Friday, September 22, 2017

Toulouse

I am all set to leave Toulouse after a few days here.  I really enjoyed the city.  I generally really like second cities (or third cities), the bigger cities that are not the capital (see: Oaxaca; Rosario; Stuttgart, etc) because I find them a bit more emblematic of life in said country.  Toulouse was a real delight with its dusky pink brick splendor and belle city scape.  It had a real life to it--being home to a large student population. 

After my arrival picnic, I wandered around the city.  I visited the unusual Basilique Saint-Sernin, with an octagonal tower.  After the church visit and some coffee in town, I stopped later at a Carrefour to get the trappings of dinner.  There was a kitchen in the room so I decided to make Spaghetti Catalana.  Nice idea, except that the kitchen in the not-so-large room meant that everyone else would smell the garlic, onions and tuna cooking up in the tomato sauce.  I tried to crack the windows, but I can't imagine I was a very popular hostel mate.

The next morning, I found a nice breakfast deal (coffee and pastry for 1.70euro) and then made my way to the Musee des Agustins, a nice art collection housed in an incredible old Augustinian monastery.  Even better, it was free for students (like moi).  The Romanesque art works looked great amid the old stone archways.  There was an incredible stained glass window over an old organ that was shining all sorts of colored lights on the walls and old stone crosses.  The museum had a nice mix of ancient and modern, as it mixed a collection of Romanesque columns with plastic post-modern lamps hung above the columns.  

In the more modern painting area, there were a number of excellent works by 19th century French artists.  And there was a huge painting whose scenery looked very familiar.  It was a painting with a Moorish door and wall that looked like Meknes...

And it was. As I got up to read the tag, it turns out that it was a Delacroix painting of the Sultan of Morocco in Meknes.

I spent the rest of the morning wandering through the gardens of the city, which were lovely.  I got hungry and made my way up to Marche Victor Hugo, where I read had good lunch specials on meals that come straight from the market.  Once I found the floor of restaurants, I got a fabulous three-course lunch for 14 euros.  It came with an appetizer of roasted, cured eggplant followed by a delicious steak covered in little grains of salt.  Dessert followed and didn't disappoint.  France can sometimes offer some fabulous deals on multi-course meals.

I returned to the hostel to nap before heading out to find the Rosh Hashana services, of which I wrote about a bit prior.  The services were lovely and familiar, even though half of it was in French.  It was the same prayers and similar melodies.  And the French call/response prayers was a great French lesson for me.  We had a lovely communal dinner that followed, of all sorts of salad courses.  There were RH blessings over haricots, carrots, leeks and all sorts of other things I hadn't seen at an RH celebration before.  Dinner was a delicious cabillaud.  And of course, there was a cheese course.  I walked back across the Pont St. Pierre with its arches reflecting into spheres in the water; it seemed an apt image for the new year.

I returned the next morning for the services, which were nice.  I returned back to the hostel in the afternoon and made some shakshouka for lunch.  I decided to make it for lunch rather than dinner because I figured less people would be around for the cooking smells in the afternoon.  

After lunch, I wandered again through the town--along the banks of the Garonne River.  The autumn-hued trees lined the banks of the river area, it was charming.  I futzed around the hostel a bit, and after dinner I grabbed a beer to drink on the ghats of the river surrounded by students drinking and singing on the stone embankments.  

This morning I visited Hotel d'Assezat, a hotel particulare (private mansion of which Toulouse has many) that was turned into a private art museum  The Foundation Bemberg holds its collection at the mansion, and had an excellent collection of works from Renaissance to Impressionist and Pointillist works.

After the museum, I made my way to the lovely Jardin des Plantes, which had been closed the other day for fumigation.  I read a bit in the park before scurrying back to the hostel to grab my lunch out of the hostel office before their own lunch break.  Now I am off to grab a train to Montpelier, where I will stay with a Servas family before i head on to Avignon.

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