Touring Toulouse

Despite the inherent man-stench coming from the blankets, the futon was very comfortable, and I slept pretty well. I could hear Rouge and Nico in the kitchen around 10:30, so I joined them for breakfast. I had brought some galettes du riz with me, expecting a traditional French breakfast of pates du tartiner (things to spread on toast), but I neglected to take into account that I was living with university students. Rouge and Nico were eating a cereal very similar to Kix, and asked me if I wanted some… and after reading the label and finding that it was indeed sans gluten, I had some. Nico and Rouge had coffee, and since it’s not my favorite thing in the world, Nico made me some tea. They didn’t have black tea (not that I asked for it, it’s just what I’m used to by this point), and the only green tea they had was mixed with mint (I’m not a mint person), so I had some agrumes (citrus) tea instead. We all got ready for our day, the basic plan was to show me exactly why Toulouse is called la ville en rose (the Pink Village/City) all in a day, since I only had a day in the town itself (damn that Cocteau opera). I updated yesterday’s blog, and Rouge was fit to go, but we had lunch at the apartment first with one of Nico’s roommates named Roy…

Why bother going out to eat when it’s cheaper to stay in? We had French “student food.”
Yeah. That’s student food. This is why I don’t want to go home. Our student food is Easy Mac, which I cannot consume. MY student food is a “clean out the fridge” quesadilla. Nico made that, and he wasn’t trying to make it gourmet, but doesn’t that look like something you’d willingly pay a good five euro for around noon? I demanded the recipe. Rice from your friendly neighborhood rice cooker, a must for a college student anywhere (Nico’s was covered in grammatically incorrect English life tips, but that’s another story). Leeks, and lardon (type of ham similar to bacon) sautéed with crême fraiche and soy sauce. That’s it. That’s how a starving student eats in France. Casse-toi, Top Ramen… Roy got me to drink some coffee after lunch. I was going to have tea, but he looked at Nico and was like “okay, we have one day to convince her…” He made it for me with sugar and milk, and it was pretty good. Maybe I’ll have it again some time…
At my request, we walked everywhere instead of taking the Toulouse metro (two lines, c’est tout). The weather’s much nicer here than in Paris, it was around 60-65 Fahrenheit, and the sun was out. I actually had to use my sunglasses! My quote of the day was “Je suis pompette à cause de soleil!” (I’m drunk because of the sun/I’m drunk off of sunlight!) Toulouse is one of the bigger towns in France, I’ll say it’s probably about the same size as my college town, but I could be wrong. We walked through Toulouse’s Japanese garden. Nico and I have both been to Japan, I was there for a two week tour, he studied there for a year. It was nice to see the garden, so I took a lot of pictures, quite a few “artsy-fartsy” ones… Here are a few, the rest will be on Flickr soon. Forgive me, I’m a little behind on my picture uploading…

We walked to the center of Toulouse from there. Nico explained why Toulouse is called la ville en rose: It’s because most of the buildings are brick, so the whole town appears to be pink. I wanted to get a map (mainly for scrapbooking or mounting on canvas to hang on a wall when I get my new place back in California), so we stopped by the Tourism Office, and I picked up an information booklet and I map (both free). They had a small boutique where you could buy little Toulouse-related trinkets, but I figured they’d be expensive, so I asked Nico where we could buy something that I could buy as a little gift to take home to my host mom in Paris. He thought about it for a while… Rouge mentioned a Cathedral in the town that her host dad wanted her to see. We walked there, but it was under construction and close. I didn’t bother taking any pictures of it, but I did snap a couple pictures of the town center. There’s a Christmas market that goes on every year, and they were setting up for it, but I was a week too early to actually see it.
Nico came up with an idea for a gift. There’s apparently a very good candy shop in Toulouse, so he took us there. He explained that a very “Toulousian” thing to get someone is anything that has to do with a Violet (meaning the flower). Violet beer (vraiment dégoûtant/really disgusting), violet sugar, violet syrup… violet chocolate?
Le Paradis Gourmand I wish I could have taken pictures, but we weren’t allowed. Between the way the shop looked, and the music they were playing inside, I swear, I felt like I’d been picked up and apparated into Honeydukes (the candy shop in the Harry Potter world). It was… magical! I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to get… With Mme. De Lapisse and her new regime, this was not a good place to be. I ultimately ended up getting her a small packet of violet-infused-chocolate-covered almonds (kind of healthy, right), then I got two milk chocolate bars that had candied violet petals in them: one to take home to America for my family to try at Christmas, and one to take to Mme. Remion when I visit her in Tours in two weeks. Rouge and I split the cost of some actual chocolates ourselves… you know how you can actually go to See’s Candies back home and say “I’d like some Scotchmallows… and, you know… actually, I’d just like a half pound of nothing but Scotchmallows.” …what? Don’t judge me. Scotchmallows are my favorite… I digest/digress… They had a “chocolate bar” where you could pick up a small bag, or a box, and you could select whatever single chocolates you wanted, like ganaches, or nougats, or whatever, and it’d cost you 5,30 euro per 100 grams. We bought five different chocolates intending to literally take a bite out of each one, and give the other half to whomever didn’t get the first bite. 13 euro later, we headed off to the river, and Rouge and I had our chocolates…

Our five chocolates included an “escargot” shell with praline filling, pistachio nougat, raspberry filling, a violet ganache, and a violet nougat. I think my two favorites were definitely the escargot, and the violet ganache. I’m pretty sure I could eat myself to death with those violet ganache ones… I though the combination of violet and chocolate wouldn’t be very good, but I’m glad I was wrong! Looks like the almonds and chocolate bars I bought will be a welcome treat for my host moms… and my real one…
We walked home after we hung out at the river for a while. I snapped some more pictures on my way home. I definitely got my exercise for the day, not that I mind. I prefer this new active lifestyle that I’d adopted in France. I’m going to have to force myself to walk more when I go back to my college. I walk all over campus (except when it’s raining and I have Noah with me, wet dog is not a good smell), but I’ll have to start making myself walk to Uptown whenever I need something there, like Starbucks or when I want to go dinner in the area… As it is, I’m going to have to take up jogging for Noah’s sake. I’ve been told that the weather has kept him out of the dog park, he’s started eating the other dogs’ food, and his grandmother has been spoiling him… with Paydays… That’s considered animal abuse somewhere, right?
We got a chance to relax for a while, and we all Skyped both my boyfriend and my big sister, then we helped Roy make dinner. He checked with me just to make sure he was making something I could eat. The menu involved chinese noodles with sautéed veggies (beaucoup de gluten), and a simple potato gratin (sans gluten), then pears with chocolate for dessert. Rouge helped peel potatoes, and Roy had to take a phone call then collect his friend Elisa and bring her inside (she was going to eat with us), so I finished prepping the pears for dessert for him. We had some wine with mousse de canard (but I couldn’t have it since it had gluten in it, but no one was expecting it!) and cheese (Saint Maure, the “knock off” of Saint Maure de Touraine, believe it or not, I could taste a difference), then we went into the living room to eat dinner. Bobik (the other roommate) joined us. They all served themselves when we had the noodles (that was first, the gratin was still in the oven), and we all chatted. This was the first time I’d met Bobik, so I had to explain the whole gluten situation. Roy and Elisa were curious as to what exactly would happen if I ate the noodles. “J’ai mal au ventre.” (I’ll get a stomachache) “Et après, tu explose?” (And after, you explode?) “Ban oui, c’est exactement ça.” (Of course, it’s exactly like that.) Nico went on to explain what exactly I couldn’t have. “Le pain, mort. Le pâte, mort. Le mousse de canard, mort.” (Bread, death. Pasta, death. Duck mousse, death.) Elisa is also the first French vegetarian I’ve encountered. I noticed that the noodle stir fry had no meat in it, she was the reason why. Curious thing: She ate the mousse de canard. Why? When she can actively control what she eats, she doesn’t eat meat. When she’s being served (like at a dinner party), and someone gives her meat, she eats it. The gratin was delicious. I ate about a third of it all by myself, mainly because everyone else was full from the noodles. Bobik brought out some dark rum from Martinique for us to try, so I figured I’d just taste it. I tried to say “only give me a little taste” but I somehow ended up with an entire shot of it. I’d already had a glass and a half of wine, and after the fiasco that came of the last time I mixed alcohols, I wasn’t about to have a repeat. I smelled the rum (first mistake, according to Rouge), and it was really strong, but I took my little taste anyway. The phrase that the rest of the group used to describe it was “Ce réchauffe…” or “It heats you up.” That tiny taste I had warmed me up the entire way down, imagine if I’d taken the entire shot. It tasted fine. Nico kept picking on me and calling me “moule” (French equivalent to “pussy”) because I wouldn’t take the shot. “Tu es la plus grande moule du monde!” (You’re the biggest pussy in the world!) “Oui, je sais, et je veux bien rester comme ça!” (Yeah, I know, and I’d really like to stay that way!) The whole group cracked up. Now I believe I’ve got a good grasp of my French, I can crack a joke like that without thinking. Bobik took my shot for me. The pears were really good, they were totally plain, they just had a little chocolate sauce on them. I have a lot of respect for French cooking, as simple as it is. Everything tastes as it is, pears taste like pears. Potatoes taste like potatoes. It goes on…
Nico took me and Rouge to a Belgian bar in another part of the city to meet up with his friends Fabian, Anthony, Mathilde, and another friend of theirs whose name I couldn’t hear over the noise of the bar. We took the metro to get there. The metro’s super clean, it’s also apparently only a few years old. Nico told me I hadn’t had enough to drink, and glasses of wine were cheap, so I had a small glass of Côtes du Rousillions that I nursed for the better part of an hour. Rouge and I partook in most of the conversation, she had a little trouble understanding Mathilde since she had a thicker accent, but I didn’t have much trouble. The subject matter varied from things that shall not be mentioned here because they’re rated a little high, and I’m trying to keep this PG-13, to things like the “war” that Toulouse has with another town just outside of Paris. Mathilde explained to me they “fight” because the people and the towns are so similar. I equated it to the cheese war that California and Wisconsin have. They asked me how I liked France, I said I loved it, then they asked me how I liked Paris… and I said it was okay… they were relieved. Mathilde told a story about a girl she knew… the girl went to a party in Paris all by herself, and she was all alone for the entire party. She did the same thing in Toulouse, and within ten minutes, people came up to talk to her, and she wasn’t alone. The term they used to describe Paris was froid (cold). I agreed with them, the weather’s cold, and the people can be too. The group said my French is top notch, so I’ll take that as a compliment. I caught myself making a couple faults and I corrected myself right away (maybe that was the wine). I definitely feel better about my French level than I did when I first got here… stupid subjunctive lessons in Tours…

We headed back home around midnight, and I did some preliminary packing. My train tomorrow is seven hours long. I guess I’m taking a different route home than I did to get here… I wish I didn’t have to go back to Paris so soon. I prefer the lifestyle in towns like Toulouse and Tours to big cities like Paris…

Je l’ai trop aimé pour ne le point haïr! -Racine. Andromaque

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