13 Septembre, 2006 - The taxi picked us up around noon. We were prepared to pay cash, but the driver accepted credit cards, so we saved our cash for when we return. We had made our flight arrangements with Delta Airlines, but the actual flight was with Air France. Our Air France 747 left Miami a few minutes later than scheduled, at 5:45 PM. We have flown on a 747 before, but this time we were seated on the upper level. It seemed odd to look out the window and realize how high we were before the plane even left the ground. We were also happy to find that there is a bit more room on the upper level. We always seem surprised when we are served a meal that doesn't quite meet our expectations on Air France. But the thing we have to remember is that the meals served on the way to France are prepared in the US. Quite naturally, they would not be as good as the meals served on the return flights. However, the French champagne we were served was excellent. There was a French guy seated to my left. He drank at least five bottles of wine before dinner, and a few more with dinner (small airline bottles, of course, but still.....). Needless to say, he slept most of the way over.
14 Septembre - Although the plane was late leaving Miami, we arrived in Paris at 7:55 AM, fifteen minutes before the scheduled arrival time. However, we left the plane and boarded a bus to get to the terminal. It was quite the long ride. I joked to Robb, that in the time it took to get to the terminal, we could have driven to Paris. As usual, there was no hassle getting through passport control and we found ourselves with over two hours to kill before our plane left for Toulouse. In the departure area in Miami, we had the choice of a small Pizza Hut take-out shop or Burger King. In Paris, of course, there were several cafés and shops selling everything from newspapers to designer clothing and jewelry. There was also a place where you could get a massage and/or manicure.
We left for Toulouse at 10:35 AM on an Airbus 320. Robb had the window seat and I had the middle seat. A very nice Toulousain lady was seated to my left. We had a good conversation during the trip - partly in French and partly in English. I admit her English was much better than my French, but she was very gracious and told me I spoke well.
Upon arriving in Aéroport Toulouse Blagnac, we were met by our landlord, Monsieur Pierre Couarraze, who was awaiting us with a sign bearing my name. We collected our baggage and, after getting less than we expected from the ATM, walked with him to his car. It was raining. He drove us to the apartment, which was just as large and just as nice as in the pictures (1 , 2, 3). Robb and I agreed that we could easily adjust to living in a place of this size, which is smaller than our place, but larger than any place we've stayed in France. Sadly, the apartment is located on the only hill in the city. Sad for me, because I have emphysema and it is difficult for me to walk uphill (or up stairs, for that matter). We spent an hour or so while M. Couarraze explained how various things worked. Then he bid us "bon vacance" and left us to our own devices.
We got some of our things put away in the ample closets (a real rarity in French apartments) and left to check out the area. Our street (rue DuPont) ended in a dead end at rue de Luppé. Looking to the left there was nothing that drew one's attention, but to the right there was a street that seemed to be a major artery. Upon reaching that street (Avenue de la Gloire), we immediately noticed a Petit Casino (a super marché) to our left and a boulangerie and a pizza place to the right. Directly across the street, was the Café de la Gloire. We needed some staples, so we entered le Petit Casino, bought the necessary stuff and walked back to the apartment. In the rain.
We were both very tired, but determined to remain awake as long as possible, which turned out to be about 23h00. It was cold in the apartment and we slept fitfully.
15 Septembre - I arose around 10h00. Robb slept until after noon. Around 13h00, we left and walked to Place du Capitole, the main square of Toulouse and the most densely populated by tourists. We were surprised by the sheer number of them. We weren't expecting that in Toulouse. By the time we got there, the sun had made a welcome appearance, and the leather jackets we wore were rather warm. We wandered around the area for several hours, checking out anything that caught our interest, including l'Hôtel de Ville, laTour des Archives, Place Wilson, Marché Victor Hugo, many stores and, one of my favorites, FNAC, where Robb bought a couple of CDs (Raphaël (it's a video, wait for it to load) and Florent Pagny). L'Office de Tourisme was in la Tour des Archives. We stopped there to get the telephone numbers for the taxis. We had only seen a couple since arriving. Evidently, Toulouse is like Paris, in as much as if you want a taxi, you either have to find a "taxi stand" or call them. We looked in vain for a taxi stand and decided we would walk back to the apartment.
Since we had to walk past le Petit Casino, we figured we might as well stop and pick up a couple of things. When we left the store and I opened my parapluie (umbrella), it decided to give up the ghost and a spring popped out of it making a strange noise. At the time, because it seemed to open correctly, I wasn't aware that it was my parapluie that had broken. It wasn't until we got back to the apartment and I tried to close it, that I discovered what had happened.
We tried to call a taxi at 20h30, but they told us they had none available. We had, earlier, seen a couple of familiar restaurants and had chosen l'Entrecôte in which to have dinner, so we started the long walk. But before we got to l'Entrecôte, we came upon Le Bistro Toulousain. It looked so nice from the outside that we chose to eat there, after discovering their specialité was Cassoulet. Toulouse is famous for cassoulet and duck. We were very much looking forward to trying the cassoulet, which is a dish featuring local sausages, beef, pork and/or duck in white beans. We had that with a bottle of vin rouge de maison, a house red wine that was quite good. We both had the fromage blanc for desert. Everything was really good and really inexpensive. We left the restaurant after midnight and began the long walk home. It was after 02h00 when we got to bed.
16 Septembre - We awoke to a cold, rainy day around 10h00. I hate cold rainy days and we stayed in all day watching TV and listening to the CDs by Raphaël and Florent Pagny that Robb had bought yesterday. I went back to bed around 13h00 and slept until after 16h00. We finally went to le Petit Casino around 16h30 to get some stuff to eat in case we didn't go out in the evening. When we got to the store, my parapluie (which I had managed to bully into closing after getting home yesterday) wouldn't close, so I just left it laying outside. When we came out, I discovered that the wind had blown it into the street and it had been run over numerous times. So much for that umbrella.
The rain did not let up at all and we did not go out. I played with my laptop (writing this entry and other stuff). There is no internet access in the apartment. In fact, there is no phone line in the apartment. How very strange, but c'est la vie. Luckily, we both have our cell phones with us and they are capable of utilizing international networks. The network we usually get is Orange, which I think is a subsidiary of T-Mobile.
At 21h30, Robb decided to prepare the Dinde Cordon Bleu (Turkey Cordon Bleu) that he had purchased at le Petit Casino, but we didn't actually read the instructions, we just glanced at them. Without thinking, we put them into the micro-onde (microwave) for ten minutes. Had we read the instructions, we would have known that the ten minutes was for a toaster oven. Do I have to tell you how much they resembled charcoal? Robb ate them anyway. I just had some wine and later, some cookies.
17 Septembre - We once again awoke to a gray, cloudy day, but by noon the sun made an appearance and it turned out to be a really nice day after all. Robb had heard about the flea market that's held every Sunday at St. Sernin (the major cathedral of Toulouse), so we decided to walk over to check it out. We got as far as Avenue de la Gloire and decided we should get some stuff from the boulangerie. We got a couple of croissants and a bottle of wine, which Robb took back to the apartment while I explored the area a bit. I did find a great looking Spanish restaurant just a block further down the street. After Robb returned, I took him over to check out the restaurant and then we took off for St. Sernin. When we got to Boulevard Strasbourg, we were both feeling hungry and we stopped at the Hippopotamus for something to eat. We were surprised to find that the Hippopotamus in Toulouse was much nicer than the one to which we had gone in Paris.
After eating, we walked down the boulevard, turning to go to the flea market. Of course, by the time we got there, they were packing everything and leaving. Evidently, they only stay until about noon. Oh well, there's always next week (if we can get our as.....bodies out of bed).
Still, it wasn't a total loss as we wandered into the basilica and checked it out. It was quite nice. Not as ornate as Notre Dame de Fourviére in Lyon, but very nice in its own way, and rather large. There is a huge organ in the church which is used often for organ recitals by some of the organ aficionados who gather and perform in France.
Then we walked across the street to the Musée de Saint Raymond. That was fascinating. It consisted of a lot of Roman artifacts that had been found in and around Toulouse. There were a lot of partial statues, several complete statues and many busts. They also had on display, some unique original Roman mosaics (mostly incomplete, but totally interesting). When you see things that are so ancient, you tend to marvel at the ability of the people who lived in those times. Especially when you consider the tools and the conditions with which they had to work.
We left that area and wandered over to Place du Capitole. On the way, Robb felt the urge, so we stopped at a Greek restaurant, where I had a café and he had an Orangina. In France, you don't just walk into a restaurant and use their facilities, you must make a purchase (however small). In a way, it's too bad we had already eaten because the food smelled so wonderful.
We continued down the street to Place du Capitole, where we checked out the ceiling of the arcade. It looks better in pictures than it actually looks in person, but you have to admire the idea of it. We wandered around the area a while longer, but since it was Sunday, just about everything was closed. We did come across several internet cafés, but the only one that was open was booked for several hours. At least, we now know where to find them.
We did manage to find a taxi stand and took the taxi back to the apartment. It felt so wonderful to not have to climb the hill for once.
At 21h00, I 'borrowed' a neighbor's umbrella and we walked down to l'Entrecôte for dinner. There was quite a line waiting to be seated, but because there was just the two of us, we were seated within a few minutes. You may remember from the Lyon entries, that L'Entrecôte serves only steak and fries, but they have a wide range of deserts.
After dinner, we strolled casually back to the apartment.
18 Septembre - For the very first time since arriving, we awoke to a world bathed in sunshine. In spite of the lovely sunny day, my first order of business was to find an umbrella. We walked downtown to Galeries Lafayette. Robb bought a nice blue scarf, but the only umbrellas they had were way trop cher (too expensive) at cinquante (50) euros, which is $64.00. We wandered over to Monoprix. The salesgirl told us that because of all the rain in the past few days, people had bought up all the umbrellas. We walked around the area a bit more in our quest, coming across the beautiful Theâtre de la Cité. I kept trying to find someplace, anyplace that might have an umbrella. We happened upon a Jules, a men's store we had first found and liked in Lyon, and I bought a light jacket so I wouldn't have to wear my leather jacket all the time (mostly because it has so many pockets). Finally, I tried another mens store and the guy there told me that he had no umbrellas, but the store just across the allée had some. The one they had was a bit more than I wanted to pay, but I was really tired of looking and bought it.
Then we walked up to Place du Capitole where we stopped at a sidewalk café. We both had a wonderful jambon fromage (ham and cheese) sandwich avec un verre du vin rouge (with a glass of red wine). How to describe the feeling of sitting at an outdoor café (café terrace) in la belle France? It's a feeling of peace and contentment, as you sit there casually drinking and eating while the local inhabitants (and some really gorgeous guys) perform their ballet of life for your perusement.
After the leisurely stop at the sidewalk café, we walked down to an internet café that we had found yesterday. I emailed our friend in Toulouse (G), and tried to arrange a rendezvous. I don't have his address and I don't know his last name, so I suggested that we meet on the Cross of the Midi-Pyrénées in front of the Capitolium. I meant to write a brief OD entry, but forgot.
In the evening, we went out in search of a restaurant and came across Dynastie Thai, a Thai restaurant we had passed earlier in the day. I started with soupe asperge (asparagus soup) and Robb had his usual salad. My main course was a fantastic Poulet de Curry (Curried Chicken), while Robb had a very spicy beef dish. The curried chicken was far superior.
After dinner, we walked around the Saint Aubin area, checking out the Église Saint Aubin. It was lit up all the way around, but because it was so late, it was not open.
19 Septembre - Another beautiful, sunny day. We sort of had a date with our Toulousain friend at 14h00 in front of the Capitolium. I say 'sort of', because it is reasonably possible that he couldn't make it since he does work during the day and may not have been able to get away, plus as far as I know he had not replied to the email I sent and may not have even seen it. We walked to the area, arriving about a half hour before the 'appointed' time and found that we had just missed some kind of market in the square. As usual, by the time we got there, everyone was packing up and leaving. Why does the world have to be geared towards 'morning' people. As you may have surmised by now, we are not 'morning' people. Nevertheless, we wandered about for awhile and then took our 'place' in the center of the Cross. We waited for several minutes and determined that 'G' was not going to make an appearance, so we headed over to the internet café to see if he had replied to my email. He had not.
I decided to leave a note on his blog, since I had no other way in which to reach him. Then I wrote the brief entry on OD and checked my other email.
We left the internet café and stopped at a creperie. I had the Zestee Crepe (made with Grand Marniér) and Robb had a salad.
We stopped at Bouchara, a home goods store and bought a shower curtain. Then we went across the street to Virgin Megastore, where I bought a CD by Obispo and Robb bought a CD by Axelle Red. Robb wanted to get a pair of trainers at Addidas, but we happened across another shoe store and he bought a pair there. We've noticed that most of the guys here wear trainers most of the time. The ones that Robb bought were kind of expensive but they are quite nice.
We started walking back to the apartment, but decided to try our chances at taking a bus, because we aren't exactly certain what the bus lines are here. But in our travels on Avenue de la Gloire, we had seen the 15 bus several times, so we waited and hopped aboard when it arrived. Heureusement (happily), it took us directly to Avenue de la Gloire, but instead of getting off at our 'stop', I suggested we should take it to the top of the hill and walk back. It was a twisty-turney route but we arrived at the apartment in good time and it was all downhill.
We hung out, listened to the Cds we had bought and drank a bit of wine before going to dinner at the Spanish restaurant we had found a couple of days ago. A lot of the local restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday. Of course, the restaurants in the tourist areas are open seven days a week.
The Spanish restaurant, Don Huevón, was fantastic. Our meal started with a pastis (a licorice-tasting drink, possibly anise, which had been banned in France for several years, but is now back in fashion). That was followed by four tapas dishes each. I chose the first two and asked the waiter to choose the rest. Robb chose a couple of his and also let the waiter choose the rest. He was conversing with the waiter in French and Spanish, which got a bit confusing after a while, but it was fun. The food was accompanied by a bottle of good Spanish red wine. The meal started with fried calamari. I have had calamari before, but it was never that good! And each dish just got better and better. Our table was covered with dishes filled with wonderful foods. The fragrances arising from the table were enough to make you realize that great things were about to be consumed. The waiters were attentive but at no time were they hovering. We ate way too much, but had desert anyway (a Spanish flan similar to crème brulée).
20 Septembre - Because we had eaten so much, neither of us slept very good and we had to force ourselves out of bed somewhere around 11h00 (maybe later, I don't really remember).
We had a light breakfast of coffee with toast and jam, then got ready and headed out to Gare de Toulouse Matabiau. We walked to the train station and checked on the prices to a few destinations that we think we might want to visit while we're here. Then we bought a 10-ride ticket and grabbed the mètro to Fontaine Lestang, a suburb of the city that I was interested in seeing. It was a bit disappointing, but we enjoyed riding the subway. There is only one métro line in Toulouse at this time, although they are in the process of building more. The transportation department of Toulouse has taken great pains to make all the métro stations much safer for their patrons by installing doors that only open when the train has stopped and its doors are open. (Paris is in the process of making all their mètro stations like that.) We hopped back onto the mètro and returned to Place du Capitole.
We were making our way to the internet café, when we discovered a flea market thingy was being held in the square. We wanted to stop, but I thought we should go to the café first because it was almost 16h00 and I didn't want to be too late getting there.
At the café, we each checked our email and did some remote bank transactions. G had replied to my email and left his phone number. I also discovered that I had neglected to mention the date I had proposed for our meeting in Place du Capitole.
We walked back to the main square and found the market was still in full swing. We checked it out. Robb bought a hair brush and I bought a nice wallet. Most of the sellers were Africans. We wanted to get some wine glasses, because the only glasses in the apartment are water tumblers and champagne glasses. We had tried to find them at a couple of places and determined that the only place to go was Galeries Lafayette. However, when we got there, we were told that in order to buy the things we wanted, we would have to go their magasin du maison (home store). But while we were in the main store, we checked out the grocery section and I bought a half-kilo of some really great cheese. Afterwards, we stopped at Celio (a men's clothing store) so Robb could buy a short-sleeved shirt. Unfortunately, the stores are all switching over to their winter wear, and there were very few short-sleeved shirts to be found. He did find one white shirt and bought it.
Then we resumed our trek to Galeries Lafayette Maison. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember where the store was located. I remembered seeing it when we were looking for something else, but I could not remember exactly where. We wandered around the general area for quite a while but could not find the store. We finally asked someone, and then suddenly, I remembered. We entered the store, found glasses that were close to what we wanted and left to return to the apartment. We could have walked around the store a bit longer to find exactly what we were looking for, but I was just too tired for that.
I was so tired (it was now after 19h00), we looked for a taxi stand (and with a lovely woman's help, found one only a block away). This was the third time we had taken a taxi and the third time we had to tell the driver how to get to rue DuPont. Now, I don't know about you, but I take that to mean that very few tourists stay in the area of our apartment.
Since neither of us wanted to go out again, we had a light dinner of cheese, crackers and wine. I called G again, but got no answer. We listened to CDs and drank some more wine. I tried calling again but got no answer.
21 Septembre - We had planned to make this a day of just laying about the apartment, doing laundry and stuff, but after a slow start we decided to go out and explore a new area of the city. As we walked down rue de la Colombette to Boulevard Lazare Carnot, we came across a small Moroccan restaurant (Les Sables D'Or), and since we hadn't really eaten anything yet, stopped for lunch. I had a Panini avec trois fromages (a grilled sandwich of pita bread with three kinds of cheese) and Robb had un sandwich marguez (a sausage sandwich). I feel it's unnecessary but I'll say it anyway, they were really good. There are a lot of Moroccan restaurants on rue de la Colombette between the Canal du Midi and Boulevards Strasbourg/Lazare Carnot. The streets in Toulouse, like the streets in the other French cities we have visited, change names every three or four blocks.
We left the restaurant, walking down rue de la Colombette until we arrived at Boulevard Lazare Carnot, where we turned to the left toward le Grand Rond and le Jardin des Plantes. Of course, we never got there, because we came across a brand new mall that wasn't yet even finished, in the Saint Georges area of Toulouse. When it is finished, it will be beautiful. All glass and marble. Before we realized it was a mall, we were attracted to it because there was a regular size Casino (Petit Casinos are little neighborhood stores) and we wanted to check it out. However, once we discovered that it was part of the mall, we just walked right past and into the mall.
We found a Tati (a general department store) where I bought a couple of neat shirts, a vintners knife (a wine opener) and a pair of booties to wear around the apartment. Robb bought a set of wine glasses which we will leave in the apartment since we allready have way too many at home.
Then we returned to the Casino. It was neat to enter a large supermarket again. We're like kids in a candy store when we go to a large French market. We wander around ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and wanting to buy everything we see. But we restrained ourselves. I bought a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Robb bought a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Villages and some Omega3. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the first wine (even before champagne) that was controlled. If the grapes and the process do not meet a certain standard, the wine cannot be called Châteauneuf-du-Pape. So when you buy a bottle of it, no matter how little it may cost, it is the real thing.
We left the lovely Casino mall and made our way over to Saint Etienne, a few blocks further down the street. When you enter the cathedral, you are immediately aware of its age. Every stone on the floor is worn from hundreds of years of people walking on them. You look around and you see ancient walls, magnificent architecture and wonderful sculptures, paintings and friezes. You marvel at the artistry of the men who built the place (work began in 1270). It's quite simply overwhelming and beautiful.
After the cathedral, we walked up to Boulevard Lazare Carnot looking for a taxi. To our surprised delight, we came across le Monument aux Morts, a monument to those who died during WWII. Every year, during the Gay Pride festivities, the mayor of Toulouse places flowers on the monument in commemoration of the gays who were also killed during WWII. I don't know of anyplace else in the world where that is done.
We were waiting to cross the street, when an empty taxi pulled up behind some other cars waiting for the light to change. We flagged him down and, again to our surprise, he picked us up. We gave him our address and for the first time since we've been here, we didn't have to tell him how to get there.
Back at the apartment, I called G and finally got through to him. He explained that he is very busy during the week, what with work and everything, so we agreed to meet at Le Beaucoup on Saturday.
We left for dinner at Bois & Charbon around nine-ish. Dinner started with some fantastic paté. I know I keep using words like fantastic, wonderful and great, but they are the only words that really describe what we are experiencing, and especially so when it comes to the food. The only problem we have with the food is that we tend to eat too much because it's so good. When it was time for desert, I asked the waitress to choose for us. She brought Tiramisu for me and a soft-center chocolate cake for Robb. We did, of course, taste both.
When we got back to the apartment, we discovered a party in full swing on the floor below us. I don't know how he did it, but Robb went to bed and fell asleep immediately, to the sound of a bunch of drunken French people singing "Hotel California". With each passing hour, the voices and the music got louder. The party noises finally subsided around 05h00, shortly after which, I fell asleep.
22 Septembre - Aujourd'hui, il fait pluie et un peu froid (Today, it rained and was a bit chilly). We hung around the apartment all day except for a brief trip to le Petit Casino for a couple of items.
Robb saw an advertisement for a restaurant that he thought looked really good and we set out around 20h00.
Then, tragedy struck!
Robb's new shoes are the kind that are okay while the streets are dry, but they become quite slippery when the pavement is wet, which it was tonight. Mon pauvre petit slipped on a steel grill in the sidewalk and landed on his chin. I heard him fall and turned to see if he was okay. I was horror-stricken to see blood pouring out of his mouth. I asked if he was okay, to which he logically replied "No!" He got up while I retrieved his umbrella. Then he wiped his mouth and upon seeing the blood, asked if I had a tissue or something. I did not. But a really nice French guy, who was passing as this occurred, offered his tissues. Robb used them and after a few minutes the blood flow seemed to slow considerably. Again, we felt this was just another example of how wonderful the French people can be. We tried to determine the extent of his injuries, but because it was dark, we couldn't see enough to make a sensible decision.
I asked him if he felt like continuing to the restaurant or going home. He said he was okay, so we made our way to the restaurant, La Gourmandine.
Once inside and seated, he felt a lot better. Also, I could see that the damage to his upper lip was not quite as bad as we had first thought it might be. We both felt it could have been a lot worse. He might have broken a tooth or might even have broken his jaw. In spite of everything, we felt a little lucky that it was no worse than it was.
We had another fantastic meal. We started with an apéritif (Robb had a Kir and I had champagne). Then I had a fish étoufée and Robb had lamb chops. Robb had a demi-bouteille (half bottle) du vin rouge and I had a demi-bouteille du vin blanc. For desert, Robb had crème brulée and I had a pomme tarte avec glace vanille (an apple tart with vanilla ice cream).
We asked the waiter to call a taxi and rode back to the apartment. By the time we got back, Robb's mouth was beginning to hurt. He took a couple of Advil and went to bed.
23 Septembre - We slept until nearly noon and, even then, I didn't want to get up. We had coffee and watched TV to catch the weather forecast. A little after 14h00, M. Couarraze knocked on the door. He had come to inquire as to Robb's well-being. We had called him last night before we realized that the injury wasn't as bad as we first had feared. He offered to take Robb to the nearest open pharmacy. When people in France have a medical problem that requires less than hospitalization, they go to their local pharmacist, who more often than not, diagnoses their problem and prescribes proper medication. The pharmacist to which M. Couarraze had taken Robb agreed with our analysis and recommended just an antiseptic mouth wash in case of infection.
During the time he was gone, I got myself ready to go out.
It was another one of those days that started out looking formidable, but as time went on, became better and better.
We left a little before 16h00 for our rendezvous with G at Le Beaucoup near the Pont Neuf. As usual, we stopped at just about every real estate office we passed. In France, they don't have the multiple listing resources like in the US. If you want to buy real estate you have to go to the one agent who is handling that property. Evidently, real estate is big business in Toulouse because you can't walk down a block without passing three or four agents. Of course, we also stopped and looked at a lot of other things we passed.
When we arrived at Le Beaucoup, twenty minutes or so before the agreed time of 17h00, we were met by a French waiter who seemed to know who we were and why we were there. We went inside where I ordered une biere and Robb had un verre du vin rouge. We were surprised at the small size of the place. Remember, it is a bar, a restaurant and a dance club. There was barely enough room in the main area for twenty or thirty people, and they would have been quite intimate. The "dance floor" was actually downstairs near the toilets. But other than the tiny size, it was a really nice place and everyone was quite friendly.
It was a little after 17h00 when G showed up. He was served dinner almost immediately by the waiter who had greeted us, who it turned out was G's boyfriend P. I was surprised because he had never once mentioned having a boyfriend, much less that they've been together for three years. P got off work around 17h30 or 18h00 and we all set around drinking beer and wine, eating the wonderful olive hor d'oeuvres and getting to know one another.
During the course of our conversations, I had asked to which restaurant they went when they dined out. G recommended a place, then called and made a reservation for us. Then it was decided that we would all go together, so P called a taxi and we were off to le Colombier. It was a bit more upscale than most of the places to which we had been since arriving, and not a word of English could be heard - except at our table. Actually, that was not so unusual, we've heard very little English spoken, except by accommodating French waiters and sales-people. The waiter was a former co-worker of P's, so our service was a little more specialized than that given to the other customers. That was fun! G, P and I had the cassoulet, Robb had duck. There was one waitress, and G and P kept starring at her trying to think of whom she reminded them. Suddenly, in unison, they blurted out, "Transamerica!". As usual, we were the last to leave the restaurant.
24 Septembre - The sun was shining when we awoke. We needed milk and some other stuff, so we took off to get that. Le Petit Casino was closed, but there is a smaller place (Microprix) run by a Muslim guy just down the street. We got our stuff and returned to the apartment. By the time we got back, the weather took a definite turn for the worse and it started to pour. It rained pretty much for the rest of the day. We hoped it would stop in time for us to go out to dinner, and we got our wish.
We walked down to Boulevard Lazare Carnot. There is a brasserie/hotel on the corner named le Guillaume Tell to which I wanted to go, but it was closed. So we walked a little further and came to Brasserie Firmin, a restaurant whose spécialité is fruits de mer (seafood). Our waiter was a tall, blonde guy who was from Normandy in the north of France. We started with a pastis and moules. Then we had our entrées. Mine was soupe de poisson (fish soup). I had never had fish soup (not even boulliabaise) and I was a little trepidatious about it, but after the first taste, my fears turned into lust for more. Robb, of course, had his salad. Our main course was saumon au beurre blanc (which was fantastic!). My desert was three different kinds of ice cream (café, caramel and citron). Robb had a wonderful apple tarte. We finished with a café.
After dinner, we walked around for a while to work off some of the calories.
25 Septembre - Most European cities are built on a river. Most are separated into at least two sections by the river. Toulouse is no exception. It is separated by the river Garonne. But unlike most rivers, in Toulouse there is a small dam, called a digue, built across the river so that no boat traffic can navigate the full length of it. Why they did that in Toulouse, I have not been able to discern. However, Toulouse is further divided by the Canal du Midi, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. There are a lot of low bridges on the canal, so only live-aboard barges and small pleasure boats can actually navigate its entire length.
In Toulouse, there are streets alongside the canal. Each is one-way in opposite directions. I won't attempt to name these streets because like most streets over here, they change every two or three blocks. We walked along the street going east, until we reached rue de Metz. We walked down rue de Metz to Boulevard Lazare Carnot. We followed Boulevard Lazare Carnot to le Grand Rond, a large park area where there currently is a carnival being presented. Since it was before noon when we were there, the carnival was not open and there were very few people in the area, which gave us the opportunity to wander around at our leisure. Because of the carnival, we didn't get to see that much of the park, but what we did see was quite nice.
Robb was complaining of hunger pains. I suggested we could walk down to Le Beaucoup and get something to eat. We left the park, walking back to rue de Metz. We came upon the Musée des Augustins, decided to make a brief detour and went inside. There was a special exhibit and we paid to see that as well as the general collection. The musée is huge, with exhibits on several floors. The special exhibit was "Les Passions de l'Ame". It was religious paintings relating to the crucifixion of Christ.
We left there and headed to Le Beaucoup only to find it closed. We later learned it is closed on Monday and Tuesday. We saw a bistrot on the corner just by the river, so we tried that, but they weren't serving food, only drinks. We were informed that, for whatever reason, the restaurants do not serve food between the hours of 14h00 and 16h00. Since we were right there, we walked over and had a look at the river. It was very dirty. We checked out the Pont Neuf because it was decorated as part of the "Printemps de Septembre á Toulouse", an artsy thing that's held every fall. Well, it may be art to "someone", but it certainly wasn't my idea of art. If you're familiar with Christo, think along those lines and you will understand what I mean.
As we started walking back toward the apartment, going in the direction of Place du Capitole, we came upon a small patisserie that had sandwiches and pastries. We ate there.
26 Septembre - We arose at a reasonable hour (nine-ish), had breakfast and walked to Gare de Toulouse Matabiau. I tried to purchase our tickets to Carcassone on one of the ticket machines, but it wouldn't accept any of my credit cards and it didn't accept cash. We went inside and stood in line with a bunch of other people. It was relatively quick, except for one old man who stood there forever arguing with the ticket agent about something. Luckily, there were two other agents to handle the load. We had originally planned to take the 12h17 train, but the agent got us on the 11h53, not that it was that big a difference or that it even mattered. They only sell second class tickets to Carcassone, but second class isn't anywhere near as bad as it sounds. In fact, it might even be considered first class anywhere else.
On the train, Robb struck up a conversation with two ladies from Switzerland ("Nous sommes Suisse!"). They were all speaking German and the only thing I understood of the conversation was that the ladies were going to Avignon. We arrived at Gare de Carcassone, bid them "bon voyage", and left the train.
As usual, Robb had to go, so we found a pay toilet just at the end of the station. While he was in there, I took this photo that I thought was our first peek at the citadel. It wasn't. When he came out, I went in. I've heard about them for years, but this was my first encounter with one. The toilet is a hole in the floor with two places on either side where you place your feet to do whatever it is you need to do. You have fifteen minutes to finish and get out before the entire thing is flushed with water. I have heard horror stories of some who did not get out in time.
When you walk out of the train station, you are confronted with the most diabolical design ever. The "main" street is right in front of you and you think, "How very convenient". Just across the street from the gare is a small but nice marina. A couple blocks further into town, there is a little square containing a fountain (of course) and several little bistros. We stopped for a café. After a few minutes you realize that it is totally designed so that you pass every major (and some minor) store in the country on your journey to the citadel. Also, in our trip, we came across Notre Dame du Carmel, a small but interesting church. Work began on the church in 1247. The "main street" is also where you will be accosted by every beggar in town. One guy had the gall to ask for "just one Euro" so he could buy a phone card. I laughed out loud and continued walking. If you walk the entire length of that street, you will come to a large open square where you will find a plan de ville, which will show you how to get to the citadel, which will be your only clue since I saw no signs pointing the way.
It's quite a walk to the citadel, and you don't really get to see it (even though it's huge) until you're almost out of the Midieval Cité at the foot of the mountain on which it is perched. Even then, you only get enough of a glimpse to become aware that it is going to be something exceptional. And it truly is that! I took a picture of Robb, and he of me, before we entered the main gate. It was my first experience with an honest-to-gosh castle and I was blown away by the enormity of it. The walls aren't just twelve feet thick, they're also twenty to thirty feet high. And that's just the perimeter wall. There is another wall about twenty to thirty feet inside the first. Once you enter the second perimeter, it is all uphill to the main castle, which is within another high, thick wall. Of course, the main street to the castle is filled with souvenir shops and bistrots, but that doesn't detract one bit from the overall feeling of the place. If anything, you almost feel like there might have been shops of some sort even when the place was the actual sanctuary of some ancient king. There is a horse-drawn cart that will take you around the inner perimeter, if you like. We didn't do that, but maybe another time because it seems like it would be interesting. If you're the hearty, hiking type, you can walk the perimeter on your own. A lot of people do that. We didn't. We did walk a couple of hundred feet along the outer wall just to get an idea of the view one has of the surrounding countryside. It's breathtaking!
After checking out the citadel, we made our way back to the train station, passing this very neat wall just down from the main drag. We got there with about an hour and a half to spare, so we went to a brasserie and had a café. With about twenty minutes to go, we went to our track to await the train. Ten minutes before it was was due, a sleek looking train pulled into the station from the direction in which ours was supposed to go. We both thought it was going to Marseille, but with only two minutes to go, I figured there was no way that train was going to leave and ours was going to arrive on the same track. We asked the conductor where it was going and it turned out that it was our train. We got on board with only seconds to spare.
On the way to Carcassone, I had seen a field of wind turbines. On the way back to Toulouse, the view of them was even better. I think that's is a pretty good picture, considering we were moving at about two hundred miles per hour.
Back in Toulouse, we stopped at a small èpicerie and bought some wine.
We decided to have dinner again at Don Huevón. The waiters actually recognized us from our previous visit because, I suppose, Robb spoke to them in Spanish. Tonight, we had a large salad followed by saumon avec sauce a l'orange.
27 Septembre - There is a laundry machine in the apartment that both washes and dries. We decided today was a good day to do some laundry because we're both running out of clean socks and t-shirts. We weren't exactly sure how it works, but after messing around with it for a while we finally got it to wash.....we think.
While the laundry was being done(?), we ate lunch, a shepherd's pie kind of thing we found in le Petit Casino. It was quite yummy with a small glass of wine.
When the wash/dry load was finally done and Robb took out his stuff, most of it was still wet. Obviously, we didn't have the drier set high enough or long enough to get the job done correctly. We decided to wait until later to try it again because today is sunny and beautiful and we don't want to spend the entire day inside doing laundry.
We left the apartment around 15h00 and walked downtown, headed in the general direction of the internet café. As usual, I suggested an alternate route down a street on which we had not yet traveled. It turned out to be a great idea because we discovered a couple of fabulous looking restaurants which we will try before we leave this wonderful city. Paris, of course, is Paris. No more must be said. Lyon is a lovely city with a lot to offer. But Toulouse is a great place because the people here are so much more friendly than anyplace else in France. If you meet a person walking down the street in Paris or Lyon, they avoid eye contact with you. When you meet someone on the street in Toulouse, they not only make eye contact with you, they almost always smile and say "Bonjour".
We got to the internet café. did what we had to do and left. Robb suggested a trip to Le Beaucoup, so off we went. We reached a point where we could take the safe, known route or try a different way. Well, by now, you know me and we took a unique chemin neuf (new way). It turned out to be a lot longer than we thought because of unexpected miscues, but we finally arrived at Le Beaucoup. P was the waiter again and appeared genuinely happy to see us. (I'm not sure if you're familiar with the French way of greeting friends. You not only shake hands, but you kiss each other on both cheeks, a very nice tradition.)
We had a glass of wine and then when P finished his shift, he joined us at our table and we chatted for a while. He had a previous appointment and left around 19h30. We left shortly thereafter and walked to Le Bistro' Toulousain. We again had their wonderful Cassoulet which I still cannot finish. It seems such a waste that they have never instituted the utilization of "doggie bags" in France.
After dinner, we returned to the apartment and put Robb's clothes back into the drier in the hope of getting them to dry. It worked.
28 Septembre - Today, I did my laundry. I had the same success as Robb. I had read/heard somewhere that when using a washer-dryer combination, you have to remove half of the load before drying. Evidently, that's true. But we had allready wasted enough time, so I just left it until later.
It was after 14h00 when we left the apartment and walked downtown.
Yesterday, we had passed an interesting looking department store and we returned there to check it out. Apparently, Midica is the local version of BHV, meaning that they have all kinds of useful stuff there, like plumbing, electrical et cetera. We both bought shower heads (mine, on the right, is the coolest). They were having some kind of special 'discount days' sale. You stop at an outside computer setup and they give you a coupon worth thirty percent of your purchase to be used the next time you shop there within a month or so. The store was quite crowded
After shopping, we walked down to l'Hôtel Assézat, a midieval mansion built in the fourteenth century, in which the Bemberg Foundation presents a lot of artwork and antique furniture from their collection. Evidently, it is quite a large collection because there is not enough room in this huge mansion to present it in its entirety. Even without the artwork, the builing is worth the price of admission. If you appreciate finely detailed architecture, you will love almost every building you enter in Europe. It's true there are a lot of recent, modern buildings but, unlike the US, they don't just tear down the wonderful old buildings to replace them with the modern. The Europeans seem to have a greater respect for those people and things that came before them. And the art that was included in today's collection presentation was great: Rodin, Boucher, Guardi, Vuillard, Monet, Gauguin, Bonnard, Degas, Modigliani, Picasso, Renoir and, of course, Toulouse-Lautrec.
After the wonderful art experience, since it was after 17h00, and since we were only a block away, we trekked on down to Le Beaucoup. We had a couple glasses of wine, then the house bought us a glass and then, P bought us a glass after he called G, who arrived only minutes later. All the other waiters and waitresses recognize us now and I think even a few of the regulars. We sat around chatting and drinking for another hour or two and then G and P invited us back to their apartment. They have a great, two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor (fifth in the US) in the very center of town.
G gave us the nickel tour, while P was busy in la cuisine. G told us that their TV, their telephone and their internet connection are all done somehow on the internet and it costs them half of what I pay for just cable TV with no premium channels. I have since seen TV commercials for several companies making that offer for about €29.90 par mois (per month).
P, who attended a cooking school, prepared dinner. The first course was carpaccio with a little balsamic vinegar, that was followed by a lovely smoked salmon tarte with a salad and then the cheese course (three different kinds). Of course, dinner was accompanied with a very nice wine.
They told us that they had managed to score tickets to the George Michael concert tomorrow night. The concert sold out within a week of being announced. I'm glad to see that George is still doing well here, even if he isn't so popular in the US since being outted.
We always overstay our visits, especially if we really like our host(s), it was after 01h00 when they finally kicked us out.
29 Septembre - Started the day by trying to get my laundry dry. As I mentioned before, the machine seems to work better with a smaller load. Then we left with no real destination in mind. We walked to the area of G and P's apartment because there is a Habitat just around the corner. We stopped at a sidewalk bistro for a fantastic citron tarte and a café. Toured the Habitat store, bought nothing.
Then I suggested that we should at least walk down and have a look at Pont Saint Pierre. Even from downtown, it's a bit of a walk to the river. We came upon Les Jacobins de Toulouse along the way and stopped in. I was hoping to get information of the piano concerts that were being held there, but the last one was last night. However, as part of Le Printemps de Septembre, there was an "art" exhibit. It was a strange exhibit to say the least. One part of it was a gay movie (the porno industry has nothing to fear), also, there were two old cars that appeared to have been damaged just for the exhibit and there was what seemed to be a huge pile of trash. Like I said, strange! After that exhibit, we walked into the cloister to have a look around. We came to the place where they had held the piano concerts and it was being set up for a jazz concert tonight. Actually, it will last a week or so and is titled "20 Ans de Jazz" (20 Years of Jazz). A lot of American jazz artists are going to appear throughout the week. We wandered into the main part, le Chapelle Saint-Antonin in which Saint Thomas Acquinas is buried (or so the rumor persists, because no one is actually certain his remains are really there).
After Les Jacobins, we continued our trek toward the river and Pont Saint Pierre. It was a lot further than it appeared on the plan de ville, but it was worth the effort to be able to see the pont and the dome of Le Grave just across the river. I was a bit worn out from all the walking, but still wanted to cross the bridge and have a look around the other side. We no sooner got to the other side than we saw the bell tower of Saint Nicolas, so we walked over to see that. We went inside and found it was very musty smelling. But, like everything else, it was obviously very old. There was surprisingly a good bit to see once your eyes adjusted to the dim light of the interior. There was a faint fresco about half-way up the wall that ran all the way around the interior. There were a lot of beautiful stained-glass windows also. A totally unexpected item, was a computer on which you could view the history and pictures of the basilica. We didn't get to check it out because there was a guy allready doing that and he didn't seem to be in any hurry to finish.
It was about 17h00 and I was quite tired, so we walked over to get the métro back to the other side of the river. I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but there is only one métro line in Toulouse at the present time. They are in the process of adding another which is supposed to open in 2007. There are a lot of bus lines which seem to cover most of the city and some of the outlying areas.
Because it was 17h00, it was also "rush hour". There were so many people allready waiting for the train when we got down there, we decided to wait for another. That was a good decision because when the next train arrived, it was packed with people and very few from our stop could get on. But we noticed that the trains were running about every two or three minutes, so we just waited. We finally got on but had to stand. When we got to Place du Capitole, a bazillion people were waiting to get on. We got off at the next stop, Jean Jaures, and walked to the apartment from there.
Around 19h00/19h30, I laid down to take a short nap, but I must have been even more tired than I thought because Robb said he tried to awaken me at 21h00 but he could not. I finally got up about a half hour later. Neither of us was really hungry, so we just snacked on stuff we had in the fridge.
30 Septembre - We didn't do much today. We walked downtown then over to the internet café where I booked our flight to Paris online with EasyJet. I had to make the flight for the day before we actually wanted to go because the difference in price for the one day was quite significant - almost €400. We stopped at a sidewalk creperie and got an ice cream, then we went to Virgin Megastore where Robb bought a CD by Florent Pagny, "Abracadabra". We walked back to the apartment, stopping at le Petit Casino to get some wine, bread and cookies. In spite of the fact that we had done very little, it was almost 18h00 by the time we returned.
Almost everyday when we go downtown, we pass a restaurant that reminds us very much of Djoon in Paris (without the DJ). We finally got around to going there for dinner tonight. We did not have a reservation at Les Fabuleux Festins (Sorry for the poor picture quality.), in fact we have not made a reservation for any of the restaurants to which we've gone, but there were a few open tables for two and we were seated immediately.
We started with an apéritif. I had a Bellini (peach liqueur in champagne) and Robb had a pastis to which he has taken a great liking. That was followed by the entrée, a delicious vegetable soup. Robb's main plat was again duck, while I had the Pastilla, which was like a large fried crepe filled with vegetables in a luscious cream sauce. We drank white wine with the soup and Côtes du Rhône with the main course. Desert was a chocolate cannelloni accompanied by grilled pineapple on a skewer. We finished with a café each.
We both hope we can come back before we leave Toulouse.
The problem in Toulouse, like in Paris but not so much in Lyon, is that there are so many really good restaurants, there is no way you could possibly sample all of them.
1 Octobre - Today we decided to do things differently. Normally, we go out and wander around the city until sometime between 17h00 and 19h00, then we come back to the apartment, have a little wine and chill until dinner. Today, we waited until late afternoon (16h00/16h30) then we went to Gare Toulouse Matabiau to get the métro to St. Cyprien on the other side of the river where we would go to the Musée d'Art Contemporain, Les Abattoirs. We figured instead of walking all the way back to the apartment, and most specifically up that hill, we could just stay downtown until dinnertime. But we discovered that it isn't that easy to kill four or five hours.
We got to St. Cyprien and walked to Les Abattoirs where we found an outdoor art fest being held on the grounds as part of les Printemps de Septembre. There were a lot of artists participating and a lot of excellent work to be seen. Les Abattoirs is on the river so we walked up there to have a look. It was just like looking at the pictures on the internet. A very surrealistic feeling. We went inside the musée to check out the current presentation. Once again, we got lucky and admission was free. The musée consists of several floors (I'm not really sure how many floors, but at least three). The main floor showings were strange, to say the least. One room contained three huge pictures of tree trunks - but they were upside down. Another room contained a hundred or so wires about three feet high on which had been glued yellow flowers. A third room contained large rocks to which the "artist" had attached rings with padlocks on them. We went up to the next level where we found a more traditional collection of paintings.
We left the musée and walked downtown to have a café and kill some more time. It was barely 18h00. While we were sitting at the café, Robb told me that the pharmacie across the street was the one to which Pierre had taken him last week. Just another example of how nice these people are, because that's quite a trek from the apartment. We hopped the métro back to Place du Capitole, where we checked out l'hôtel de ville, and hung out there until about 19h30, then we slowly walked to Boulevard Strasbourg. We checked out a couple of restaurants, finally settling on La Boucherie. It is not your typical French restaurant. It's more like an American theme restaurant, but the food was definitely French. Robb started with his pastis, a drink he has come to love. I had a glass of red wine. My entrée was Ouef en Mayonnaise (eggs with mayo), Robb had a Chevre Chaud Salade. We both had the brochette (a kind of shish kebab) as our main course. Desert was fabulous! I had a Coupe d'Amarena and Robb had the Coupe de Café (both are fantastic ice cream concoctions).
After dinner, we walked back to Place du Capitole because I wanted to see it at night when the lights are on. We then tried to get a taxi, but ended up having to walk.
2 Octobre - My age and poor health finally caught up with me and I spent nearly the entire day in bed. I had no energy at all. It was a major accomplishment just to sit up long enough to eat dinner.
3 Octobre - Because Robb's discount coupon was burning a hole in his pocket, we went back to Midica, with a brief stop to check out Le Halle Aux Grains, a concert hall. We both bought a set of flatware and Robb bought a package of napkins. Try to control your excitement! Afterwards, we went to the bistrot next door for a café. Then we caught the métro to Matabiau, and after a stop at le Petit Casino, made our way to the apartment.
Around five-ish, I got a call from the secretary of the condo association. It seems the guys who are supposed to be re-doing Robb's bathroom, left the water running and went home. The water leaked down into our neighbor's apartment. The key I had given them wouldn't work (or so they claim), so I don't know how they got into the apartment. I suppose they called a locksmith for which they will undoubtably bill us. I called the construction company but haven't heard anything back yet.
Tonight, we again went to Don Huevón because they were serving moules and we haven't had any, yet. We said our goodbyes to the waiter and before we left, he recommended a restaurant in Paris. It is near le Jardin du Luxembourg, we may try it.
4 Octobre - Today was cold, rainy and miserable. We had dinner tonight at Chez Jules. When we first entered, we thought we had found a gay restaurant because the only customers were males who seemed to be paired off. By the time we ordered dinner, most of the clientelle had become straight couples. Robb, of course, had the duck. I ordered fish. I'm still not certain what it was they brought to my table, but it was not something I would ever order again. A woman at the next table ordered the same thing and she didn't much care for it, either, so I didn't feel so bad. I mean it didn't taste bad, it was just strange. It had a wierd consistency, very chewy, not like any fish I've ever had. Everything else we had was excellent.
5 Octobre - We did a lot of walking today because I wanted to get pictures of a bunch of things and places. In the midst of doing that, I remembered that we had to go to the internet café because I had neglected to print out the address of the hotel at which we're staying in Paris. On the way back from the café, we stopped at La Cinématèque de Toulouse, because there were a lot of things set up for the Cinespaña festival that is taking place there this week. All week long there will be Spanish films featured at la Cinématèque. Evidently, this is a yearly festival.
We left there and started walking in the general direction of rue de Metz. We came across a C&A which was having a fifty-percent-off sale. We had to stop, but bought nothing. We finally made our way to Le Beaucoup, where we were greeted by P. Robb was hungry (as usual) so we ordered a light meal which we thought we were going to share, but we were each served a huge plate of food (salad, paté, duck and veggies). After, we caught a taxi to the apartment.
While I fell asleep almost immediately upon sitting down on the sofa, Robb went to le Petit Casino and bought a bunch of stuff.
G has been suffering from a cold, so I called to see how he was doing. We made a date to go to G and P's apartment tomorrow night for drinks and possibly to a restaurant later.
6 Octobre - Today is our last full day in Toulouse. We will be sorry to leave, as usual. There were several things that we had wanted to do and see that we didn't accomplish, mostly because of me and my poor health. The good news is that we're going to Paris for a few days. Unfortunately, we are going to have to spend most of today packing and doing laundry.
Dinner with G and P at Bistrot de l'Etoile. The restaurant was chosen by P and was excellent. It reminded me very much of Au Bon Coin in Paris, and when I mentioned it to P, he surprised me by telling us that he had been there also and agreed with the similarity. After another wonderful meal, we said our final goodbyes.
7 Octobre - M. Couarraze picked us up around 13h00 and drove to the airport. We were way early for our EasyJet flight to Paris. The plane was scheduled to leave at 16h50 and they would not let us check in before 14h50, though most of the other airlines were checking in whenever you arrived. When they finally started checking in, they informed us that because we each had two bags, we would have to pay extra, just another of the "extras" they don't mention when you're buying your ticket. So listen up, kiddies, if you're ever in Europe and want to fly to another destination, DO NOT USE EasyJet. It is a giant RIPOFF. You're much better off using one of the major airlines, and in France, that means Air France (which in this case would have cost us a lot less). Ah well, live and learn!
Paris - We arrived at Orly Aéroport, which is south of the city and a totally different experience from coming into Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. Before your plane hits the grounds (oops, make that.....lands), you get to see a lot of Parisian landmarks, the most discernible of which is la Tour Eiffel. Even walking from the plane to the terminal you can see this magnificent structure. For me, a thrilling experience. We caught a taxi into the city and again, we were ripped off. The taxi driver, a black woman, charged us an extra €5, because we had luggage. Hello?!? How many people do you pick up at the airport who don't have bags? Not to mention the fact, that at no time did she ever touch them. The guy who directs you to the next available taxi put them into the cab and I took them out. If any Orly taxi drivers happen upon this entry, don't be surprised when we do not tip you!
We had not informed the Hotel Kyriad Brancion that we were arriving a day early. We just walked in and announced that we were early and needed a room. Luckily, they had one. I say lucky, because there was some kind of auto show in Paris this week and hotel rooms were at a premium. The room they gave us was quite nice and located on the third floor (208). Pic from the window.
We got our stuff put away and left to explore the area and find the nearest métro station. It was quite a walk to the métro, but on the way, we passed a restaurant (Le Moulin), which insisted we have dinner there. The dinner at Le Moulin was fantastic, although it started on a false note! The waiter, while pouring my wine, spilled it! The poor guy was horror-stricken. I just brushed it off by saying, "Cést la vie!" and we were treated like kings for the rest of the evening.
8 Octobre - We started the day by moving to our new room, 310. Can you say, "TINY!"? I wasn't even certain that we could both fit into the room at the same time. What a disappointment after the first room. We somehow got everything into the room and went down to the desk where we asked to be moved to another room as soon as they had one available. Then we left and caught the 13 métro to Montparnasse where we got the 6 to Place d'Italie and our favorite shopping area, Italie2. Everything was closed, and that surprised me, because I don't remember that ever happening before in our trips to Paris. We left, walked down to Le Canon de Tolbiac, and had a café. After, we walked down Avenue d'Italie to the sidewalk marché and Monoprix, which was also closed. It was beginning to feel eerie with everything closed. We did not expect that. We walked down to the internet place fully expecting it to be closed, but it was open, so we rented an hour.
We métroed back to the hotel, but somehow, I got us on the wrong train and, to make matters worse, we got off at the wrong stop. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but we were lost. Well, not really lost, but disoriented for several minutes until I finally figured out where I had gone wrong.
We asked the hotel clerk for a dinner recommendation and she recommended a place called Le Blancherne. There was no one there but the two of us, which we thought might have been a bad omen of things to come. But the dinner was Parisian good and the soft jazz in the background enhanced our mood.
After dinner, we walked a few blocks around the area, coming upon Parc George Brassens, which was closed.
9 Octobre - Since we couldn't get in last night, we walked to Parc Georges Brassens to have a look around. It's not easy to tell from the picture, but it's quite a large, beautiful park. We left there and walked down to the Conventions métro station (the one at which we had mistakenly gotten off the other day). In order to get there, we had to pass through a street market which seemed to go on and on. It was at least three blocks, on both sides of the street, of side-by-side stalls selling just about anything you could imagine. We caught the métro to the Madeleine area. We wanted to check out our favorite store in the area, Springfield, but it was closed and gone. We were surprised and somewhat shocked by that. It always seemed to be thriving when we were there. Cést la vie. We then, métroed to the Sebastopol station from which we walked down to the Centre Pompidou. We were going to have lunch and one of their delicious fromage blanc deserts. Sadly, they no longer serve fromage blanc. But we had lunch anyway. This is the view from our table on the terrace (the sun appeared just after I took this shot.). Of course, that's just a partial view, we could actually see so much more. After, we walked down to l'Hôtel de Ville. We crossed the Seine to Ile de la Cité where we toured Notre Dame. We crossed the Seine again to rive gauche and walked to St. Michel, where we got the métro to the Plaisance station and back to the hotel. Dinner at Chez Francine next door to La Blancherne. We both had couscous. I had Couscous Mechoui and Robb had Couscous Mixte. Couscous Mechoui is couscous which comes with three different meats; pork on a kebab, a lamb chop and a huge pot roast. When she brought it to the table, I was certain it was for the two of us, but I was wrong. It was all mine. There was no way in which I could possibly eat all that. It was just way too much food. When we returned to the hotel, we asked the cute clerk (sorry, no picture) to get us bigger room, if it was at all possible.
10 Octobre - The clerk had made good on his promise to help with a larger room and we moved into room 508. It was so much nicer. Here's a view from our window. After moving, we walked down to rue de Brancion, then down to the Convention métro area and wandered around that area for awhile. We had been discussing whether we should eat a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner. We decided we would try to eat a bigger lunch, and stopped at La Source. Then it was back to the hotel with one stop at a Patissierie. The guy in blue is Robb, sorry about the poor quality. A little later, we métroed to Italie2 so Robb could go to Marlboro Classics and buy a pair of their over-priced jeans. Robb couldn't handle just having a big lunch and very small dinner, so he ended up having a second dinner at Au Beliér d'Argent. The poor guy, he keeps claiming that I'm trying to starve him. I just had wine and desert.
11 Octobre - Again we started with a walk to Parc Georges Brassens. After leaving the park, we walked a different route to a métro station where we took the train to the Trocadéro. We walked through the Palais de Chaillot and crossed the Seine to la Tour Eiffel to make a dinner reservation. There was such a long line, we decided to take a river cruise on Bateaux Parisiens first. We have been talking about it since our very first time in Paris and we finally got around to doing it. It was great fun and really quite interesting. More so for me I suppose, because I allready knew what I was seeing and what would come next. I videod the entire ride, but, sadly, only about the last ten minutes survived. I'm not sure why. After the lovely boat ride, we returned to la Tour Eiffel. We got into a long line of people waiting to buy tickets to the upper levels. Once again, we were disappointed, there were no reservations available until Sunday. We will be home then. Every night, starting around 20h00, there is a light show on la Tour Eiffel. I have been wanting to see it "live" for several years, so we killed four hours walking around the 7th Arrondisement. I took a picture of a "plan de quartier" because I've mentioned them several times in other entries and thought you might like to see one. While we were waiting in the Champ de Mars, we met a really nice couple from Toronto, Monica and Paul. The four of us chatted for several hours while waiting for the light show. It was well worth the wait. I wish I had a decent photo of it, but it is so much better in person. After, we walked back to the Trocadéro to get the métro back to the hotel. As soon as we got off the métro, we saw La Chopotte, and decided to have dinner there.
12 Octobre - This is our last day in Paris and in France. We métroed to Italie2, picked up Robb's pants, then set out to find perfume for his aunt. We stopped for a snack at Brioche Dorée, then métroed back to the hotel. We walked over to the pharmacie (bottom, middle of pic) just across the street to buy Jour et Nuit (a cold medicine), but they only had Humex. I bought a couple of those. Then we walked to a supermarket named Champion because Robb wanted stuff for his hair. Around 20h00, Robb went down to the desk and asked for a 07h00 wake-up call and a taxi for 08h00. The clerk told him that we should have asked for the taxi around noon because it's difficult to get one. Although I wanted to return to Au Bélier d'Argent for dinner, Robb did not, so we had dinner at Baranimo, which is practically next door. At first, Robb didn't much care for it, but it grew on him, and he ended up loving it.
13 Octobre - My travel alarm went off a couple of minutes before we got the wake-up call. I was ready first and took my bags down to the lobby, at which time I asked about our taxi. The clerk, a lovely girl named Delphine, told me it would not be a problem. I returned upstairs and took Robb's bags down to the lobby. Within minutes, the taxi arrived and we were off to Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. We had no trouble checking in (of course) and were soon on our way back to the US on an Air France 747. Unfortunately, we had to sit in the cattle car, and were surrounded by a lot of English-speaking sick people. Although, they were speaking English, they were speaking it with a strange accent. Never did figure it out. We were picked up at the airport by Alan, and were home by 4:30 PM.