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Halle de La Machine: magical & mad The Minotaur is the brainchild of François Delaroziere and La machine company famous for The Island of the Machines in Nantes and for their incredible street theatre machines. As a kid I was captivated by stories of mythical beasts. My favourite tale was of a Minotaur who roamed a labyrinth on the Greek island of Crete. Small me believed that Minotaurs, a species which had the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, really lived, much like dinosaurs. I dreamed of one day meeting a minotaur. Growing up, your childhood imaginations fade away – but sometimes, dreams do come true. Arriving at the brand new Halle de la Machine I was immediately confronted by the sight of a giant, blinking his big blue eyes in the sunlight and breathing steam as he swung his head to look at me. At 14m high and weighing a stonking 14 tonnes, you certainly can’t miss him. He’ll take you for a ride on his back and makes you feel as he’s almost alive. The Minotaur is not alone. In the vast space of the Halle de la Machine more mysterious inhabitants are waiting to meet you. Amongst the exhibits are a walking 37 ton spider called Ariane and musical machines which make up the strangest orchestra you’re ever likely to see. There’s a giant set of wings piloted by a machiniste, pipes which spout flames, twirling guitars and a table laid for an enchanted dinner where the pepper is sprinkled by a flying waiter.
The “veritable-machinistes” who operate the machines are also actors and story tellers and part of the show. It’s seriously mad, utterly magical and truly a must-see when you visit Toulouse. Tip: head to the onsite Minotaur café for delish dishes or a glass of wine at the bar and enjoy the spectacle of the fairy tale beast wandering about outside. Modern art and ancient… The Halle de la Machine isn’t the only home to a Minotaur in Toulouse. At Les Abbatoirs Museum of modern art, Picasso’s famous stage curtain “The Remains of the Minotaur in a Harlequin Costume” is a star in an outstanding collection. Created for a theatre in 1936, because of its fragility this showstopper is displayed for only six months of the year. The museum has a superb collection of modern and contemporary art with works by many Spanish artists exiled from Spain when General Franco seized power during the Spanish Civil War. This is no elitist museum, you can do yoga classes amongst the artworks, workshops, a library and at Christmas they hold a market where artists sell their works. After your visit pop to the park next door to enjoy the views over the river Garonne. For a complete contrast, the Bemberg Foundation is tucked away in a pretty courtyard near the Capitole. It’s in a former 16th century mansion where each room has been restored to 19th century glory to showcase the wonderful collection of paintings, furniture and ornaments including Degas, Monet, Matisse and Boudin. I loved the intimate feel of this museum, as if it were still lived in by someone with the most exquisite taste in art.
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