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Days 8, 9 & 10: Toulouse

After our return from Andorra, complete with a small crash straight, we had a lazy Saturday with very little planned. In the afternoon we strolled to the Garonne, the wide river that flows through Toulouse. The day was lovely and caused there to be a beautiful sheen on the surface of the water.


We visited one of my friends in the evening. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Fabienne's monstrous cat, Pyram, again. He was only a kitten when I first saw him many years before but already then he was bigger than everybody else's cats. The older, more feline-astute me now recognises him as a Maine Coon, a beautiful breed which is the largest of the domestic cats.

Clare was worried about having to explain to a stranger that she was allergic to her cat but as chance would have it so was Fabienne's boyfriend, Romain, and so poor Pyram was confined to the balcony anyway. I kept him company - he hadn't got any smaller. Lovely boy.

As one might expect, an old friend enquired as to how Clare and I met. We normally don't go into much detail, so as to avoid having to go into detail explaining what Esperanto is and cause the conversation to deviate, so tend to limit the explanation to saying we met in a club for people interested in languages. This time it didn't sit well with me not to be a little more open, plus we were catching up on life over the intervening years, so we explained that we both happened to learn Esperanto and be in the same club. I can't remember whether Fabienne knew anything of it but Romain certainly did; apparently he had always intended to learn it but had never known how! As a favour to him I translated for Clare not from French into English but into Esperanto, and then would explain in French. Interpretation is nowhere near as easy as people might think. I suppose it was all the more difficult because my native language wasn't involved at all.

All in it was a lovely night just sitting and chatting. On a previous return visit we'd done exactly the same. I'm not normally one for small talk but there's something to be said about catching up with old friends that you've not seen in years. I'm writing this entry four years later. Fabienne and Romain now have a little girl and, unfortunately, my boy Pyram's succumbed to old age. It's probably way past time that we popped back.

Sunday was another lazy day. We didn't do much except for strolling by the canal, until we came across a pleasant-looking park. There were even some colourful chickens rooting around!


Monday wasn't a lazy day at all. This was to be the second week of our holiday, an Esperanto event called FESTO. Originally it was to take place at the Paul Sabatier University but there had been an incident shortly before as a result of which the university cancelled all arrangements for outside events to make use of its facilities. The organisers scrambled and did what they could to save the event, finding an alternative site in a small town called Donneville. The problem is that Donneville was 30km away from Toulouse and not easy to get to.

We headed most of the way on a bus but had to get off still several kilometres away. Clare and I aren't frightened of walking, so we happily set off along the country roads, past fields of bright sunflowers. There was a sapping sun that day and so we had to step into a roadside tavern and have a few drinks. Ultimately we probably walked for a couple of hours, maybe more but as we approached what we thought should be Donneville we received the reassurance of seeing tents on the horizon. Tired and drenched with sweat, we had arrived. We caught up with many of our friends and joined them for lunch. And then we sat back ready to join in with the afternoon's activities, which happened to be ...

... a trip to Toulouse! Gah! We travelled in a borrowed 1960s hippy van that didn't look at all roadworthy and were dropped off where the Rue de Metz meets the Pont Neuf, near enough directly opposite my usual pub. Well, we'd been in Toulouse for a week and so didn't want to participate in a guided tour, and so we headed off to the pub, arranging to meet the group later.

The evening programme was an exhibition on Occitan, the language, tradition and people of the region. There was a fair bit of sitting around because the food didn't arrive anywhere near on time ... and when it finally turned up there was no vegeatarian fare among it! That's disastrous at an Esperanto event, condemning half of the people present to starvation and the rest of us to having to listen to the constant - though justified - complaints. I quite admired the pragmatism of one of the French vegetarians. He shrugged his shoulders and got on with the job of eating the very rare meat!

Since we'd learned that Donneville was very difficult to get to we decided that we would probably not attend the rest of the week and so the challenge now was to find something else to do with out days. This meant that we took some bonus trips that we hadn't originally planned, to Lourdes, Narbonne and Foix.

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