I now fully get why the author of the French guidebook I’m using did not even mention Toulouse in his book. It’s crowded, dirty, sketchy, aggressive . . . Yeah, not the kind of place I normally seek out in my travels. Originally I had planned to be here only one night just to start the Midi Canal walk, but those plans changed, and now I’m stuck here for three nights; however, I will soldier on and make the best of it, of course – who knows, maybe something really cool will happen. My hotel is bordering on squalid, so I’ll definitely be out and about as much as possible. While searching for dinner earlier I spotted some interesting architecture in the old town I’d like to photograph, as well as lots of narrow meandering streets to get lost in (wait, I did already that today).
Now that I’ve got the fussing out of the way, the ride here on the TGV was awesome! The train goes 300 kilometers per hour! It was well designed, spacious, comfortable, stylish, clean, on time, super quiet, and included free wifi. They even had two vegan menu items! And I got to romanticize about the beautiful farmland, vineyards, spires and stately chateaux outside the window for the entire four hour trip. (Handy news you can use: I bought my train ticket online a while ago for €32, and when I checked on the price a couple of days ago, it was €137. Buy early!)
After getting lost after arriving, I had Tibetan momos for dinner. First time. And quite possibly the last. Speaking of food, I don’t usually use the words ‘kale’ and ‘yummy’ in the same sentence, but the boxed organic kale wrap I picked up at the San Francisco airport for my flight to Paris was super yummy. The company label was Farm to Flight, a switch up from the farm to table movement; how cool is that for those of us of the vegan persuasion? I expected a huge selection of vegan food in California, but tasty vegan food at an airport? That’s a breakthrough.
Although the Chartres grocery store my gracious host Valerié took me to had a huge assortment of gorgeous vegetables, traditional French cuisine is very much not vegan inclined. For example, the glass cheese case in the store held at least 100 feet/30 meters of beautiful whole cheeses. And the meat section . . . Well, there were lots of body parts, including several lolling tongues. Perhaps some day French master cheese makers will jump on the nut cheese bandwagon; it could happen! (Stranger things have, and trust me, cheese made with nut milk as opposed to cow milk can be superb.) Unfortunately, the one vegan-friendly restaurant in Chartres was closed the days I was there. However, the breakfasts at the Chartres B&B were large and lovely thanks to the accommodation of Valerié. If you’re coming this way, vegan or not, and prefer to stay in non-touristy areas as I do, consider Au 10 Chambres d’Hôtes (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For the rest of my time in France, I expect to be eating a lot of food in ‘hold the cheese and eggs’ mode, as opposed to food made specifically vegan. It’s a trade off: getting to hear spoken French all the time but having to search for tasty food. In California, there were billions of delicious vegan options, but not one bonjour, ben oui, or bien sûr. (However, I must say that during the time I have been writing this entry, I have learned that French does not improve the sound of arguments or children’s cries; it’s official: the various shouting matches I’ve been privy to have pushed this hotel deeply across the line to official squalordom.)
Only one (bragging rights) photo today, unless you’d like to see the photo I had to take of the stopped up bath tub to show the hotel clerk because my French is not good enough to explain such a scenario over the phone.