Toulouse (IPA in standard French, and in the local accent) (Occitan: Tolosa, pronounced [tuˈluzɔ]) is a city in southwest France on the banks of the Garonne River, half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. With 1,117,000 inhabitants in 2007, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France and the fastest growing in Europe.
Toulouse is one of the centers of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, and CNES's Toulouse Space Center (CST), the largest space center in Europe. Thales Alenia Space, Europe's largest satellite manufacturer, and EADS Astrium Satellites, EADS's satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 120,000 students, is the third largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the former province of Languedoc (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region, the largest region in metropolitan France. It is also the capital of the Haute-Garonne department.
Born during the Roman Empire, Toulouse was once a major metropolis of western Europe, but it sank into a sleepy regional-level status in the 18th and 19th centuries, completely missing the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, relocation of key military and aerospace industries in Toulouse by the French central government have awakened the city again.
Benefiting from its status as Europe's capital of aerospace industry, as well as from the flow of population from the industrial belt to the sunbelt of Europe, Toulouse metropolitan area doubled its population between 1960 and 2000 (in the meantime the population of France increased only by 30%). With good prospects for aerospace and biotech industries, growth is likely to continue in the near future.
Fueled by booming aerospace and high-tech industries, population growth of 1.5% a year in the metropolitan area in the 1990s (compared with a sluggish 0.37% for metropolitan France), and a record 2.2% yearly growth in the 2000s (0.58% for metropolitan France), means Toulouse metropolitan area hit the 1,000,000 inhabitants mark in 2002 or 2003. Boasting the highest population growth of any French metropolitan area larger than 500,000 inhabitants, Toulouse is well on its way to overtake Lille as the fourth largest metropolitan area and Lyon as the third largest city of France. With 2.2% yearly population growth in the metropolitan area, Toulouse is also the fastest growing metropolitan area larger than one million inhabitants in Europe.
The Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse (Communauté d'agglomération du Grand Toulouse) was created in 2001 to better coordinate transport, infrastructure and economic policies between the city of Toulouse and its immediate independent suburbs. It succeeds a previous district which had been created in 1992 with less powers than the current council. It combines the city of Toulouse and 24 independent communes, covering an area of 380 km² (147 sq. miles), totaling a population of 583,229 inhabitants (as of 1999 census), 67% of whom live in the city of Toulouse proper. As of February 2004 estimate, the total population of the Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse was 651,209 inhabitants, 65.5% of whom live in the city of Toulouse. Due to local political feuds, the Community of Agglomeration only hosts 61% of the population of the metropolitan area, the other independent suburbs having refused to join in.
To deal with growth, major housing and transportation projects were launched. Perhaps the one for which Baudis is most famous is the Toulouse Metro: line A of the subway was opened in 1993, and Baudis succeeded in having work started on line B (which opened in 2007), despite strong local opposition to the anticipated costs. The creation of a system of underground car parking structures in downtown Toulouse was sharply criticized by the Green Party, although it certainly fulfilled the demands of downtown Toulouse store and shop owners, and makes life easier for people who cannot use public transportation to go downtown.
Despite all these massive undertakings, the city's economy proved so strong that Dominique Baudis was able to announce, in 1999, that the city had finished repaying its debt, making it the only large city in France ever to achieve solvency. In Europe, typical per capita city debt for a city the size of Toulouse is around 1,200 euros. Achieving solvency was a long-standing goal for Baudis, who had said that he would extinguish city debt before leaving office. Local opposition, however, has criticized this achievement, saying that the task of governments is not to run zero-deficit, but to ensure the well-being of citizens, through social benefits, housing programs for poor people, etc.
In 2000, Dominique Baudis was at the zenith of his popularity, with approval rates of 85%. He announced that he would not run for a fourth (6-year) term in 2001. He explained that with 3 terms he was already the longest-serving mayor of Toulouse since the French Revolution; he felt that change would be good for the city, and that the number of terms should be limited. He endorsed Philippe Douste-Blazy, then UDF mayor of Lourdes as his successor. Baudis has since been appointed president of the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) in Paris, the French equivalent of the American FCC.
Philippe Douste-Blazy narrowly won in the 2001 elections, which saw the left making its best showing in decades. Douste-Blazy had to deal with a reinvigorated political opposition, as well as with the dramatic explosion of the AZF plant in late 2001.
In March 2004 he entered the national government, and left Toulouse in the hands of his second-in-command Jean-Luc Moudenc, elected mayor by the municipal council. In March 2008, Moudenc was defeated by the Socialist Party's candidate Pierre Cohen.
The main industries are aeronautics, space, electronics, information technology and biotechnology. Toulouse hosts the Airbus headquarters and assembly-lines of Airbus A300 A310 A320 A330 A340 and A380. The others (A318, A319, A321 and A380 interior furnishing) being in Hamburg, Germany. Airbus intends to relocate Toulouse A320 final assembly activity to Hamburg, with A350 and A380 production going in the opposite direction as part of its Power8 organization plan begun under ex-CEO Christian Streiff.
According to Newsweek Toulouse ranked as the third most dynamic city in the world in 2006.
The University of Toulouse (Université de Toulouse), established in 1229, is located here (now split into three separate universities). Like the universities in Oxford and Paris, the University of Toulouse was established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology - inspiring scientific discoveries and advances in the arts - as society began seeing itself in a new way. These colleges were supported by the Church in hopes to reconcile Greek Philosophy and Christian Theology. Today, Toulouse is the third largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon, with more than 97,000 students attending its three universities (Université Toulouse I, Université de Toulouse - Le Mirail (Toulouse II), Université Paul Sabatier (Toulouse III)) and its engineering schools (ICAM Toulouse, INSA Toulouse, SUPAERO, ENSICA, ENAC, ENSEEIHT, ENSIACET, EPITECH, IPSA, INPT).
Toulouse also hosts the Industrial Economics Institute (Institut D'Economie Industrielle, IDEI) that is become one of the best European research centres in economics as well as its associated graduate school (TSE - Toulouse School of Economics) that recruits the ablest students from all countries in the European Union and further afield, as well as the Toulouse Business School (ESCT), one of France's leading integrated management schools.
The most well known high schools in Toulouse are Lycée Pierre de Fermat and Lycée Saint-Sernin.
Railway stations include:
Toulouse, known as the Ville Rose ("Pink City") for its distinctive brick architecture , is host to a rich and diverse culture. It has a thriving scene of unusually beautiful graffiti, with the painter Miss Van at its forefront.
Toulouse was the home of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), most famous for his book Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). There is a permanent gallery with numerous photos, and some of his works, located in the Hotel du Grand Balcon - just off the Place du Capitole - where he stayed. (The Bohemian painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec lived in Paris and was born in nearby Albi).
It is the seat of the Académie des Jeux Floraux, the equivalent of the French Academy for the Occitan-speaking regions of southern France, making Toulouse the unofficial capital of Occitan culture. The traditional Occitan cross was adopted as the symbol of both the City of Toulouse and the newly-founded Midi-Pyrénées région.
The city's gastronomic specialties include Saucisses de Toulouse, a type of herb sausage, cassoulet Toulousain, a bean and pork stew, and garbure, a cabbage soup with poultry. Also, foie gras, the liver of an overfed duck or goose, is a delicacy mainly made in the Midi-Pyrénées.