For the first time this trip I have taken a few days out from the helpX thing. I enjoyed Toulouse when I stopped here for part of the day a couple of weeks ago and decided that it would be a good town to have a good look round. Plenty of history, some great gardens and easy to get around on foot. The tourist information gave me a brochure of wonderful hotels and guest houses, though unfortunately far too expensive for my budget. I went back and asked again, for a cheaper option and was given the address of one of the best hostels I have stayed in. I’m not sure why, partly because it was only a few minutes from the centre of town, secondly because it was on a nice quite street, thirdly because it was one of those times that all the inhabitants of the room got on really well from the start. Glen and Kirk from Oz, spending their savings on a nine month world tour, US, europe, west to east, down through Greece, Egypt, across to Thailand and ending up in India. Maria and Louise, Swedes with the most perfect english I have ever heard spoken, between Uni and their first jobs, a month inter railing through southern europe, and Sam, another english guy, again just finished uni and having a bit of fun before trying for the inevitable job. He had been elt down by some friends who were all going to cycle from the Atlantic, la Rochelle, across europe to Italy then into greece. They all jumped ship at the last minute so he’s going it alone, which is great. And not a word of foreign language either. Apparently the rules have changed so that people can get internships in the UK and get benefits at the same time. What an excellent idea.
I was hit by how expensive everything was, and that focussed my mind to spend as little as possible whilst seeing all that I could. The parks and gardens were free, and always interesting, for me, anyway, so I spend a day doing them on my own, the intricate plantings around the bandstand were exquisite and the most trained and clipped garden displays that I have ever seen. I loved the great covered market, the smell of it all, fresh and sharp, slightly bleachy clean, a great hall kitted out with cabinets crammed full of charcuterie, cheeses, fish, meats, breads, patisseries wines, as many and interspersed with mini bars where shoppers and traders could pop to for a swift half or shot before continuing their day. Outside, some wonderful fruit and vegetable stalls, selling to the fine restaurants and hotels of the town. They really keep to high quality produce here, and so they should, for the prices they were charging. Someone recently told me that the french spend four times more of their income than we do in the UK, no wonder it all looked so appealing. Maybe I should grow speciality vegetables here. The shops locally, specialising in fine ingredients, implements and anything cookery. These merged with classy homeware stores and fashion further away from the market. I was tempted by some really smart white bladed ceramic knives that promised to stay sharp far longer than even the best steel product. I saw the price and changed my mind. Maybe when I know that I am going to have my own kitchen to play in in the future.
Caught another free concert one evening, on the banks of the Gironne, I sat up high on a wall above the main outdoor auditorium, listening to the tunes and watching the sun go down over the sluggish river whilst the world went by. It was better up there, a cool evening breeze after the stifling heat of the town during the day and a great skyline view of the old buildings on the far side of the river. What better way to end a day in the city.