Regardless of how many times we move into a new town and apartment, it is still a challenge. The experience we have gained at each place does indeed help, but locating the supermarché, and deciding what to buy (after lengthy exercises in label translation), figuring out where the cooking and eating utensils are hidden in the kitchen, determining what light switches control what, and on, and on.
That said, it is always an adventure, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Such challenges keep the brain sharp … or so they say. There are times when my mind just says, “huh?”
Of course, it’s been 1.5 years since we left France back in September 2015 so we’ve had lots of time for our accumulated vocabulary to dissipate, not that it was ever THAT good. They say that it’s like riding a bicycle, you never really forget how. But what they forgot to add as that you’re likely to crash several times before that memory is restored.
Well, we have been here in Toulouse less than five days now and the kitchen is stocked with plenty of wine and cheese, and we have begun to get the lay of the land. Now it’s time for exploring and fun.
We’re pretty sure this city is going to be an outstanding place to live in. Our apartment location is excellent with an incredible view. It is just a few blocks in one direction to a daily fresh market, and just a few more beyond that to the Monoprix supermarché . In the other direction it’s a couple of blocks to the botanical gardens and several interconnected parks (with pedestrian bridges across roads).
About six or eight blocks to the west is the mighty Garonne River, whose valley has been a central point of human development since well before the 2nd Century BC. Toulouse lies 150 km (93 mi) from the Mediterranean and 230 km (143 mi) from the Atlantic.
All around us are some of the oldest parts of the city. The Carmes quartier, as it is known, is a fascinating neighborhood laced with many narrow, cobblestone streets that are lined with buildings constructed of pinkish terracotta bricks, hence, the nickname ‘La Ville Rose’ (the pink city). There are many medieval structures, large and small, and we will hopefully be visiting them and others over the next three months.
For now, below is a photographic sampling of what this wonderful city has presented us. Other than lots of coddiwampling, there were two events on our first Saturday here, the Toulouse Carnival and a demonstration of Japanese calligraphy.
Because of recent events in France, security personnel emptied the Carnival area well before the event, and then let people re-enter only through specific checkpoints where everyone was subjected to pat-downs and bag searches. Though unfortunate, everyone understood and seemed to comply willingly, and everything went smoothly. Curiously, there seemed to be an underlying theme of the sci-fi film “Mars Attacks” that ran through some of the costumes and floats. We still aren’t sure what that was all about.
The parade began much later than expected, and we needed to leave before the big festivities really got underway, but we had experienced enough big crowds for the day. More importantly, we had earlier purchased tickets for a Japanese calligraphy demonstration. However, we thought that the demonstration was to be in the same venue as an ikebana exposition just around the corner from our apartment. Arriving at the listed time, we were informed that the calligraphy demo was going to be held at an Aikido dojo about 2.4km (1.5mi) away. Oops. So we walked briskly and arrived only about 30 minutes late. It was a fascinating demonstration, and though we didn’t understand the French explanations (we didn’t understand the Japanese script either) it was fascinating to watch the artist’s passion and skill as she worked on several large pieces. Afterwards, we walked back to our apartment via a pizza shop for a late take-out dinner at home.
The next day, another visit to the gardens was in order. It is early Spring, the weather is delightful, and along with everyone else in Toulouse it seemed that it was the place to be. Families picnicking, playing games or riding bikes with their children, teens laying on the grass working on early tans, and the elderly ladies sitting on the benches discussing everything. We strolled and strolled as well. This annual event of Spring cannot be much different from back in Renoir‘s day, as it surely must have inspired some of his more famous works.
The only other problem was that Europe was on Daylight Saving Time (DST), but didn’t change back until this weekend (24 March). So, we got to experience losing two hours of sleep because of DST – once in the US, and once in France – not to mention jet lag. We will catch up one of these days, but for now we’re still a little confused.