Thursday, June 21, 2012

Welcome to France!

~9 am, Paris:
I'm sitting in the Paris airport typing this on my iPod (Blogpress ftw!), waiting for our connecting flight to Toulouse. It already feels different here; not superbly different, but enough to where I feel like I stand out a little bit. Or maybe that's just me. We've been through security-- they don't make you take off your shoes! --, customs, and traveled the entire length of the Parisian airport from our international flight to the local terminal. It's interesting. Almost all of the airport, the interior and exterior walls and ceilings--even the walkways to the planes, are all glass...which makes it about 100 degrees in here with the sun shining, even if it's only about 54 outside.

The strangest thing is probably remembering what language I'm speaking. The Southerner in me wants to greet everyone, but "bonjour" is not automatic...yet. Neither is "merci". ...I should probably work on that.

~10 am:
Now we're headed to Toulouse in the airbus. It's actually nicer than the plane we had coming over. I could spend 9 hours in this. There's a strange mix of English and French so far (End Note: I even noticed this out and about; a lot of tag lines and such are in English, or have English words thrown in). They are very aware of how many people from other countries visit--the instructions on our flight are spoken in English, French, Italian and Spanish. I'm not used to being so near so many other countries! The brochure in our airbus was a good indicator of where we actually are:

We're going to meet a friend of Mom's for lunch (even though my body thinks it's roughly 5 am) before taking the train to the outskirts to the couple we'll be staying with before we head to Paris on Sunday.

One of the coolest things about traveling by air is seeing how France is really laid out. You can see the little cluster of houses and buildings, then a road, then the next little group. I've been a little obsessed with taking pictures out the window. (:

The best thing so far? Listening to all the little children babble in French. LOVE.

~10 pm, Toulouse:
I can't think of much to say, because I'm so fried, but we're here, safe in our house. I love our hosts, who are some people Mom's worked with before, and even though there's somewhat of a language barrier with my host-mom, we've bonded over their baby and host-papa speaks English like a native, because, well, he is one! We laughed all through dinner. Love them.

After we arrived in Toulouse, we had lunch and made our way back to the train station (dragging luggage and everything), then rode home. We got off at our stop...and realized we had no way to get to their house! The phone booths here reject our credit cards, because all European cards now have some sort of embedded chip that the machine reads, instead of a swipey-thing, like ours. We went back into the train station and were asking directions, because we had the address, when the man behind us in line said that his house was right around the corner from that! His wife was in the parking lot and he sweetly volunteered her to take us. She did and it was wonderful. I was stunned by their generosity (and very grateful). Mom and the wife chatted all the way over and Mom was overjoyed at how quickly her French has come back to her! To me, of course, it sounded flawless, but that could just be how tired I am. It's about 2 pm at home, which means we left over 24 hours ago...time for sleep.

Day 1, Toulouse
Conclusion at the end of our first full day? I am never leaving. I slept an entire 12 hours (!) so we got sort of a late start on the day. Air France lost Mom's luggage yesterday (they delivered it to our host's house this morning!) so they gave her 100 Euros to go shopping with and she did that before I got up. After that, we took the train into Toulouse. Our hosts live about five stops away from the center of Toulouse and the architecture is wonderful out here. It reminds me of Italian villas. My heart sighs. It was overwhelming at first to hear the constant French, but now I'm starting to recognize words and very occasionally get the gist of conversations. I was lying in bed last night, trying desperately to remember how to sleep after over 24 hours of not...thinking in French (actually, it wasn't really thinking, more replaying the conversations I'd heard). It was a cool moment.

After we got into Toulouse, we had about an hour before we met another friend of Mom's for lunch (I'm telling you, this woman knows people), so we walked around the "block" (their streets are so narrow here!) and sat beside the canal. We found a newspaper and Mom read it, while I pointed out words and asked what they meant. (: I didn't have any trouble with this one though:

After we met up with her friend, we walked around downtown, past the City Hall/Capitol building, on our way to lunch:

For lunch, we ate at a cafĂ©, overlooking the Garonne, which is the main river throughout most of France. It was sunny and warm and I'm fairly sure one of my arms is burned from where I wasn't quiteee underneath the awning. (: One of the main things I've noticed here is that meals are much bigger deals. They last an hour or more. You order, usually, a 'plat' (an appetizer, usually 'salade') and then an 'entree' (the main dish), or ('ou'), an entree and then dessert. But restaurants are slower, you eat more slowly and everything is wonderful. Apparently, many shops, especially in the smaller villages still close for lunch. Really puts that Big Mac on your "lunch hour" into perspective, hmm? There's still McDonalds and Subway, but even they have tables outside to encourage you to enjoy your meal.

After lunch, we walked along the Garonne, where they were setting up for 'le festival de musique', which is an all-night festival of different bands taking place in big stages all over the city. It's happening tonight in all the big cities all over France.

We walked around some of Old Toulouse, then headed back to the center of town to have tea on the 6th floor of 'Galeries Lafayette' (which is the epitome of snooty France; a wallet there? 155 Euros. ouch.), where we could see all over the top of Toulouse. We spent several hours there chatting (and laughing), before it got cloudy, chilly and windy. It, fortunately, still didn't rain, so we walked around downtown some more before stopping at a 'pâtisserie' or a bakery, for some eclairs and pain au chocolat. I didn't grab a picture of that, but I'll leave you with one borrowed from Wikipedia. Trust me, it was a heavenly experience; one that I am eager to repeat.

We ate them while meandering back to the train station (and therefore canceling all of the calories, naturally) before catching up with Tony and coming back home to dinner.

Not sure what tomorrow holds, but I'm anxious to find out!

As the French say, 'bisous', or kisses,
B (& S)

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