- Population: 2,551,687
- Pop.density (people per km2): 56
Three principal communes
Toulouse is a beautiful and vibrant city that's often called the Ville Pink because of the rosy colour of its brickwork. Toulouse has long been a prosperous place. At the end of the Middle Ages, pastel, a plant used to dye cloth, became fashionable, and the région filled its coffers by exporting it along with goose feathers from the Gers, and wines from Ariège and Gaillac. This commerce failed in the middle of the 16th century, due to religion wars. House-to-house fighting put an end to any thoughts of export. The cruelty of the papists rivalled that of the Huguenots, and the plague swept through the région, reducing the population significantly. Today it's prosperous once more thanks to the aerospace industry and is a cosmopolitan place with France's second largest student population after Paris. For city-lovers moving to France, Toulouse is a fine choice.
Tarbes in the north is recognised as the région's commercial and administrative centre. This town has a history as a military base and is also used as a base for pilgrims looking for miracle cures at nearby Lourdes. The local stud farm, Les Haras, where chivalry horses are bred, is a popular attraction.
Albi is another red-brick city, smaller but not less interesting than Toulouse, located on the River Tarn. The mammoth red-brick Cathedral of Saint Cécile, towers above all the other buildings and was built as a fortress to protect a cruel bishop who imposed the church on the populace. The nearby 13th-century Palace of the Archbishop (also fortified) is now a museum containing the most comprehensive collection of the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in the town. Each year Albi is host to three good festivals - jazz, theatre and classical music.