Two days is certainly not enough to discover a new country, let alone even put a dent on its shiny surface. Having said that, attempting to see France from top to bottom in 48 hours will always be an unequal struggle for the first-time visitor.
Instead, with its reputed cultural heritage, great cuisine, good weather and numerous attractions, I would strongly suggest these villas in the south of France, like Toulouse in South West France, as an ideal getaway for that perfect weekend French holiday.
The Toulouse – Blagnac international airport is well connected with several airlines from different parts of Europe. The airport is conveniently situated a mere 10 km from Toulouse city center, making access quick and easy.
Day 1 – Morning
Toulouse lures the visitor to France like no other city primarily because of its rich culture.
As you step out of your hotel into Place du Capitole, the main square of this laid-back city, the splendor of the Capitole square itself will leave you mesmerized. Hidden behind the 18th century facade is the exquisite terracotta colored architecture, courtyards, and galleries packed to the hilt with ancient art.
Day 1 – Afternoon
Head to the main shopping street on Rue d’Alsace Lorraine, and discover a 14th century monastery full of murals and religious scripts. The principal museum of fine arts, Musee des Augustins, is situated nearby and is marveled for the fine Gothic exterior, while the interiors and the chapels house a large number of sculptures and paintings dating back to the 14th century.
To satisfy your hunger pangs, enjoy some traditional local and French cuisine at Le Bistrot des Carmes on Rue des Filatiers. This tiny outlet serves vintage food with great warmth and friendliness.
Day 1 – Evening
In Toulouse, students comprise of nearly 25% of the total population. It therefore comes as a little surprise that the narrow streets of Quartier des Carmes are buzzing with activity after sundown. One will find plenty of tapas bars along the street.
For dinner try out the Le Louchebem on Place Victor Hugo, and you would wish there was a bistro like this in every French city. Stroll back to the hotel to replenish energy for your final day in France.
Day 2 – Morning
Immediately after breakfast, take a look at the covered Victor Hugo marketplace. This is just the place where every local delicacy, and more, can be found under one roof. From Toulouse sausage to massive glass containers of cassoulet and poultry to all the top ingredients are available here. Don’t take your eyes off the stalls dispensing fresh aligot, a garlic variety of cheese. Here, you will find other popular brands like Roquefort, Laguiole and Bleu des Causses – all of which are major contributors to the fine cuisine this region is famous for.
The final morning still has some treasures in store for you if you go to the Fondation Bemberg. A stunning collection of art is displayed inside the luxurious 16th century Hotel d’Assezat. Apart from features like an Impressionist gallery, the designing resembles a Venetian palazzo. Next, take the subway train to the Les Abattoirs, lying just across the River Garonne, to see the former enormous abattoir now surrounded by a pleasant garden by the side of the river.
Day 2 – Afternoon
If the visual treat has not satisfied your hunger pangs, head straight for lunch at the Marche Victor Hugo. There are plenty of lunch time eating options on the mezzanine floor that prepare great food with the fresh produce procured directly from the adjacent market.
Afterwards, follow the line of endless devotees that throng the Basilique Saint – Sernin along the Chemin de Saint- Jacques. This well-maintained Roman church is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site, and for the right reasons too. A mere short walk of roughly 10 minutes will bring you up front with the awesome 13th century Couvent des Jacobins, which showcases a palm tree on its ribbed ceiling.
Walk back along Place du Capitole towards Rue Sainte – Ursule, with its rows of cool cafes and shopping outlets. This is a real hip place where visitors can get unusual things like graffiti paint done at StreetShop or witness waffle making at the Geek Store.
No trip to Toulouse would be complete without visiting the Cite de l’Espace to view the aeronautical wonders at this vast space museum, and the Airbus factory, located at the edge of the town.
Day 2 – Evening
As night approaches, enjoy the last evening at the Les Caves de la Marechale on Rue Jules Chalande. As you sip your drink, you can watch the distant lights illuminating the 16th century arches of Pont Neuf. The party scene here may not be as good as Paris, but that in no way implies that one cannot have a good time in Toulouse. Just keep one thing in mind: most bars and clubs down their shutters on Sundays.
Some good places to check out are La Capricciosa and El Cubano. Here, the prices are moderate, the ambience excellent, and one can pass the evening sipping wine with no rush at all to get up and leave. The best thing to do is to take advantage of the cheap bottles of wine available in the supermarket before you venture out.
From the teeming food markets to the thick jazz scenes, Toulouse knows how to provide a good time to the ardent tourist. Ask any French citizen as to where they would prefer to reside, and the only answer that will keep being repeated is Toulouse.