Regular readers of the blog and my Twitter account, @girlonthehilluk, know that I travel to France quite often as all my immediate family live out there and I recently got to spend a long weekend visiting my brother and his wife. We briefly spent the afternoon in Toulouse after landing and managed to visit a few of the main sights. We got the tram in from the airport which drops you off fairly central and from there most of the sights are walkable.
We walked around the Old Town area and the streets were bustling with a great mix of street performers, tourists and locals. After grabbing a pastry from one of the shops we wandered down to the Town Hall hoping to get inside but, unfortunately, it was closed. Still, an impressive building though with a large square in front where you can sit in one of the many cafes and just enjoy some people watching. We next mooched into Notre-Dame du Taur for a little peek, a Roman Catholic church dating back to 1880. Unless you are looking up you might just walk past here but if in Toulouse take the time to have a little look, it won’t take long and is really impressive once inside.
Our mini tour of Toulouse ended at the Basilica of Saint-Serni which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Routes of the Santiago de Compostela in France. This actually became a bit of theme for our visit and most places we visited had links to the route. The Basilica was constructed between 1080 and 1120 and is widely believed to be the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, if not the world. Most of the building is free to enter but there is a small charge to visit the crypts. Sadly we did not have time to do this and after enjoying a beverage in the sunshine got our train to Auch.
This was our second time visiting my brother’s house in Biran, the first was for his wedding which I have previously written about here. This time it was just the four of us and a lot more relaxed, in fact, we spent most of the visit just sat around chatting and catching up which was lovely. We did manage a few trips out to see the surrounding countryside and enjoyed a few meals out.
One of the places we visited is called Larressingle which is sometimes referred to as the Little Carcassonne of Gers and listed as one of the most beautiful villages in the country. It’s also the smallest fortified village in France. We visited out of season and a lot of it was shut up but it was a lovely little wander around to see something different, in the summer there’s a small cafe and a few shops which are open. It’s a well-visited site as its a part of the Santiago de Compostela route and worth a visit. We also visited Auch, the capital of the Gers, for some lunch and a walk along the river in the glorious sunshine. Auch features a few interesting sights that we saw and I’m sure a lot of others that we didn’t see. The main ones are the Monumental Steps which are from around 1863 but have just undergone a refurbishment. These winding flights of stairs have 374 steps in total and feature fountains, flowerbeds and most famously a statue of d’Artagnan which was added in 1931. The reason for the statue? Well, d’Artagnan is based on a real-life person, Charles de Batz, Comte d’Artagnan who was born nearby and written about in The Three Musketeers book by Alexandre Dumas.
It was a really nice chilled few days, we did a lot of drinking, a lot of eating and a lot of kitty strokes from my brother’s three cats. It’s really beautiful in Biran and my brother’s house is so impressive, I can’t wait to go visit again soon and see some more of what the region has to offer.