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In the 16th century, Toulouse, France, experienced its golden age thanks to woad, a plant from which blue dye is made. Ironically it was this “blue gold” trade that helped cast Toulouse as La Ville Rose – the Pink City. Woad made fortunes for merchants who built grand residences, some in the distinctive red brick responsible for the city’s colorful nickname.
Toulouse is located in southwestern France on the banks of the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi. It’s within striking distance of the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees Mountains. And it’s getting closer to Paris – at least by train. Increasingly efficient high speed TGV rail service has been shaving time off the Paris-Toulouse run.
These days, Toulouse is a powerhouse for aeronautics and high tech, industries which attract an international, well-educated workforce. Toulouse was instrumental in the birth of the supersonic Concorde and is the headquarters of Airbus. It’s also a city of higher learning with a university that dates back to 1229, one of the Europe’s oldest.
One of France’s largest cities is a modern metropolis of leafy squares, walker-friendly backstreets and well-preserved architecture. A thriving cultural scene includes well-respected museums, opera, ballet, music festivals and galleries. One notable photography gallery was converted from a 19th century water tower.
Le Capitole, which is the historic heart of the city, Busca and Carmes are among Toulouse’s upscale districts with an inventory of luxury apartments and, rarer, townhouses. In the surrounding countryside yet within easy driving distance of the city are renovated mansions and elegant country homes. A traditional home seen in the region is the petite toulousaine, a one story, red brick home of symmetric design with a tiled roof. A two-story version is called Toulousaine à talons hauts, which translates to: Toulouse house with heels.