After two wonderful years in Toulouse, we were called back to the United States – landing in our nation’s capital: Washington DC.
In preparation for our move, we wanted to highlight and hit all of our favorite spots in Toulouse one last time:
Fat Cat – the ultimate neighborhood bar, and luckily for us it was just two blocks away from our apartment. Jim took me here on my first night in Toulouse and we’ve been in love ever since. This is our Cheers. This is our favorite bar, and probably our favorite cocktail bar in the whole world. It’s the place where we’d take all our visitors, where we’d spend as many Friday nights as possible, and the best spot to visit if you’re feeling even a little bit homesick for the United States as they’re always playing great tunes and serving up phenomenal cocktails, especially those with the brown liquors.
The cocktails are amazing, but the staff behind the cocktails are what really made the experience extra memorable. They’re incredibly friendly & welcoming (we always got a wave, handshake/la bise, shuffle to find us a seat at the bar, recommendations on restaurants and travel destinations), talented (so many awards for amazing cocktails, tasty changing menu options, non-alcoholic options for a pregnant Victoria), and just all-around wonderful. There’s something so lovely about being recognized and feeling like you’re part of the community.
We spent our last night at Fat Cat and Valentin was the absolute perfect bartender – making stellar French cocktail after French cocktail, making sure we could enjoy some hard to find French ingredients before we head back stateside. I only regret we missed Emmy & Quentin and I never took a photo of the neckless cat painting. On any trip back to Toulouse, Fat Cat will definitely be one of our first stops. I’m so glad we’re going to keep in touch with them all.
L’Atelier du Yoga – When I started my French class I met the most wonderful American who introduced me to the ever amazing, Zoe, who reintroduced me to the wonders and wonderfulness of yoga. In my peak last summer I was attending classes two times a week and beaming with excitement for each one. These classes were probably one of my favorite parts of the day, something exciting Jim and I could do together (at least when we went to the Tuesday night classes), and something that just made me feel warm & fuzzy inside. Zoe is a wonderful spirit and gifted individual. I can’t imagine Toulouse without my yoga practice, and I’ll forever be dreaming about our summer classes in the park under “our tree” in Parc Raymond VI.
Copains comme cochons (Thick as Thieves) – This might as well have been a food Bible for us living in Toulouse. Emmy (from Fat Cat) gave us one and recommended we try many of the featured bars & restaurants within. This was AMAZING. Every single restaurant we tried was delicious. Including two of our favorites for dinner (1) SOLIDES and (2) Les P’tits Fayots. I think SOLIDES might be the best restaurant in Toulouse, though our final meal with our neighbors gives it a run for its money (Les Complices). SOLIDES does a tasting menu with pairings (our favorite). Then there’s also No. 5 Wine Bar, which might be the coolest wine bar we’ve ever attended. It’s got the option to get tasters, half glasses, or full glasses of wine from a little machine all through the restaurant AND they also have super tasty charcuterie plates, amazing French cheese, and dishes. Mmm.
Labo & Gato – I’ve written a number of blog posts about this spot, but it really is amazing and one of the things I’m most proud to have completed while living in Toulouse. It’s an outstanding specialty cake/pastry shop that also holds pastry classes. I was fortunate enough to learn how to make viennoiserries (croissants, pain au chocolat, escargot), macarons, the basics of patisserie (tarte au citron, millefeuille vanille, eclairs, brioche), and le fraisier. I wanted to know how to make croissants and macarons and came away knowing to make so much more. I’m most proud that Jim took my macarons to the office and they were approved by his French coworkers as “very good.” And our neighbor, Alexandre, has declared my millefeuille vanille as his favorite dessert. Then there’s the brioche, which is probably my favorite thing I’ve learned to make. I LOVE brioche, and I cannot imagine a world in which I was living before making my own brioche. And none of this would’ve been possible without the amazing teachings of Youssef. I became a regular and he introduced me to the class, always asked me how my baking was going when I’d shop in the store (and offer advice for why something might not be working or a new recipe to try out). This is one of my absolute favorite activities completed in France, which I’ll remember always. Once in a lifetime opportunity, for sure.
Marché Victor Hugo – I’ve mentioned this market so many times, but it is one of my absolute favorite places in all of Toulouse. It’s definitely my most visited place. If I was ever feeling down, I knew I could stroll over to Victor Hugo Tuesday through Sunday and see all my friends at the Bakery (our baker knew I was pregnant before we were telling anyone!), our butcher (Antonio makes THE best burgers and always gives us amazing cuts of entrecôte), our fish monger (I went through 3), my poultry/rabbit lady, our pork guys (who loved to tease me), as well as the butchers who liked to tease me at the fruit/vegetable carts (and even more that I understood their teasing), but most of all my fruit and vegetable guy. I was hoping to snap a picture with him before we left, but there had been so much construction the last couple months that his stall kept moving around and I didn’t see him (at all) for the last two weeks we were there. I’m going to miss him so much. I also loved recognizing local chefs picking up produce (I used to run into Max from Winter Garden once/week or see the chef from No. 5 Wine Bar and Les P’tits Fayots). Beyond the people who worked there, I’m already missing all of the amazing and freakishly affordable produce. Never again will I have such wonderful strawberries, apricots, figs, dates, and cherries.
It’s also the home to our favorite lunch spot – Au Bon Graillou. This is the spot where I had my first meal in Toulouse (it was also the site of our last lunch). It’s here where we fell in love with rillets (and introduced them to everyone who visited), befriended the host (on our last lunch I got a cafe gourmand sans cafe and plus a full-size tiramisu), and bumped into locals. I still remember seeing Emmy from Fat Cat during one of our first trips and being excited she recognized us!
In the photos below, we’re sitting outside (a treat only in the summer…whereas the fish soup is a treat only in the winter). We arrived before the rush, which is the ONLY reason the restaurant looks a little empty inside (five minutes after I took the photo it was totally full).
All the Parks and Prime Picnic Spots – There’s a huge renovation project that’s been underfoot since we moved to Toulouse and with it they’ve been adding greenery, which makes the city so much prettier and more livable. But the Place de la Daurade is one of our favorite picnic spots, as it’s hard to beat those amazing views overlooking the Garonne. Or wandering through the Japanese Garden or Garden of Plants. Little oases in the heart of the city.
Forno Gusto – Across the Capitole awaited our favorite pizza place in Toulouse, Forno Gusto. After arriving in Toulouse, we were struck by the number of pizza options, seemingly one on every block. Although, putting cured pork and cheese on top of bread and baking it is delicious in every culture. Most in Toulouse, however, seemed to be variations of the same thing – competently prepared, reasonably fresh, large, hot, pizza. Forno Gusto, however, prepared pizza with a level of attention, passion, and pride that rivals any pizza place anywhere. A small place, with a take-out counter fashioned to look like a car, Forno Gusto offers the most varied pizza menu in Toulouse. Our favorite was the Bressiola e Ruccola, the only pizza we found in France with fresh, leafy green veggies on top. We made this a dining staple, getting a large takeout once every week or so. But what will make France stay in our hearts forever is the relationships that you can build from simple commercial interactions. By my second visit, the workers smiled when I walked in and were eager to practice their English. My arrival greeting quickly went from “Hello!” to “Hello, Jim!” and finally to “Hello Jim! Another Bressiola e Ruccola?” To which I would respond, “Oui, s’il vous plait!” They indulged my french practice, but also knew how to keep the line moving. “Your pizza will be ready in quinze minutes.” If I looked puzzled, they followed-up with “Come back in fifteen minutes.” I’d often come back early and chat with the workers while they smoked outside and watched the street traffic. One learned English while surfing for a summer in Central America. Another has some family in England. They were all curious how I ended up in Toulouse. But everyone agreed that Forno Gusto had the best pizza in town.
Rue de Rémusat – Our street, our home. We definitely had the absolute best neighborhood. We were blocks away from Marché Victor Hugo, Fat Cat, Labo & Gato, the Capitole, Alsace Lorraine, so many carousels (which definitely make me think of France), an amazing landlord, and two of the best neighbors out there (Jacira & Alexandre). Our neighborhood helped make our experience all it could be and allowed us to meet some of the best people.
The common thread for what made Toulouse feel like home really was all the wonderful people we met along the way who accepted us into their lives. Our two plus years flew by and we’ll always look back with the fondest of memories. What an amazing decision we made to pack up our things in San Francisco and move to Toulouse. Can’t think of a better way to spend our first couple years of married life.