Day 48: Sunday November 27th, 2011
I hadn’t really connected with Sylvie definitely yet, which was a possible issue, since I was supposed to be leaving with her to Toulouse today. She wasn’t responding to e-mail and I couldn’t figure out how to dial her number. So I utilized the reception dude, who dialed it for me (I suck). Sylvie answered and she said she’d be at my hotel at 11. I watched the Clone Wars cartoon in French until check out time and waited.
So it was about 11:30 when they showed, with me waiting outside in the cold with my bags to make sure they can see me, but who’s keeping track? Europeans, young and old alike, just aren’t punctual. But they’re nice as hell.
Sylvie was a delightfully kind woman, and Augustin, her husband, also ruled. He was from the Canary Islands, so his native tongue was Spanish, but he rocked French and English. Another example of someone making me feel illiterate. Sylvie was French, and went to school at UC-Davis (how she met my Aunt Catherine. Little did she know that this friendship, coupled with the vague rules of hospitality, would force her to house a scraggly stranger in their home). They would tell me interesting anecdotes about the countryside and the geography, things I should be writing down, but instead I write down what I buy at the market item for item. Oops. I do remember that Toulouse and the surrounding region houses the second biggest aeronautical industry in Europe, after somewhere in Germany. My Dad can enlighten you in the comments.
I kinda dozed a bit toward the end, and then we reached Toulouse. Well, in fact, they actually lived in a sleepy, small village called Pibrac about 20 minutes from the city center.
Their house was beautiful. Augustin has a passion for gardening, and it shows, and they had a pool, bird houses, a couple super friendly dogs and their back yard was literally a forest/park.
Once there, they give me the French lunch, which I had gotten to know and love: different types of bread/baguettes and different types of cheese. Of course, I cut my hand because I’m an idiot. Then, since Sylvie was in a rush to see a tennis match, I went off with her, and took a subway into Toulouse to explore. Sylvie lent/gave me her bus/metro pass which had a few more rides on it, which was awesome of her to do. European hosts rule in general.
So Toulouse (too-loose, like Madonna) is actually the fifth biggest city in France (quick; name the other four). Who knew? As I mentioned, it has a massive aeronautical industry. Airbus makes it home there. Like any reputable city, it’s on some sort of mass of water. Toulouse is on the River Garronne, which we followed all the way from Bordeaux, and actually flows out into the Atlantic Ocean and going south, reaches into Northern Spain (and through other waterways, the Mediterranean). It’s a big un. The town has holds one of the oldest and most prestigious universities, the University of Toulouse (which started in 1229, which you all know is the same year Frederick II crowned himself King of Jerusalem. That’s some super Googling by yours truly) where at least one of Sylvie and Augustin’s kids go. The other’s live in DC and…I wanna say Norway.
I had no idea what to see or do, so I did what I always do: walk aimlessly and when in doubt, go toward parks (they had supplied me with a map). And Toulouse had some super pretty parks, with you betcha, fountains! I walked around the outside of the University, and their version of the Pacific Science Center, the Saint-Sernin Basilica (which, Wikipedia will have you know is the largest romanesque Church in Europe. That would’ve been nice to know when I was there), the Wilson Square (fountains!) and the Pont Neuf (pont = bridge, and neuf = new, I’d bet). I also walked up to the train station to get the low down on times for Barcelona and then waited for a pick up.
We had a wonderful dinner of halibut and rice and a special fruity Belgian beer (Bimbadgen? Nope, a winery. Bambergen? German beer. Ah, Grimbergen. Those saucy monks.) that Augustin dug out of the fridge for me so I didn’t have to settle for Heineken. Nice dude.
Then I had a lot of internet time, booked a bus to Barcelona since trains were too early or too late for me to get a ride to them and followed football box scores. When I was about to start writing in bed, I kind of hopped up to straighten up, and the bed crashed to the ground. I haven’t gained that much weight, if any, while travelling, but this scared me shitless. I’m a guest and I break their bed, even if I didn’t do hardly anything. Such a dick move. I investigated the broken leg and attempted to fix it myself, and I think I just made it worse. So I sheepishly went upstairs and explained to Augustin what happened. He kind of laughed and said that it had happened before, he just thought it was fixed. Whew. So I just switched bedrooms and started writing this damn blog.
Then it was slumber.
NEXT: Relaxation. That translates to a boring blog post usually. Sorry.