The streets in Toulouse have signs in two languages, first French and then Occitan, the traditional language of southern France. Like other regional languages in France, Occitan was long suppressed, ridiculed and sometimes even forbidden by the French central government.
Hardly anyone in Toulouse actually speaks Occitan any more, as far as I know, but not everyone is willing to just let it die. You can buy books in Occitan, and a few years ago they experimented with making bilingual announcements in the Toulouse Métro.
There were no bilingual street signs until 2001, but since then they have become more or less the norm, at least I don’t recall seeing many street signs in Toulouse (“Tolosa” in Occitan) that were not bilingual.
The street in my lead photo, “Carrièra del Coronél Pèire-Maria Espinasse” in Occitan, was named after a man who actually wanted the street to be named after his father, not himself. In his will, Colonel Espinasse donated a large amount of money to the city (either for the public schools or for the Church of Saint-Aubin, depending on which website you believe) on the condition that the street be re-named in honor of his father, who had been a member of the National Convention that ruled France during the Revolution, from 1792 to 1795, and subsequently a member of the Council of Five Hundred from 1795-1799.
Rue Joseph Lakanal (“Carrièra Josèp Lakanal” in Occitan) was named after another member of the Convention of 1792-1795, called a “Conventionell” in French or “Convencional” in Occitan.
Rue Vélane (“Carrièra de Na Velana” in Occitan) was apparently named after a woman called Madame Avellane in the 15th century.
By coincidence, “Vélane” is used in the Harry Potter books as the French translation for “the Veela”. According to the Harry Potter Wiki, the Veela are “a race of semi-human, semi-magical humanoids reminiscent of the Sirens of Greek mythology”. Their appearance “and especially their dance is magically seductive to almost all male beings, which causes them to perform strange actions in order to get nearer to them.”
According to the regional newspaper La Dépêche, the Rue Peyrolières (“Carrièra dels Pairoliers” in Occitan) was named after the boilermakers who settled in this street during the Middle Ages, alongside other metal craftsmen such as bell-makers and gunsmiths.
Rue Petrarque (“Vanèla Francesco Petrarca” in Occitan) is an alley or narrow passage named after the Italian poet Petrarch (1304-1374).
All you loyal readers of my Avignon post The sun in its travels … might recall that Petrarch had a day job in the Papal bureaucracy. I quoted his description of Avignon in the fourteenth century as “the most foul and stinking city on Earth.”
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.
Next Toulouse post: Art museum in the Augustinian Convent.