Hey Everyone! It’s been a little while since my last post; I’ve been in Toulouse for nine days now. Classes have started, the rest of the American sutdents have arrived, and life is busier than ever.
We have class from 9 am until 5 pm every week day unless we have farm visits, which is about once a week. European history or agriculture lectures are three hours long in the morning, then we break for two hours for lunch, and then finish the day with three hours of French class. These days do get long but lunch at the school cantine makes up for it three-fold. The school usually serves a quiche or meat dish for lunch topped with more green beans than you ever wanted to see in your life. What makes is special, however, is not the outstanding amount of legumes on the plate; it’s the dessert table. Picture pies, apricot and rasberry crumbles, dishes of chilled chocolate glaze and strawberries, crystal bowls of vanilla and chocolate mousse with rasberry sauce on the bottom, and perfectly crusted creme brulee. All of it is included in your student plan for only 0,80 cents.
This week, our school visit was to the medieval walled city of Carcassone.
The fortress, founded by the Visigoths during the Golden Age and now on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, is breathtaking. With the Black Mountains in the distance, Carcassonne stands on a rise in the valley that was easily defensible for its early inhabitants. The city is composed of three walls; the first outer wall allows for a small road around the perimeter and much space between itself and the second, and the third protects the innermost buildings of the city. Within the city now lies small, touristy shops with outrageously expensive food and trinkets. Yet the walls of Carcassonne are also home to quaint, cobblestone streets reminiscent of medieval times and a glorious, candle lit cathedral.
After a tour of Carcassonne and wandering its many narrow, winding streets, we broke for lunch in the town outside of the fortress and down the hill. Our next adventure was a barge ride on the Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi, built for transporting goods in the 17th century, stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. It’s peaceful and serene atmosphere provides relief for river-goers in the hot summer months of southern France; the old pathway alongside it, once used for mules and donkeys, is now frequented by dog walkers and bikers. We took an hour long barge ride on the canal, going through the lock system and watching small country homes and vineyards pass by.
Daily life in Toulouse is also wonderful. The nightlife is alive and pulsing, a low key creperie and a pricey restaurant serving melt-in-your-mouth duck with fresh vegetables are right across the street from each other, and drinks along the river where you can watch the sun set over Toulouse are my favorite days. The people are welcoming and friendly and I am enjoying living in the fast lane and spending time with new friends.
This weekend we head to the Pyrenees for some hiking and mountain air. The Pyrenees, the mountain range separating France and Spain, are supposed to be quite spectacular. After a lifetime of hiking in the beautiful Adirondack mountains of New York, I’m excited to see what France has to offer!