Toulouse, France - Mihai Simionicã

Welcome to Toulouse, la Ville Rose (the Pink City)! 

You know those places that sound really cool on paper, but they are even more so when you go see them for yourself? Well, the Pink City it's one of those places. And it's also one of the places I have to go back to and explore further. I've only spent a couple of days there, but they were definitely overwhelming. If you're a photographer and/or if you're passionate about aviation and space travel, Toulouse has you covered.

Let's start with the photography side of it... 

With its pink terracotta buildings, its photogenic cobbled streets and bicycles, its busy terraces  and the softly flowing Garonne, it's a beautiful, inspiring city, particularly in the late afternoon when long shadows start transforming every scene.

As you can see, Toulouse has a vey authentic air about it... it's very honest about its Occitan legacy as well as about its dynamic present shaped by bright students and other highly educated young workers. So while it's definitely not touristy, it feels very much alive. This comes with the opportunity for inspiring (and sometimes cheeky) visual juxtapositions...

Oh, and it's not the cheapest of places, be warned. It is after all the most dynamic and fastest growing city in France, and it is the largest space centre in Europe and it's home to Airbus, Galileo, ATR, EADS and Intel Europe, after all.

But it is charming. It feels young and vibrant and smart, while protecting its rich heritage at the same time.

Oh, and did I tell you about the windows? I've never had such an obsession with windows until I set foot in France for the first time. True gateways for your imagination they are, I swear.

As for the space & aviation geeks out there, you are in for a treat. How many of your friends have ever boarded a Concorde? Or even just touched one for that matter? And how many of your friends have ever been on the Mir space station? 

Well, come visit Toulouse and you'll be able to boast about doing all of these! 

Ok, ok, it's not the actual Mir space station, obviously, but it's twin in fact. Head on to the Cite de l'Espace and a bit further down from the Ariane 5 rocket, you'll find the one Mir station which never went into orbit. An identical twin of the orbiting one, it was used for training and simulations on the ground. How come the Russians don't want it back for their museum it's beyond me, but I'm extremely glad I had the chance to (sort of) feel like an astronaut for a minute there. 

For the Concorde, head over to the recently opened Aeroscopia Aviation Museum and then you can also take a tour of the Airbus production sites (bookings through Manatour).

PS: When back in Toulouse, don't miss the Jardin Royal (or the Zen garden, as I call it). 

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