Monday, September 6, 2010

WE! (week-end)

Right now I’m feeling a bit flustered. I was just walking home from a café, and managed to get caught in a flash thunderstorm. This took me totally by surprise, because every day in Toulouse thus far has been gorgeous. So let’s see… I guess I need to catch up on everything since last week. Hmmm…

So let’s see… Friday was interesting. We had our first written assignment due, which I then had to read en class. During our lunch break (which is always two hours, by the way), Dickinson folks and I checked out a fantastic open-air market of second-hand stuff. I was pretty excited about this, because the quality of the items for sale was ridiculous. I saw countless stands featuring ornate antique furniture, china tea sets, and jewelry. I’ll definitely be returning to shop when it occurs next month.

After lunch, Professor Crema, who teaches us Toulouse history, brought us all to the Basilique Saint Sernin, which dates back to the middle ages. Getting there was my first time using the Toulouse metro system (so much walking…), which is GORGEOUS. Everything is clean and shiny, and there is a barrier between you and the train – glass doors open when the train arrives. Even the trains themselves are shiny. So strange. There’s a museum next door to the basilica, where Monsieur Crema explained why and how it was built. What I found pretty interesting was how the architecture of the basilica changed from the front to the back, because it took so long to build. Apparently, there were no sculptors when it began, only masons. But as the Middle Ages progressed, they began to learn, and their work became more and more intricate. But hey, for people who didn’t have decent systems of waste disposal, and mostly couldn’t read, they did an amazing job. Seriously – check out the pictures. I had some fun taking pictures with some statues in the museum. The inside of the basilica was epic – so enormous and beautiful. After we left, a couple friends and I made our way home, stopping in some cool shops along the way. There are lots of hippie-style boutiques featuring all kinds of clothing and accessories made in Nepal. And of course, we stopped in a bakery to buy some chocolate bon bons.

That night, the Dickinson crew and I met up in the Place St. Pierre, which we had been informed is the center of student nightlife. We made friends with the owner of a small pizza store, and enjoyed some delicious pizza and wine. A couple hours later, we progressed next door to the bar. We managed to meet a very international crowd that evening. Plenty of French, Italian and German folks. It was interesting to observe how an evening in Toulouse progresses. There were quite a few people who were clearly underage, but all the establishments we visited were perfectly enjoyable and fun. There are no laws against open containers, as far as I can tell, so we ended up down by the river, along with half the student population of Toulouse. Overall, it was a great night. I made it home around 2 or 2:30, and finally had a chance to skype with Mom and Jenny!

Wow. That was all one day. Moving on…

Saturday was slightly less eventful. I wandered around the city for a while, which just never gets old. Then, the Dickinson crowd met up to hang out in our favorite gardin, the Jardin des Plantes. Yes. We have a favorite garden. That night, we went out again, but mostly just hung out along the river like so many other people. It’s truly fantastic how many people are out at night here. Heading home, I decided not to make anyone walk me home, and managed to hail a taxi AND direct him to my house! 10 euros later, I was still proud of this accomplishment.

Sunday, I woke up relatively early, and watched mass on TV with my family. This was quite enjoyable, because the priest speaks so slowly. Then, I set out to find a market that I’d only heard about briefly. Somehow, this worked. And, it’s definitely my new favorite place. Every Sunday, Toulouse hosts markets throughout the city. There were stands of fromage, meat, pastries, fruits and veggies – basically anything a hungry person could desire. There were stands of books, music, videos, jewelry, clothing, and home goods. There were plenty of street performers; one woman in particular played roughly ten instruments and sang beautifully. My friends and I bought all kinds of delicious food (moi: brie, une baguette, sausage), and spent the remainder of the afternoon by the river eating and relaxing. When I arrived home, sweaty and exhausted, my host momma invited me to go swimming in her brother’s pool. Bien sur! Henri lives in a beautiful home just outside of Toulouse. He has a piscine naturel, a pool that uses no chemicals, just plants and nature to filter the pool. There are even little minnows and a koi that live in it! Yes, I swam with a koi. Apparently it’s pretty new and rare, so he’s been featured in magazines. That night, I watched “Catch me if you Can” en français with the family, which was pretty cool.

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