Toulouse is midway between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic in the south of France, about 130 mi/210 km southeast of Bordeaux. It is known as La Ville Rose (the pink city): When you see the brickwork lit up by the bright southern sun, you'll understand why.

The city has a fascinating dual personality. On one hand, it is the home of the French aerospace industry and the country's growing information-technology sector; on another, it is the alternative artistic and intellectual center of France (alternative to Paris, that is). The town is full of trendy young students and elegant women carrying designer-label shopping bags.

Visit the St. Sernin Basilica (tour it during the day and again at night when it's lit), the Capitole and the Augustinian Museum. Walk around the Place Wilson, shop hard and then walk a few blocks to the quiet, elegant, upmarket streets by the church of St. Etienne—a cup of coffee there will recharge your batteries.

The Cite de l'Espace (the space museum) is on the outskirts of Toulouse: With its huge models of Ariane V rockets and the Mir space station, a planetarium and lots of high-tech, hands-on exhibits, it's a hit with adults and children alike.

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