Carcassonne, part d

After the deluge, the weather turned and the evening sky was gorgeous. I made one more trip to the castle (these are the last castle photos, I promise). I followed my guidebook’s walking tour and learned some cool stuff. I also found myself alone in the candlelit cathedral, which was way cool (although it in no way matches my father finding himself alone in the Sistine Chaple, circa 1962).

Something I wrote in today’s earlier blog is nagging me: can there be a physical ‘replica’ of a ‘narrative’? Hmmmmm . . .

Bon soir!

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Carcassonne, part c

Funny how things turn out. I changed my plans to walk the Midi Canal, and as it happens, the weather would have changed them for me: lots and lots of cold rain in the region. Really glad I’m not miles from shelter in the pouring rain, although it’s a cryin’ shame to be stuck inside.

I spent this morning at le musée des beaux-arts, accomplishing two things at once: getting an art fix and escaping the wet. It is a small museum, but nicely done with lots of quirky art. Afterwards, I wandered Carcassonne (read: got lost). Unfortunately, many sites and restaurants list open hours, but are closed. Fortunately, I did not check the museum’s hours before going, as its website states it is closed today, and I wouldn’t have gone had I looked it up first.

Also fortunately, I stumbled upon a very odd place: le Jardin du Calvaire, a derelict and overgrown replica physical representation of a Christian narrative, set behind thick and high stone walls. It is foreboding, perhaps due to the inclement weather, and inhabited by many robust felines who slunk out of holes in the crumbling brick as I made my way up the circuitous path to the pinnacle, which is adorned with statues of the crucifixion of Jesus. (Whew, that’s a big sentence.)

Here are some pictures. Hope you enjoy the art as much as I do.

P.S. Is it me, or does Joseph look a little suspicious?

P.P.S. The title of the work with the young woman holding the book is Portrait de 3 Pommes.

Carcassonne

I left Toulouse and the Hotel Terrible this rainy morning, and arrived in warmer Carcassonne and a fabulous place to stay. The owner is an art collector, and art is everywhere (including a huge Bansky-ish wall hanging in my room). There is also excellent wifi. Not only that, I can hear church bells ring, one of the reasons I love Europe.

After the train, I cruised the the fortified city/castle, and for some reason entry was free today. Baboom! My luck has changed.

Here are some photos. Horses wear lacy hats here. New art and new uses are mixed up with the old fortress. Those snow-capped mountains are the Pyrenees. The handsome smiling man sold me a delightful bottle of Boutenac, wine from a nearby region. The place I’m staying has a unique lemon juicer.

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Midi Canal at Last

Since I got caught in a heavy downpour yesterday afternoon, I started out today very early hoping to avoid afternoon showers. It was still somewhat dark and cold, so cold that my eyes watered and my ears ached. I did some fast walking and eventually the sun got high enough to warm me up.

The reason I came to Toulouse at all was to start a walk southward along the Midi Canal. I learned about this from a terrific website called I Love Walking in France (http://ilovewalkinginfrance.com). However, first I over-estimated my abilities and then I made faulty assumptions about train service; subsequently I wasn’t able to follow through on the original plan. But today I walked about 8 miles of the canal close to the city, and I expect to do more once I reach Carcassonne.

Below are some photos from today. FYI, my new plan in life is to live on Electra (see below).

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Toulouse, reconsidered

I need a good meal! Oh kale wrap, where are you? I had lunch today at a place I had imagined would provide said good meal, but nope. What I got instead was a tiny portion of a zero-flavor brothy squash mix on a bed of uncooked rice. Oh, also included was a very large bill (blowing my entire day’s food rationing money). What the heck? It’s these kinds of places that give vegans a bad name. Uh oh, I’m fussing again. Okay, here is something good about the restaurant: I saw this quote on the wall: Grow with the flow.

The morning started off great with an exciting laundry adventure. I found one launderette near the hotel, a tiny, dirty place that would not accept large bills. The second place I found was slightly larger and slightly less dirty, but it featured a disheveled man who spoke loudly to no one I could see. I asked for his help, but he was not feeling generous today, and eventually I thought perhaps the best plan was to leave. So, I went to the door to do that. But wait, how do you open the door? I pushed and pulled and tried to slide it. I smashed any buttons I found nearby. Loud Talker to No One was relishing my situation and had no intention of ending his glee at my inability to get out the door. Here I was, a well-educated person stuck inside a French launderette with a possibly unstable person, but a person who was nonetheless probably able to open the door. Eventually, I did figure it out, of course, otherwise I would not be here writing. It was a good lesson in realizing we all have different skills.

Next I searched for laundry soap. But wait, of all the boxes and bottles on the shelf, which was for laundry? Eventually, I sorted that out, and returned to the original tiny dirty launderette, which now also included a menacingly barking dog on the other side of a thin door. But wait! How to pay and get the washer going? There’s no coin slot! Using a mysterious laundromat was not one of my french lessons! Yes I did eventually get my laundry done, and the cool part I had hoped would happen was that I made friends with the men working on the road outside the launderette. They were super sweet and concerned about me getting in and out, even though I did not actually want to leave the place; I just wanted to hide from the cruel French world. One man, quite possibly the calmest road worker ever, began trying to talk to me. He speaks Arabic, and when I said the few Arabic words I know, a friendship was born! Who’d a thunk it? I knew something cool would happen. Au revoir, madame! they all called when I left.

After the laundry escapade I eventually regained my courage to go out in the world, and I started cruising town. At one point I noticed a woman taking a photo of a scene I would have missed. Over the next half hour, we kept finding ourselves taking the same picture, and we began talking. One of her questions for me: are you German? Once again I was thrilled at not being an obvious American. When she did learn I was from the US, our photography conversation ended and she went off on Trump.

Okay, enough blabbing. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Toulouse, visiting its landmarks and back streets (and now I know why parts of NOLA are called the French Quarter). This is not the trip I expected, but it’s all good. Here are some photos.

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Toulouse – yikes!

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 (au10chartres@gmail.com).

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.

Bonsoir.

 

Live all you can. It's a mistake not to.

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