Post card. The pastel of Toulouse dyers

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Pastel of the dyers is composed of a yellow flower and green leaves to obtain indigo blue pigments.
Dyers pastel is composed of a yellow flower and green leaves to obtain indigo blue pigments. (PHILIPPE ROY / AURIMAGES)

Nougaro spoke of the green water of the Canal du Midi and the red brick of the Minimes. The emblem of the city is the violet but Toulouse sees life in pink, as you know … and in blue.

As if to echo the blue of the sky, it is with the pastel that the city widens its palette. Toulouse owes its nickname of pink city, finally "rauze", to the use of the brick in its architecture. You will have no trouble admiring the facades whose colors can even decline in shades of orange.

Behind the Pastel of dyers or Isatis tinctoria, there is a plant that has its origins in Asia, but also in south-eastern Europe. It is its medicinal virtues that made it popular since antiquity. But with this pretty little yellow flower and especially its green leaves, we get a unique blue. A very particular vegetable color, which was even royal tint for the most beautiful clothes of the kings of France.

It is throughout Occitania, in the legendary country of Cocagne, that will develop the blue trade. Toulouse will become a real commercial hub. If the architecture of Toulouse is so remarkable today, it is partly thanks to the rich pastel merchants who built mansions and other wonders. I suggest you stop at the Hotel Assézat, former property of a merchant Toulouse who made a fortune with pastel in the sixteenth century.

If you want to go further in the discovery of this blue gold, head to the Tourist Office which organizes tours around this heritage and places that highlight the pastel.

I highly recommend workshops led by Annette Hardouin Minimes. You will attend a dyeing demonstration and will be able to try yourself at the exercise. You will leave with a scarf dyed by you. It is truly a magical operation: how can these baths made with pastel leaves give blue shades as varied by oxidation on contact with the air? You will talk about it with Annette, she knows all the secrets and considers herself an ambassador of this treasure. You can know everything about the balls of cocagne, count about thirty euros for this workshop very friendly.

A trip to the museum dedicated to Labège and offering themed tours and workshops, but also natural beauty treatments with extracts of pastel leaf: we talk about pastelotherapy. A spa in which you should see life in blue.

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