17 November 2016

The city of Toulouse is located in the Southwest of France. It is known to be the center of the European Aerospace Industry and is home to one of the leading aircraft manufacturers in the world - Airbus. Not once did it cross my mind that I would get to travel this beautiful city let alone explore other cities of France, so when my Dad allowed us to tag along with him I was thrilled!

We have few weeks to prepare everything for this trip - visa, tickets and accommodation. I'm sure a lot of you who have traveled abroad will agree to me when I say that visas are a frustrating necessity. If you're a first-timer like myself, you'll find the number of required documents needed so over-whelming that sometimes it will make you think twice whether to push through with the trip or not. I'm just glad that I got to experience the whole application process with my parents because they were the ones who prepared everything for us such as the travel insurance, copies of bank accounts, etc... at least now I know what to do the next time I travel alone.

We submitted our French visa application at VFS GLOBAL located in Ecoplaza Bldg., Don Chino Roces Ave Ext, Makati City. It wasn't as cumbersome as I thought it would, all you need is to show up with the required documents on the day of your scheduled appointment. No need to worry about the "interview" because there aren't any. Anyway, it was smooth sailing! We got our passport back with our French visa 3 days after our personal appearance at VFS GLOBAL. If you want to know more about the visa application process, you may visit their website or contact them at (02) 790 4903.

Like applying for a visa, booking a trip tends to be an extremely stressful and grueling task. We usually spend hours online bouncing from one website to another searching for deals on flights. Since it was our first time traveling to Europe, we thought it was necessary to ask help from a travel agency. I recommend Marvels of Travel, a travel agency in Ayala Alabang if you want to experience great customer service. They will surely help you look for travel deals that will fit your budget!

Fast forward to August 23, as soon as I stepped out of Toulouse-Blagnac airport, I didn't realize it was possible to feel almost every contrasting emotion at the same time. I was definitely exhausted from the long-haul flight but also elated to see my parents waiting for me at the arrival area. Looking back, I still can't believe I am in France. It was truly a dream come true.

Usually, when we think of France, one of the things that come to mind is Paris and the Eiffel Tower. But what some of us don't know is France have 123 other cities and one of which is Toulouse. Having no knowledge of this city, I researched about it and learned that Toulouse is known to as La Ville Rose or The Pink City because of its distinctive pink brick stones used to construct many of its breathtaking buildings.

Toulouse is often overlooked but it's one of France's most historic and fascinating cities. Walking around this beautiful city is a bit like traveling through time because of its winding old streets and medieval/Gothic cathedrals.

There are a number of awe-inspiring churches in Toulouse such as Notre-Dame de la Daurade and Conventuel des Jacobins, but the Basilica of Saint-Sernin (see photo above) is where my Mom usually brings us to pray. It is the largest Romanesque Church in Europe and one of the most famous pilgrimage churches in Southern France. If you've read Paulo Coelho's book "The Pilrimage", you might remember him mentioning this church in Toulouse.

I'd say, Toulousain & Toulousaine or the people in Toulouse are incredibly warm compared to those in other cities like Paris. They are actually friendly and most of my interactions there have been positive, whereas with my experience with Parisians, they could be snobby and rude specially if you don't speak their language. But I guess that's already expected.

Just like in the Philippines, homelessness is prevalent in France. There are homeless people begging on every corners, sleeping in metro stations or rummaging in rubbish bins but there are also talented homeless performers who play instruments or do circus acts to earn money.

Many of the malls in Manila are usually crowded on Sundays. However, this is a day of rest to most people in Toulouse. Don't expect to find shops open except in specific locations at certain times of the year.

Observing the people passing by Capitole de Toulouse, shopping along Rue du Rempart St-Etienne and sightseeing at Pont Neuf are just few of the many activities I enjoyed doing in the Pink City.

For someone like me who has been living in a city, seeing Toulouse is like a breath of fresh air. It's different from the urbanized lifestyle I'm used to because unlike here in Manila, their old buildings have been kept and the streets have this rustic and vintage feel about them. I loved every minute that we were there in Toulouse and as much as I want to explain in detail my experiences there, writing it all down would take forever. My 1 month stay in Toulouse is an eye-opening experience for me and I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity to travel to this fascinating city with my family.

I hope you enjoyed reading my trip to Toulouse as much as I enjoyed writing it. See you in my next travel post - "A Day In Paris". 

Stay Sassy! 

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