Welcome back to the second installment of my travels during this February vacation! After an awesome (and also alcohol-filled) weekend in Bordeaux (liked that alliteration that I did there?) 😉 it was time for me to leave and head on to other wonderful destinations in Europe.
My next stop was an afternoon in Pau, a smaller city located about two hours from Bordeaux, near the border of France and Spain. I had chosen to pass through this place, just because I knew two people who had studied there and have heard good things about it. Was glad that I went, because it was gorgeous.
Took a BlaBlaCar there from Bordeaux (*side note: my driver was female and incredibly cute). 😉 Arrived there close to noon, and unfortunately to bad weather; I didn’t know that rain could be so vicious, even in southwest France! I waited in the train station for the rain to at least lighten up before I went exploring- after all, I only had a few hours in Pau before I had to get myself to Toulouse.
Fortunately, the rain subsided and outside got super sunny. That worked to my advantage, as I went uphill (Pau’s city center is situated on a hill) and got a gorgeous shot of the Boulevard des Pyrénées, a picturesque street will palm trees and grand buildings that somehow gave me flashbacks of my Los Angeles hometown. Anyway, I loved it. ❤
There was also the Château de Pau and Palais Beaumont, which were both lovely sites to see. I wasn’t able to go into the former, as my backpack was too big to be let in (and there were no lockers to put it in), but in any case, I enjoyed just looking at their façades, admiring the architecture and everything.
Besides those attractions, there were a couple of churches and plenty of restaurants with different traditional and ethnic cuisines (as it is also a student town, I believe). But other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to see in Pau. I had gone on a Sunday, and so naturally, many places were closed. It was very quiet in the city, and I assumed that it would be more “hoppin'” during the weekday.
I finished exploring Pau within two, three hours and went back to the train station to rest and wait until it was time to go meet my BlaBlaCar driver for Toulouse. Around 16h30, I headed up to the meeting point, at a monument known as “le Crayon” (“pencil”) which is, quite literally, a huge pencil in front of a supermarket. Pretty neat, eh?
Met my driver at 17h15, and soon enough were on our way to Toulouse. Along the way, I got a glimpse of the Pyrenees Mountains, which were spectacular with its snow-capped peaks.
Arrived in Toulouse around 20h00, and took the metro to meet my Couchsurfing host (let’s call him “Mac”), who was to host me for the next three nights. He received me from the station, very friendly and welcoming. His flat was nice, and he had even prepared a small meal for me. We ate dinner together, getting to know each other and such. A chatty guy, but amicable enough.
Around 21h00, Mac turned in for bed in his room while I stayed in the living room, where I slept on a mattress that he had provided me.
Mac woke up around 8h00, and left the flat around 9h00. I was free to explore on my own, and so I left the place close to 13h00. Took a quick walk around les Jardins des Plantes (a large garden) before heading to the city center, which was bustling with people, as the weather was sunny and surprisingly very warm that day. Saw the Hôtel d’Assézat, a kind of palace that houses an art museum. Architectually-wise, it looked fantastic.
Next, I went to the Pont Neuf (bridge of Toulouse), where I walked alongside it towards the Capitolum, the heart of the city. Lots of narrow, windy streets, as I passed through a few churches before heading towards the Basilica of St. Sernin, a large church known for its distinctive tower complex:
After that, I had basically finished exploring the main attractions of Toulouse. I headed back to Mac’s flat, running into him at the local grocery store. We went back to his flat, and had some tartinade (a kind of spread on bread, eaten as a starter) before we headed out again and he showed me other parts of the city. Unfortunately, many things were closed that Monday, but it was nice to wander around the city.
We returned home that evening, when Mac got a call from his mother who was coming to visit him the following afternoon. Because of that, he had to cancel my last night with him. I wasn’t very thrilled with the last-minute changes, but he was nice enough to let me stay that last night. And fortunately, I knew another Couchsurfer who accepted my late request to stay just one night the following day. Mac prepared a delicious salmon-leek tart for dinner, along with a couple glasses of white wine. We talked some more before he headed off to bed around 22h00. I turned in shortly afterwards.
Woke up the next day, and packed my belongings, as I was to meet my other Couchsurfing host around noon. Said goodbye to Mac (who was still sleeping), then headed out.
Met my host at the train station, and he took me over to his flat, about ten minutes away. He (let’s call him “Eric”) was in his sixties, born and raised in Toulouse all of his life, and so had the distinctive Toulousian accent (which one would call “paysan,” or “of the countryside”). I found it charming, though, even amusing. Had lunch with him at his flat, along with his temporary housemate, a young Russian woman.
Weather in the afternoon was horrible, as it was dismal and rainy. Nevertheless, Eric and I decided to go out and explore Toulouse (or at least, what was left of what I hadn’t already seen from the day before). He took me to a museum near St. Sernin, then afterwards we walked over to the Capitolum and to an abbey, where we went inside to see the cloisters- for free (typically, one has to pay, but it was near closing time, so the ticket manager let us in without paying)!
We stopped by the grocery store to buy some ingredients for dinner. Had some soup and leftover pasta for lunch that night, along with some wine and lots of chocolate. Talked some more with Eric, and later spent some time with his Russian housemate, who I didn’t get a chance to really connect with. We even played some piano together, as she was self-teaching herself (and considering that I hadn’t played the piano since being in Europe, why not?).
Went to bed close to midnight, and woke up super early the next morning, as I had a 6h40 bus to catch to Barcelona. Said goodbye to Eric, thanking him for taking me in, even if only for one night.
Overall, Toulouse was a pleasant city, even if staying three nights was more than enough for me (one night would have been better). Still, met some really kind people (even with their odd quirks), and in general had a good time in the southwest of France.
Leaving France (at least, for the moment) for the Spanish climate! Next up: Barcelona, Spain! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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