A few days ago, I decided that I needed a change of scenery. After scouting various possibilities on airbnb (this is a fabulous site with locations worldwide and, in my opinion, so much better and cheaper than hotels/motels.) I settled on Toulouse, a city about two hours west of Montpeyroux. I wanted to do some work while I was away and imagined going out for coffee, checking out the city, coming back to work, then heading out again in the evening. For the most part it has worked that way. Toulouse is ancient and beautiful, full of interesting places to see. Museums and cathedrals, of course, incredible patisseries, fromageries, covered markets, interesting bistros. Shops in the final weeks, I think, of the soldes–sales.
I don’t think I’d thought about woad (look it up) since I was in Girl Guides when we used to sing a campfire ditty about Ancient Britons painting themselves blue. “Head and face and where you sit on,” are the only words I remember. Toulouse, I’ve learned since I arrived, was once the center of all things woad. The blue dye, from a plant, (isatis tinctoria, I looked it up) was used among other things for French soldiers’ uniforms and was responsible for the prosperity of Toulouse during the Middle Ages until the upstart indigo came along and relegated woad to history. That’s one of the great things about traveling, learning these odds and ends.
The apartment I’m staying in is owned by a lovely woman named Pascale who lives here with her teenage son, Mathieu. They both speak English so well that I’m too intimidated to use my French. The first night I was here, I’d planned to have dinner somewhere in town, but my mobile rang. It was Pascale inviting me to join them for dinner. Raclette. The second night, with Mathieu’s help, she whipped up crepes–try to find this kind of hospitality at the Toulouse Best Western. As I write this, they’ve taken off for a weekend in Normandy leaving me to my own devices which works out quite well. The apartment, on the fourth floor, looks out over the Toulouse rooftops and it’s very pleasant up here when its windy and raining outside, as it has been for most of my visit. So much so that I have had to talk myself into going out. Weather is only one reason for my reluctance though. The ancient key which Pascale says, “you must tickle in the lock,” is another. Yesterday, I tickled for a good ten minutes until I’m sure it must have appeared I was trying to break in–or I had some sort of key fetish. The circular staircase also gives me pause for thought. Wooden and slippery, the stairwell is lit only by the light from a glass dome at the top. Actually Pascale did say there was a light switch, but so far I’ve been unable to find it. I’ve seen countless horror movies of people, usually women, toppling down and down and down in scenes that might have been shot in this very building.
On yesterday’s walk through the city, I caught a glimpse of my hair in a shop window and decided work was overdue. Even in English it’s sometimes hard to explain exactly how you want your hair to look–better than it does now usually sums it up. Anyway, this was my fourth visit to a salon since I’ve been in France, almost a year now, and the results for this overhaul were the best yet. Either my French has really improved, or I’m more easily satisfied. I would have taken a selfie except that rain and wind quickly did a number on it. But the color looked good.
Next week it’s back to Montpeyroux again.
Facebook entry from Toulouse
Rainy night in a Toulouse bistro. Music system warbling Ain’t No Sunshine, smokers huddled outside under umbrellas, wet cobblestones reflecting lights from the shop windows. A glass of red wine. Needed a brief change of pace from the village and drove here yesterday–about two hours west. Found a great place to stay in the center of the city (via airbnb) and the plan is to work in the morning, explore in the afternoon. Toulouse Lautrec museum is about an hour away in Albi, several other interesting museums in the city, lots of markets…
A small shop where all the desserts were made of almond–and quite delicious too.