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Toulouse, a city in the southern France, keeps a secret place for record lovers.
The country’s fourth biggest city is actually more popular as the home of the aeronautical industry, as a few airplane manufacturer giants run their daily business here. But then, the small city center of typical European districts holds a secret that you don’t want to miss if you are a record lover.
Besides the world class aeronautical industry, Toulouse has also been a wonderful home to youth culture. The bustling youth atmosphere rules a few parts of the city with its dynamic energy. In some parts, the city — despite its early bedtime — reserves good space for creativity, including music.
For starters, you can always go to FNAC and Virgin Megastores for an average collection of music. These two nationwide record stores are big names in terms of the variety of stock — any latest release can be easily found, and usually at good prices. These popular chains are your supermarket for generic items.
The bundling package, normally ¤20 (US$24.20) for four items, is ubiquitous in these chains. It’s a good bargain. But then again, it’s not a happy-go-lucky session you always want to be listening to on your traveling journeys to a faraway town. Normally, people who hunt for records wherever they go in this universe, demand more than that.
So take your Toulouse city map and take note of some interesting spots in town. Ride a Velo Toulouse budget — the not-so-free bicycle rental, and enjoy the warmer weather which regularly appears in mid-year. The basket on the front is perfect for grabbing as many records as possible.
If you have a data service on your smart phones, google this search term: “Records store in Toulouse”.
The list of results will instantly appear, and among them you will find Croc Vinyl. This store is located in a small street named Rue des Lois, one made of bricks, which is apparently a typical street in the Toulouse city center.
The front window tells you instantly that your record-hunting journey will be a fun one; you can see records from The Specials, Bruce Springsteen, Serge Gainsbourg, The Clash and even Metallica. Those hanging in the window are special and rare, and as such are more expensive.
The guy behind the cashier’s desk was quite a friendly bloke. He greeted everyone that came to his store and would enquire as to the customer’s preference of music. This is also typical, and something found in most cool records shops around the world, where the value of interaction is recognized.
“What are you looking for, sir?” he said, after realizing my lack of French-speaking abilities. “I’m just looking around,” I said. “I’m on a hunt for records, but no particular title.”
“No worries,” he said.
Then, he continued to do his job, packing for internet orders. Not long after that, we talked again.
“These are my choices. Do you have any other recommendations for record stores that I should visit? I have like four or five hours to stroll around,” I said.
He pointed out some recommendations for me on my map. Some other stores were located in the same area as Croc Vinyl. Others were located nearby, and a few more in the greater city center, which still could be reached easily with my rented bicycle parked outside.
Next stop is a small shop few steps from Croc Vinyl, called Bullits. The shop houses a good collection of French and reggae music.
“I’ve been here several times,” said Gerard, a student from Marseille who was spotted digging for treasures. “It’s quiet here and I love the feel.” He was a temporary citizen of Toulouse.
In Rue des Lois, there are a few more record shops. Hunting for records makes time fly by.
The next destination is Vicious Circle, as recommended. Head north from the previous area, then you’ll find the store. It’s quite a short stroll and the store is visible within minutes. Collections there are also appealing, prices ranging from ¤4 to 10 for second-hand items, and more expensive for new items. Quite a bargain, especially for the 80s records.
If you’re keen for rock music, head to Le Laboratorie in Rue de la Bourse. The last name you need to check is Armadillo in Rue des Pharaois.
For a small city, Toulouse is considered rich. It was a great journey. “We have a good music scene here, and the selections of record are great in the stores you visited,” said Jerome, whom I met in Le Laboratorie.
Normally, stores open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. With only nine hours of operation, the choices available are awesome.
— Photos by Felix Dass