The view from the deck was just beautiful. I had forgotten what a beautiful part of the world this is. Last time I came, I flew in from the connecting airport of Amsterdam, and my friend drove me straight to the place I was staying. We walked around a lot, it was summer so we went swimming in the lakes near town, we went to swim in the sea. But this time, I took the slow way, because I wanted to slowly take in. It’s like a warming-up exercise. Sure, in this day and age, the slow trip may be a stupid way. It may not even be the cheapest way necessarily, given the low-cost carriers. But there is something about watching out of the limited frame to the world outside of your train carriage for hours as you approach your destination. And the scene definitely changed from the frozen Lyon to a sun-filled, Mediterranean of the Montpellier, running along the sea on both sides from Sète, and then turning inland at Narbonne, for the last stretch to Toulouse.
After arriving in Toulouse, my friend drove me straight to her sister’s house where I met her family again, now larger with kids. It was the Christmas, but I was late for the dinner now well past 3pm. I was sat at the table while kids running around showing me presents they received this year, and I was fed with lamb, foie gras (!), wine (did I tell you I quit drinking 3-4 years ago?), cheese, and all the good food. It was a dinner, a great course of a meal, from a family I knew from the last visit were not particularly well off. I enjoyed and finished everything that was offered and appreciated their most generous hospitality in this time of the year when family stays together.
The next day, after the alcohol from the aperitif (the drink before supper at night) had worn off – I think I might have had a Martini for the first time in ages, and it was good! It is not one of those ‘dirty’ stuff you get a Martini bar, it is a proper drink, a mix with orange juice, the way people enjoy here. Anyhow, when I woke up hearing the 3 cats in the house all asking to let out of somebody’s bedroom and asking for breakfast and asking to play and young a-bit-old-to-be-a-kitten Yaya asking for milk from mummy (who is not here), I jumped out of bed, opening the curtain to see the field dark but just about to get brighter. So I put my clothes on, grabbed the gear, fleece jacket with down-coat jacket, with leather gloves and skarf, stepped out of the front door, quietly closing the front door of the house behind me.
And this is what I was treated with. Oh, love the morning. Love travelling in the winter. And love the country side. France, you may be snobbish and you may be almost excessively proud of yourself, but oh France, it is a beautiful place, and I love it.
Next day, we went to another town, further away from Toulouse, called Revel, where kids took their bicycle and adults walked along the reservoir. It is the Christmas holiday week and the road was pretty smooth traffic. After eating a lot of good stuff like foie gras and smoked salmon (the father of a friend makes the smoke and it is sensational!) and cheese and lots of wine, but what French people do is to talk a lot, laugh a lot while they eat, take good rest, and they walk a lot. I have been eating a lot more since I arrived in France, and more fatty food too, but I don’t think I’d put that much extra weight. If anything I might have lost more… And this walk around the reservoir was a good long walk, too.
So we drove back home as the air started to get pretty chilly again. And I sit down to find a goblet pushed into my hand again. This time a nice bouquet of red, or was it another Martini. I lost count in the last couple of days. But I decided to do what the French prescribe for me while I am in France. It feels good and we all enjoy the good food, good drink and good laughs.