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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 01 Sep 2007

Location: Toulouse, France

MapAs our checkout for the Toulouse hotel was midday, we ventured into the city centre for one last time. The dominant building on the skyline was the spire to the St Sernin Basilica, which made it easy to find. Building for this huge stone church began in the 1070s, and we stood inside this cavernous structure and thought about how many people had walked these floors over ten centuries. The sound of the footsteps, and the whispers, was amazing, and the lighting was eerie.
Outside was a market, with locals selling anything, most of it looked like junk. The one incredible sight for us was a little old man selling 7-inch record singles, and on top of the pile was “Shaddup You Face” by Joe Dolce.
The very centre of Toulouse contains the Place de Capital – a huge open square surrounded by buildings that look very old and very European. Today was market day in the square, and it was obvious that the local pastime was sitting in one of the many outdoor restaurants that border the square, and people-watch.
Running through the middle of Toulouse are two waterways – the Garonne River, and a man-made canal called Canal De Midi, that runs the entire width of France. An engineering masterpiece of the 16th century, it enabled the transport of goods by water and was vital to French commerce. Right outside our hotel was one of the many locks on the canal, with a little house where someone sits and operates the gates to raise and lower boats.
After picking up our hire car, we said goodbye to Toulouse and headed south, arriving in Mirepoix mid-afternoon. By evening, all four couples had arrived, and our week-long party had begun.