Weds 29th April. Today was my flight from Dublin to Toulouse. Usual airport things – long queue to check in, plus the flight was half an hour late. In Toulouse, a group of us was waiting for the airport-city shuttle bus, only to find out that due to a strike they were not running. The alternative was the tram and then the metro, not too inconvenient but somewhat crowded on the metro, difficult with luggage.
On first impression, Toulouse is pretty interesting. The centre of the city has been extensively pedestrianised, and the streetscape is very pleasant, blending wide boulevards with narrow lanes. The rows of apartments have that very French style, there are many shops. There is a huge number of young people around, many students all over the place. The overall impression is of a very modern, trendy city with a great history. There is an enormous amount of development happening out in the suburbs. Airbus employs about 30,000 people, plus about another 30,000 contractors, plus the wider aerospace industry, large hospital and medical establishments, all mean plenty of jobs and income.
Thurs 30th April. In the morning I strolled around the city, visited a street market,
and found the Basilica of St Sernin, a huge medieval construction, mostly in brick. This was very interesting to visit. It houses the remains and/or relics of about a dozen saints (including St Cecilia), and has a very interesting history.
In the afternoon I took the tram back out to the airport precinct to do the ‘Lets Visit Airbus’ tour. I did the panoramic coach tour of the Airbus facilities (a huge complex spread over 700 hectares), where they assemble the A320, A330, A350 and A380. Each has a separate facility. Along with their offices and engineering centres, this all makes up a huge complex. Then I did the Airbus A380 tour, which allows some limited viewing of the assembly line. They have four aircraft inside being worked on at a time, and if you know how big an A380 is (73 m long, 80 m wingspan), then you may imagine the size of the building. They have another few outside in the testing area. Most of the Airbus planes are flown to Hamburg in Germany after assembly, for interior fitout, but the A320 is completed here. They make so many A320s that they have three assembly plants in
different countries. Unfortunately photography was not permitted on the tours, so no pics for you!
There is now also an air museum at this site, which only opened in January, after I had organised my visit, so I didn’t know it existed, and didn’t allow time to see it. However, since I will be here for two weeks, I can probably come back out and see it another day. There is also an area chock full of historic aircraft, operated by an enthusiasts group, which would be interesting. Tomorrow I will brave the world of left-hand drive and head off in a rental car to see the Millau Viaduct.
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