Toulouse Launches Two New Must-See Cultural Attractions

Cité de l'espace
Press release

In November 2018, the Top French City of Toulouse inaugurated La Piste des Géants (Runway of the Giants), the backbone of Toulouse Aérospace, a new district centered around the 1.1-mile (1.8km) landmark runway located in Montaudran, a suburb southeast of the city. Once site of the Toulouse-Montaudran Airport, an important 20th-century civil aviation center that saw its last flight in 2003 and then fell into disrepair, La Piste des Géants anchors an ambitious urban renewal project showcasing aeronautical adventure and including two new cultural attractions: Halle de La Machine (Hall of the Machine) and Envol des Pionniers (Flight of the Pioneers).

Early in the 20th century, at the dawn of civil aviation, Montaudran developed as the home of groundbreaking airborne services operated as Latécoère and Aéropostale flights. By 1922, the company had become the largest airline in the world and in 1930 made the first non-stop commercial flight across the South Atlantic. Later, and until 2003, Air France used the site for aircraft maintenance.

These accomplishments and the people who made them possible are the subject of Envol des Pionniers, due to open on December 20, 2018. Permanent exhibitions set in historical buildings will memorialize the adventure of civil aviation history, from the earliest days of the Latécoère and Aéropostale air postal service companies to the men who entered legend with them, such as Pierre-Georges Latécoère, Marcel Bouilloux-Lafont, Didier Daurat, Jean Mermoz, Henri Guillaumet and, perhaps most famously, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.

Nearby, and in striking contrast to the renovated structures, the Halle de La Machine opened on November 9, 2018, in a large modern building by architect Patrick Arotcharen. On eye-popping display beneath a roof shaped like aircraft wings, it houses approximately 100 fantastical street-theatre machines designed and manufactured by François Delarozière and his team at La Compagnie La Machine, which have been wowing visitors at Les Machines de l'Ile in Nantes for many years. One special creation for the Halle de La Machine is a 50-ton, 46-foot monumental Minotaur that can carry 50 or so people on its back as it moves up and down the runway. The hall also has cultural programs, a bar-restaurant, a shop and meeting spaces.

Finally, situated alongside the landmark runway are the Jardins de la Ligne (Gardens of the Line), planted with eight different landscapes and habitats to recall flight services offered to countries on three continents (Europe, Africa and South America) during Aéropostale's heyday. Opened in June 2017, the gardens also include play areas for children and interactive features about the represented countries.

These new attractions add to the aeronautic and aerospace tourism offerings already drawing visitors to the Top French City of Toulouse and its environs, such as L'Aérothèque and Aeroscopia (two air museums), La Cité de l'Espace (space museum), Ailes Anciennes Toulouse (a museum for historic aircraft) and guided tours of the Airbus plant, which has its headquarters and assembly lines in Toulouse. Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals to important towns, that are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget.

About Top French Cities –

Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals like Bordeaux to important towns like Avignon and Versailles. They are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget. Most of these cities are university towns with a youthful atmosphere, but all of them reflect the heritage and distinctive flavors of the regions to which they belong. Many are forward-looking too, with historic buildings repurposed to house contemporary art and activity centers like Les Docks in Marseille. Many have created or integrated new, modern museums to contrast with their classical, architectural heritage, like in Nimes, where the cutting-edge Museum of Roman Civilization (Musée de la Romanité) is located across from the historic Roman amphitheater, or in Nantes, where whimsical mechanical creatures are being created, or in the UNESCO World Heritage Site concrete city of Le Havre.


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