The French Connection: Day 12 – Leisurely Lundi


The security staff at Space City are incredibly polite and the guy who searched my bag laughed like a drain at my shocked reply when asked if I had a knife in my bag.

“A knife? Non! Non!”

I don’t even have a bottle opener in my bag, which would have been really useful when I bought a bottle of wine to drink (with bread and cheese) at my studio on Saturday. It was the only utensil that this FRENCH appartment was NOT kitted out with

Fortunately, the reception staff were appalled when I asked to borrow one and the problem was quickly resolved.

Back to this morning… the security guy was laughing at my reaction as his colleagues sent three older men and two older women back to their cars with Swiss Army Knives. Oh, that kind of knife counted. I didn’t have one of those either.

Not one of the hordes of schoolkids had any kind of weaponry confiscated. It was just the pensioners who had arrived at Space City tooled up.

Toulouse is the home of the French aerospace industry being the home of the Airbus Group and National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). 25% of jobs are in this sector and that works out at around 85,000 jobs in 700 companies.

The first serial satellite assembly line was set up in Toulouse (Airbus and OneWeb), and major space projects such Rosetta (Chury asteroid) and Curiosity (Mars) were led by teams here.

It obviously makes sense to establish a space museum here: Cite de l’espace. It’s fantastic – very informative with great exhibits but, other than watching films in the planetarium what was I doing? That’s right. Taking pictures of spaceships. My inner seven year old was having a great time.

When I say space ships… the grounds of the museum feature replicas of Ariane 5, Mir Space Station, the Moon Lander and a whole variety of satellites.

And of course, then there was the museum cafe for lunch. I went, expecting a few pre-prepared sandwiches and probably some pastries.

I wasn’t surprised that the menu outside led with the wine list – first item on the display board outside. Every eaterie does this. I WAS surprised that, in a museum cafe, it was table service.

The tables were already laid with cutlery and wine glasses. This was not a canteen and this was not a museum cafes as I am used to them.

One two course lunch, with wine and coffee later, I was ready for next movie, erm, educational film, in 3D, about blowing up asteroids.

I’ve seen posters and flags expressing support for Ukraine across the city. Cite de l’espace is linking with the Ukrainian Sergei Korolov Space Museum in a joint exhibit to promote interest in space among young people.

Ukraine was integral to the USSR’s space programme. Space technology is a significant industry in Ukraine with several towns and cities depending on it for employment. Dnipro is known as “Rocket City” – it’s the Ukrainian equivalent of Toulouse.

The anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 is celebrated every year in Ukraine as International Space Week, while the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space flight is celebrated as the “Day of Space and Workers of the Rocket Industry”.

And Sergei Korolov? Born in Zhytomyr (Ukraine), he was a lead rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. He was involved in the development of the R7 and Sputnik 1, launching Laika; Sputnik , launching Belka and Strelka and, of course, the first human being, Yuri Gagarin into space.

I wandered back through the city, past the World War 1 memorial which is the only one I’ve ever seen to portray soldiers celebrating their return home. I thought it was lovely.

I also strolled past the Cathedral of St Etienne which looks like a patchwork because it is a patchwork. It was originly built in brick but, by the 15th/16th Century those who wished to demonstrate their power and status with a “bit of bling” shipped in marble and just stuck it on the side of their building. The Church was as bad as everyone else.

⁷And, again, not that I’ve mentioned it, I called in at he Capitolium – the seat of power in Toulouse for centuries. Today the building, I am reliably informed, holds a fab and free exhibition but everytime I’ve called in, there’s been a notice saying that the building is closed to visitors today. That’s been everyday.

Categories: France, The French Connection, Toulouse, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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