area of Toulouse, its 16th century buildings with pastel coloured shutters and heavy wooden doors lining cobblestone streets a symbol of former and current wealth. Basilique St-Sernin is one of France’s best-preserved Romanesque buildings, and has a huge spire and octagonal tower. It’s a very nice area to wander about in.
From the Basilique we made our way straight down Rue du Taur to the city’s main attraction, Place du Capitole, the main square. It’s a very impressive, large town square lined by some great looking buildings.
The City Hall, or Capitole, is 128 metres wide and was built in the 1750’s. It’s as beautiful as any building in the city and impressive simply due to its grand size. Inside is the Théâtre du Capitole is one of France’s most prestigious opera venues, so if you fancy a night of culture and musical arts this is the place.
Jardin Des Plantes, the 200-year-old botanical garden is a great place to take kids, as there are playgrounds designed for all developmental stages, pony rides, and dodgem cars, while we also saw roosters wandering around free searching for food. There’s also plenty of food and refreshment outlets, as well as places to sit down and relax after a hard day of pounding the pavement.
Written by Chris Appleford, www.travellingapples.com
Toulouse is best to get lost in with a camera at hand
The architectural design of several landmark buildings of importance all have that particular red and pink hue that are really quite unique. Toulouse is best to get lost in with a camera at hand, so, once we arrived we immediately left our bags and set straight about getting lost.
Walking into Toulouse city center we soon found ourselves amongst buildings with architecture of all shapes and sizes that have passed through and seen so much history, and as we gradually rounded one corner into another one of the many curved and irregularly shaped streets that make up so many medieval towns in Europe, we found ourselves amongst the heavy beat of pedestrian traffic in one second, and totally alone in the next.
As our walking tour continued, our admiration for Toulouse increased and as the day wore on we stopped repeatedly to point out to each other one amazing building here, stunning architecture there, or even an incredible street art piece on the boarded up entrance of an old closed down photography shop.
One of the biggest accidental architecture finds that we’re thankful for stumbling upon was the incredibly interesting Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Toulouse (Toulouse Cathedral).
Possibly one of the most unusual churches we’ve seen in Europe. The architecture design is not from one plan, but rather the combining of two churches located on the same ground, neither of which were completed entirely and were pulled together by one architect to create the Toulouse Cathedral.
Written by Dale Davies & Franca Calabretta, www.angloitalianfollowus.com
The best way to learn about wine: just go visit the region and drink it – Cahors
They say that you know you’re holding a glass of wine from Cahors if you can’t see your fingers on the other side of the glass through the wine. Which is why the malbec wine from Cahors is nicknamed “black wine”. Peer into a glass of it, and it’s easy to see (or should I say ‘not see’) why. I didn’t know much about the wine, or the region, before my recent visit. I just knew there were allegedly a lot of truffles, foie gras, and duck dishes cooked up in the Lot. I attended the Fête de la Saint-Vincent, which happens annually to bless the wine harvest.
For one slightly crazy weekend, everyone in the village of Saint-Vincent Rive d’Olt, and nearby, descended upon the small town for hearty, and lively dinners of beef cheeks and other fare intended to fortify the wine growers and compliment the rich wine of Cahors. Meal time here means sharing large tables, set with unlimited carafes of malbec that were never empty. As soon as one was drained, it was whisked away to the taps outside and replenished. Meals began with sips of
Meal time here means sharing large tables, set with unlimited carafes of malbec that were never empty. As soon as one was drained, it was whisked away to the taps outside and replenished. Meals began with sips of Fénelon, a local apéritif that combines red wine, walnut liqueur, and cassis (black currant liqueur). Dinners were a bit spiffier and weren’t served on trays, but passed around family-style.
My favourite lunch was at La Table de Haute-Serre. The amazing Chef Philippe Combet serves a special, multi-course lunch when truffles are in season. And even if you’re on the fence about these musky spores, this lunch in the dining room, overlooking the vineyards, was quite an experience. A must visit is the
A must visit is the truffle market in Lalbenque. Aside from truffles, in the more approachable category, the other specialty of the region is walnuts. The best local pastry shop, Les Délices de Valentré, claims to make the veritable (definitive) one.
Written by David Lebovitz, www.davidlebovitz.com
Nearly everything in France’s beguiling Southwest is handsome and inviting and Albi certainly fits that mold.
Albi is one of the most astonishing small cities I’ve ever visited in France. It’s a city of conflict – at once utterly captivating – and completely unnerving. Best known for its landmark site, Sainte-Cécile Cathedral, Albi’s architecture, history, and hair-raising mystique really wowed me right out of my shoes.
Situated in the Tarn department of the Midi-Pyrenees in southwestern France, Albi isn’t exactly a household word for travellers, but it should be. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is definitely worth a detour from Toulouse or Carcassonne.
Albi is nicknamed The Red City for the unusually red local brick that’s used for practically everything, including its most famous landmarks, the Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile and the adjoining Palais de la Berbie (Bishop’s Palace), home to the Musée de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Walk across the courtyard where you’ll find the museum that houses the largest collection of paintings and posters by local genius Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. It feels more like a home than a museum, warmer than most art installations.
Other artists are exhibited, including Matisse, Gauguin and Georges de la Tour. Filled with portraits of gaudy and colourful characters, this isn’t just another art museum. The views of the river and garden make for a total experience. Allow at least two hours for your visit and feel yourself transported back to the days of the Moulin Rouge and absynthe.
As a matter of fact, as you plan your trip to Albi, I suggest you mix up a cocktail that’s been attributed to the little French artist.
Le Tremblement de Terre (The Earthquake): Take 3 parts Absinthe and 3 parts cognac; shake with ice; serve in a wine goblet. Feel the earth move and prepare for a headache in the morning. Toulouse Lautrec’s contribution to the art world came on strong like good drink. Death came far too quickly, but luckily for us, we have the city of Albi to thank for sharing the wealth.
Written by Michelle Moggio, www.thepariseffect.net