On the second day of our trip to Toulouse, we took the advice of the hostess and went to the Victor Hugo Market. Very close to our hotel, we wandered across to the market around 10am where it was a hive of activity. It reminded me of the old indoor markets in Hull with tables of fresh fish and meats. It was traditionally French, with an abundance of cheese and wine, fresh patisseries, and bread galore.
We wandered around the stalls, quickly bypassing the fish and seafood. Tempted by the bread, we bought a baguette (which was, unfortunately, a little hard) and just resisted the pastries. Instead, we popped across to a nearby patisserie where we bought chocolatines, otherwise known as Pain au Chocolate, and croissants. They were delicious!
Having explored the market fully, we headed on to the Japanese Garden, or Jardin Japonais that actually sits within the larger park of Jardin Compans Caffarelli. It is a quaint little Japanese garden, which felt like a little oasis from the city.
The garden houses a beautiful red bridge and Japanese-style house, which definitely create the Asian aesthetic. Unfortunately, the house was closed to the public so we were unable to read the information about the garden.
As we wandered, we came across a statue of a Taisen Deshimaru, who was a Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist teacher, and a garden made of gravel shaped into circles. Despite being a huge amount of grey stone, it was beautiful and intricate in its pattern.
Continuing through the park, we saw a sculpture of a dragon made out of scrap metal – which was pretty cool – sat in a massive lake. It was really quite pretty in the cool winter air.
It was then time to head to the Basilique Saint-Sernin. As it wasn’t far, we walked across town towards the famous cathedral.
The Basilique Saint-Sernin is the former abbey church of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin or St Saturnin and is its only remaining building. Constructed in the Romanesque style – like much of Toulouse – it is located on the site of a previous basilica of the 4th century, which housed the body of Saint Sernin.
The basilica was constructed between 1080 and 1120 and is the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. However, despite being called a basilica, Saint-Sernin does not follow the plan of early Christian architecture. In the form of a crucifix, the basilica is much larger than earlier churches and is primarily made of brick.
It also contains a walk-way called an ambulatory, which goes around the nave allowing for the viewing of the radiating chapels. This is why it is often debated as a pilgrimage basilica and it was for a long time seen as a place of pilgrimage.
I was slightly disappointed that a lot of Saint-Sernin was closed to public access as I would have liked to explore a little further. But then, it was free to enter.
We then explored the neighbouring museum – Musee St-Raymond. It contained a vast arrangement of Romanesque statues and artefacts found in the area near Toulouse. It was fascinating to see the heads of Roman aristocracy and legend from the 1st century or earlier and explore the depictions of Gods and myths.
In the first room, we were presented with busts of famous Romans found in the villa Martres-Tolosane, in the locality of Chiragan. It was incredible how preserved some of the pieces were and the craftsmanship of thousands of years ago.
In the room above, we learned about how the Roman’s travelled north from Italy into the South of France and how trade was instilled in the area. From this, we were able to view other Romanesque artefacts.
Making our way down to the basement of the museum, we were met with an open tomb. However, there were no English translations – and often no information is given at all – to distinguish whose grave this was.
Within the accompanying room, we saw the engraved tombs with scenes or patterns carved into their sides – really beautiful.
Having taken our fill of the area, we headed back towards the hotel stopping by The Yard for some delicious burgers. The only good main meal we ate in Toulouse.
We returned to the Christmas Market, which was incredibly busy with it being a Saturday. After failing to find our way into the art gallery within the Place du Capitol, we headed back to the hotel. Our last venture that day would be to eat copious amounts of ice-cream at the nearby Carte Dor café.