Toulouse’s Marche Couvert

My feet are bloody stumps after walking around Toulouse for 11 hours straight today. Wow. Not even sure where to start except to say that this is an awesome city and I hope to come back as soon as possible.

It’s a small city with narrow streets lined with four- to six-story, old apartment buildings featuring the typical wooden shutters, and with shops on the street level. People drive like maniacs through the tight streets where many people are walking because the sidewalks are so narrow. I’ve noticed that French women really YELL harshly at their children when they accidentally step into the street, and I can understand why. There’s no way anyone would survive getting hit by a car here, child or adult.

narrow street of TLS

The view from my table one day at lunch. This is a typical street in central Toulouse.

I started the day at the marche couvert, also known as the Victor Hugo market. It’s actually inside a big parking structure. The ground floor contains the market, which is a huge space jammed with vendors of all kinds (fish, sausage, cheese, bakeries, horse meat, beef, prepared food, and cafes/bars), while the outside of the building is lined with fresh vegetable and fruit vendors. Inside on the second floor are restaurants.

inside the Victor Hugo market

Inside the market. The symbol on the floor is the Occitan regional symbol.

the foie gras shop in the Victor Hugo market

The foie gras shop (!!) at the Victor Hugo market.

piles of charcuterie!

The charcuterie stalls were truly over the top. This is just a SMALL example.

a man slicing a ham of some sort

This is how you buy your charcuterie at the market: a guy slices off some pieces for you. Those are the pig's feet in the clamps.

restaurant level view from the Victor Hugo market

I ate lunch at one of the market restaurants one day, on the second level. This was my view.

Getting there early was a good idea because it was mostly older people doing their shopping. As time wore on, the aisles clogged with looky-loos who stood gawking in annoying, traffic-jamming clumps. I’ve noticed that French women use these fun rolling carts for their shopping, much like what I recall women using in Manhattan when I went to school there. It’s a small city, so people walk everywhere.

display of rolling grocery carts at a dept store

A display of the rolling grocery carts at a Target-like store.

I made a couple of laps just to get the lay of the land and observe how the Romans do. Mostly I was trying to get breakfast for myself, but I wasn’t sure where to eat anything after I purchased it. The restaurants upstairs were still closed at 10 a.m. I noticed that people were standing at the cafe bars eating things they’d bought at other stands, so I opted for that as well. I bought some Basque cheese, a frittata, and what turned out to be lemon-flavored clotted cream from ewes (!), but which I thought was yogurt. Lesson learned. I figured I’d have a heart attack before lunch, but fortunately, that didn’t happen. It was DELICIOUS and would have been worth at least a minor myocardial disturbance.

Betty Fromagerie at Victor Hugo

Betty Fromagerie, where I got the ewe clotted cream. Truly an awesome shop, but there were several fromageries like this inside the market. And there was another Betty location across the street.

An interesting tidbit: the sign at the fromagerie where I bought the clotted cream made a big deal of the ewe cream finally arriving. So I’m guessing there’s a season for clotted cream from ewes and I was lucky enough to hit it. Yea!

At the cafe/bar, I ordered a grand creme, which is basically a latte here in the city (in the countryside, grand cremes seemed much, much stronger). I stood and ate my breakfast while watching two guys across from me split a bottle of rose for breakfast. Earlier I had noticed SEVERAL people drinking wine and beer at a few different bars, men and women. No one else seemed to think this was strange so early in the morning.

piles of nougats in different flavors

The French love their nougat, and I'm converted. These are piles of several different flavors. Help!

My next mission: a taste-off of the bazillion ice cream shops all over town. I’m pretty sure life couldn’t get any better.

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