The Independent (25 Aug 07)Place du Capitoul, Toulouse has a short guide to Toulouse (32 Haut-Garonne) by Simon Calder. By far the largest city in the Midi-Pyrenees it is a mix of ancient and very modern, French and Arab.

For me it is a great departure point for the whole of the South and South West – the Pyrenees, Canal du Midi, the vineyards of Gaillac and Fronton and to the east the splendours of Carcassonne. It has never felt an “intimate” destination like Cahors or St Emilion, but it does have an enviously varied cultural life and works well as a weekend destination.

One highlight for me has to be the Marché des Carmes, which is a real treasure trove of the very best of the produce of the southwest – duck, goose, foie gras, cassoulet……

The Marché des Carmes abounds with local produce: bread, fruit, vegetables and poultry (including vast quantities of foie gras de canard). It opens 8am-5pm daily except Sunday. Locals may suggest you buy crystallised violets from a confectioner; the city’s link to the flower began when Napoleon’s soldiers brought it back from Italy.

The picture above is of the Capitole in the heart of the city – now the home of the Town Hall and the Théâtre National du Capitole, this building is remarkable for its façade with its eight pink marble columns.