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The produce in France is quite different from what we get in California. For example, organic (biologique in French) produce is relatively rare and expensive, and for some reason, white asparagus seems much more popular with the French than the green.

White asparagus at farmer's market on Boulevard de Strasbourg, Toulouse

White asparagus at farmer's market on Boulevard de Strasbourg, Toulouse

Toulouse, one of France’s smaller but vibrant cities has several farmer’s markets which are fun to visit when traveling. On Tuesdays, the city’s elegant main square, Place du Capitole, is the venue for a market that does offer organic produce. When I was there last year, a bakery demonstrated their artisanal breadmaking. Also on Tuesday mornings, a mile or so away on the Boulevard de Strasbourg where it passes Place Jeanne d’Arc, a smaller market lines one side of the block.

If you are staying at a hotel and have no cooking facilities to make a meal out of market produce, then stop for lunch at L’Os à Moëlle, at 14 Rue  Roquelaine, just around the corner from the Boulevard de Strasbourg market . At L’Os, you can create your own first course from the buffet cart, charmingly called the chariot. This salad buffet is laden with typical items like shredded carrots, beets, potato salad, hard-boiled eggs, cold seafood including pickled herring, and olives. For the main course, the chef offers regional specialties like cassoulet with confit of duck. You can’t go wrong if you pick the region’s famous red wine, Madiran, to sip with your meal.

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One of the relatively untouristy areas of France is south of Toulouse, in the department of Haute Garonne. Many of the towns and villages in this region have dramatic southern views of the Pyrenees which remain snowcapped even in summer. Although many communities produce cheese, wine, and foie gras, many residents have had to leave for cities like Toulouse to find work. Many of the farm and village houses are unoccupied and some are left to crumble into ruins. Native French people also seem to prefer to move into newly constructed villas rather than old buildings when they choose to settle here.

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

View of Alan, in the Haute Garonne, seen from the hamlet of Labarthere

Photo shows view towards the village of Alan as seen from the hamlet of Labarthere. The highest building complex on the left side of the hilltop village is the winter palace of the Bishops of Saint Bertrand de Comminges. The oldest parts of the building date back to 1270.

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