The Garonne River starts in the Aran Valley in Spain, way up in the Pyrenees, and then heads north until it meets the Atlantic near Bordeaux. Although this means that the river “hangs a left” just above Toulouse to do so, it's where the river meets up with the southern canal system heading southeast that has made the Garonne so important. That's because this connection runs straight to the Mediterranean – in other words, it's like the Panama Canal of Europe, taking goods from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean without having to go through the Strait of Gibraltar.
Both Bordeaux and Toulouse are on the Garonne, which plays an important role in both cities, as a location for events and leisure, as well as for barges and boats. In Toulouse in particular, the riverside has lots of open public green spaces that feature everything from outdoor art installations to a skate park.