Sunday mornings are usually pretty quiet in France. The stores are closed, the roads are bare. A man walks around the corner with a copy of today’s newspaper and turns into a local café. A small truck arrives nearby. Three people get out and set up a table with a red tent and start selling baguettes. Magically half a dozen people appear within minutes to buy these. Slowly but surely Toulouse starts to wake up.
Right in the heart of Toulouseis Place du Capitole. On one side of the square is the city hall, a stunningbuilding that dates from 1190. Opposite, and with a fantastic view of city hall there are a number of cafes, brasseries and restaurants that spill out for a good 20 metres into the square with hundreds of tables and chairs filled pretty much all day and well into the evening with both young and old. Here is the perfect place to watch the energy of the city. Early on a Sunday morning, it is also a great place to grab a hot chocolate with breakfast.
After walking up and down the line-up of welcoming cafes we chose les Arcades. We order their breakfast; 5.30Euros for a hot drink, orange juice, a croissant and half a baguette with a selection of jams and butter. The hot chocolate comes out in a simple black mug. The French know how to make hot chocolate. Your average hot chocolate here is good. This one is the kind of hot chocolate I would be perfectly happy starting every morning with, especially with this view. It is hot milk with a light touch of chocolate, just enough to keep you satisfied but not too much to make it taste like dessert.
We are the only ones out on the terrace this morning. It is a little bit chilly so most have chosen to sit inside. A man in black pants and a crisp white shirt slips the bill under a cup on our table for when we are done. There is no rush and we spend quite a while here, watching the city wake up. Once we see the large front doors of the city hall open up, we get up and walk over and go inside. Through the courtyard there is a door to the left that leads to a grand staircase. The walls along the staircase and throughout the whole first floor are covered in very large and quite impressive paintings. Free of charge. Definitely worth a visit.
Verdict: If you are in Toulouse, regardless what day, stopped at Place Capitole de is a must. If you come here in the morning you can have hot chocolate with breakfast, in the afternoon you can have it with a selection of crepes. Brasserie Les Arcades, 14 Place Capitole, Toulouse, France
When in France one doesn’t necessarily think of going to an English teahouse, however surprisingly there seem to be many teahouses popping up around central Toulouse and all of them were full this Sunday afternoon. I did a bit of research to see what was the best hot chocolate in Toulouse and the name that came up several times was Bapz.
Bapz is on a cute little street just near the river in the historic centre of Toulouse. When we got to the front doors a few minutes before they opened at noon there were already about 20 people huddled around the front door. It seems that the whole place was already booked full for the afternoon. The reason is not so much the hot chocolate as the Sunday Brunch which includes all your English classics on one plate: scones, ham and cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs, fruit and your choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Bapz is a fun place and it very obviously has multiple personalities. The owners planned on it being a reproduction of a classic English teahouse. The chair pillows and tea sets are covered with traditional English designs of soft pink roses and garden scenes. There are classic old umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered with faded pictures and old china. Near the entrance there is a large table covered with English treats, scones, pies, cakes and jams of every sort. There are many authentic looking details but still the place feels very French. The wooden tables and chairs remind me of a French bistro and they are all full of very French looking families. The chandeliers on the ceiling and lamps on the walls also have a very romantic French feel to them. And the hot chocolate is not something I have ever had the pleasure of drinking in England.
Even without a reservation she let us sit for a hot chocolate if we promised to only stay for 15 minutes. When we first entered we saw a woman behind the bar pouring a cauldron of thick hot chocolate into one of those clear machines that churns the thick liquid and keeps it warm. The ‘chocolate maison’ as they call it here comes in three options; thin, medium or thick. I ordered the thick hot chocolate which came to us in small clear glass cups on a traditional china saucer for 4euros. I enjoyed mine quite a bit. It was pretty thick, almost like a chocolate pudding, and wasn’t as sweet as you would think – it was just sweet enough.
Verdict: If you are in Toulouse looking for French experiences skip Bapz and find yourself a French café. But if you are focused on trying out a good hot chocolate, and looking for something a little bit different I would recommend this one. Bapz, 13 rue de la Bourse, Toulouse, France.