DUBBED "LA VILLE ROSE" FOR THE ROSE-COLORED GLOW of its brick and white stone buildings, Toulouse blushes with a beauty that rivals that of France's more popular destinations. This time of year especially, the city's pink hue graces more than just the buildings, finding itself in a glass of rosé, in the steak tartare, or on the ruddy cheeks of someone who's been walking in the sun.
Characteristically too, the Toulousains exhibit a rosy demeanor. Huffington Post describes Toulouse as "possibly the friendliest town in southern France" and I happily attest to the description. Over the course of a long weekend, we discovered an amicable side to the French that was generous with smiles, with service, and most conveniently, with English. Merci beaucoup!
While bathed in pink, Toulouse is also accentuated by the color blue, painted onto window frames and balustrades, among other architectural details. Even the roads bear a cool, cobalt undertone in the shade. The blues remind of Toulouse's history with pastel, a blue dye that became the city's major export in the 15th century. Also called "woad" after the plant from which the dye is produced, pastel sparked a prosperity in the city that allowed Toulousain art and architecture to flourish. It was not a prosperity that lasted though, as trade routes opened up and ushered in the stronger blue of indigo.
Thanks to a modern-day revival of pastel, Toulouse continues to produce the dye for both textiles and cosmetics. From soaps to scarves, to bedding and balms, a piece of Toulousain history can be bought in specialty boutiques like Graine de Pastel and La Fleurée de Pastel, or in various gift shops and pharmacies around the city.
As for that glorious pink glow, alas, you can't take that back with you. No rose is without even a little thorn.
Toulouse center, La Fleurée de Pastel, Hôtel les Bains Douches, Le monument François Verdier and Place Dupuy, Toulouse, France. Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.