Postcard from Toulouse, France: Images lingering far behind departure

These eclectic postcards are from the fall but are slow to be delivered due to an unwillingness to admit the trip had ended with our next one cancelled because of this stubborn virus.

Feeling secure enough now that we will take flight somewhere within the next month so can finally bid au revoir to Toulouse.

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Postcard from Toulouse, France: Church-hopping, so genuflect quickly

Above, Altar for the Privileged in the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Daurade. Is the skull an invitation to enter or a dire warning not to dare trespass within? I elected not to test it.

Time for a final round of visits to churches in Toulouse. First stop is the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Daurade. The Virgin Mary’s “golden” designation came from shimmering mosaics in the original 5th-century church adjacent to this site. The church’s prized statue of the Virgin was stolen during the 15th century and replaced. Particularly revered by pregnant women, the figures of the Virgin and Child became so blackened by the smoke of votive candles lit by supplicants that the Virgin became known as the Black Madonna, or La Vierge Noire, by the 16th century.

Riverside, the Black Madonna’s original home was demolished in 1761 for the construction of wharves. Rebuilt, a new church served as the Virgin’s temple for only a short time before the 1789 outbreak of the French Revolution. Revolutionaries repurposed the church as a tobacco factory and set the icon ablaze in the Place du Capitole, reducing the treasured statue into a pile of ashes.

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Postcard from Toulouse, France: Cheese, pastries and menus fluent in French flavor

Above, traditional cassoulet at Le Pyreneen

Parts of numerous animals star in the most famous regional dish of Toulouse – cassoulet. A traditional cassoulet often includes pork loin, pork belly, sausage, neck and breast of lamb and duck confit. All are simmered with white beans for hours and finished off under a flame to give the top a tasty, caramelized char.

We decided if we were going to dive into the dish to do it somewhere well-established, an institution, and chose Le Pyreneen. The brasserie opened in 1925 but appears older and set-ready to serve in a period film with little tinkering. The Mister’s dish was indeed meaty, savory and destination-worthy, but I must confess I opted for seafood and was not disappointed. One thing I did learn on this trip was that I do like duck confit, which is cooked ahead of time and preserved in duck fat until ready to use. We encountered it in numerous dishes and always found it tender and juicy.

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