As the old capital of Languedoc and France's fourth-largest city, Toulouse (known as la ville en rose, or the city in pink) is the major city of the southwest, and the gateway to the Pyrenees mountain range. It is an ancient city with a stormy history: Once it was the capital of the Visigoths and later the center of the comtes de Toulouse (counts of Toulouse). The city has 20 historic pipe organs, more than any other city in France, and hosts an annual international organ festival.

Complementing this distinguished history, Toulouse is also a city of the future and the high-tech center of the aerospace industry in France. It is home to two huge aircraft makers -- Airbus and Aérospatiale -- and the National Center for Space Research has been headquartered here for more than 3 decades. The first regularly scheduled airline flights from France took off from the local airport in the 1920s. Today long-range passenger planes of the Airbus consortium, the most important rivals in the world to Boeing, are assembled in a gargantuan hangar in the suburb of Colombiers. In 1997, Toulouse launched an air and space museum. The extraordinarily high population of students also contributes to the pulse of the city.