Travelling home from Nérac last week, we were offered the chance to check out Toulouse thanks to our friends at Expedia.ca. “Toulouse?” I hear you say… “Isn’t that just over an hour from Nérac? Haven’t you been there before in all the trips you’ve taken over the past few years setting up the house?” Well, yes, we’ve been… to the outskirts of the city… To large hardware stores… to Ikea and other similar stores… but never to Toulouse proper. It’s always been a case of “so near yet so far”…
In any case, I knew that when I finally did make it to the “Pink City” (so-called because of the distinctive pink stone that is used to construct many of the buildings there), the Marché Victor Hugo would be the very first place I headed. Toulouse might not be at the top of many tourists’ “must visit” cities in France but those in the know will tell you it’s a food-lover’s paradise. There is definitely a focus on meat with menus featuring dishes such as cassoulet, confit de canard and sausages. The city even has its own trademarked saucisse de Toulouse which has been made since the 18th century and is now protected by an AOC – appellation d’origine contrôlée (whose standards stipulate that products must come from designated geographical regions and adhere to traditional methods of production). You’ll also see dishes featuring haricots blancs/ haricots Tarbais (white beans), another staple of the cuisine in South West France.
To get a general overview of the food scene, there’s no better place than the centrally-located Marché Victor Hugo. The square where the market sits today was originally constructed in 1827, at the time, named the Marché-au-Bois which sold animal feed and wood, then later, antiques. The square was named Victor Hugo in 1886, and the market was completely remodeled in 1892 to become a covered market. In 1959 it was renovated again to its current state. Work is set to begin again this fall, to modernise the parking lot and the surrounding square.
The market opens early (6am) and I suspect that when it’s not the summer holidays, it’s best to get there early to catch all the action without too many crowds of tourists. As it was, on a sunny Friday in August, we arrived around 10am and it was still fairly quiet. Sure, there were locals there doing their shopping (it still feels very much like a local market) and a few tourists, but it was quiet enough to be able to really get a good look at all the stalls. You can find a complete list of all the commerce in the market here (in French).
Here’s just a taste of what you can find there (warning – you might be hungry after watching this!) – even in August when a handful of the stalls were closed, there was still so much to see and buy.
Marché Victor Hugo
Place Victor Hugo
Open everyday except Monday 6am – 2pm (also open on public holidays)
Tempted? Check out flights to Toulouse on Expedia.ca then look for a hotel deal in Toulouse – and watch out for my upcoming post where I’ll outline some places you won’t want to miss if you are a food enthusiast – and give you some tips for navigating summer closures – don’t worry, even with a few of the places we had on our “must visit” list closed for 4-8 weeks in the summer, we still found plenty to do and eat 🙂
Disclosure: Thanks to my friends at Expedia.ca for covering our stay Hotel Pullman on this trip as part of the Big World Explorer programme. I have not received further compensation and everything is written based on my personal experience on this trip.