Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yes, More Flats

Important Fashion Tips from Toulouse

Flats -yes, Ladies, flats. Really pretty flats. On everyone, even on dressy occasions - some of these pictures were taken at a wedding. There were, bien sûr, some low heels, a few low wedges, but mostly flats. Even in the store windows - beautiful flats, with bows and buckles, in metallics and colors, with peep toes or ankle straps, sooooo beautiful.

The only heels I saw were on the obviously young or Spanish.

The French are a very practical people. They understand that flats are more comfortable, so they make really pretty ones. I was impressed by the number of really pretty comfort shoes. I was so sad that I really didn't need more shoes, because there were so many lovely comfortable looking flats.

Could it be the influence of First Lady Carla Bruni who, like Katie Holmes (though without Suri or Scientology, of course) wears flats to minimize her own height for her spouse's sake?

Also, short pants. Very few trousers with hems that hid the shoe - not capris and not cargo's, just simple jeans or pants that ended at the ankle, or just above.

Actual Roman Walls, People

Toulouse is Roman Gaul and these are Roman walls in the city. The last picture is mostly medieval, but it's built on a Roman wall at base. I love the modern road signs - it's the thing I particularly love about Toulouse that the past is so present there.

Sister Rose and I saw some incredible Roman walls and even a bit of Actual Roman Road - yes, the Actual Surface of an Actual Roman Road that Actual Romans (and Gauls) and their horses and their dogs had Actually Walked Upon. This was in the basement of the Palais de Justice which had very high security. So no pictures, alas.

Back Home - Fatigue

The picture is Cat of COG (Señor Gomez del Camino de la Angustia), escaping the heat in the backyard on my first day home.

Now, it's my fourth day home and the first day on which I feel like a human being of the sort who rises at a reasonable hour, goes to bed at a reasonable hour and is able to do productive things in the time between. Today it's jam making and bread making to go with it.

There is so much I didn't write about from France. My only excuse is that I was incredibly tired by the end of the day. There is something about spending 6 to 8 hours a day working hard on French that is completely exhausting. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but something about having to focus all the time and never have anything - even the simplest things like buying a pencil - be completely easy. Not complaining - it was a fantastic trip. In many ways the best ever. I do have the feeling that someday I might actually be pretty fluent in French.

That time, however, is in the future not the present. We (Sister Rose and I) bumped up to a different level this time, which means that we were (attempting) speaking at a much more complex level. When you reach a higher level of complexity, you also are (temporarily)(I hope) less skilled. Before I went, I had reached a certain level of competence. I knew I could make myself understood about anything practical - shopping, dining, and hotel reception desk kind of thing. This time we talked about politics and different customs of different countries, the environment, the World Cup, the devastating floods in the Var etc. Absolutely wonderful, but much more difficult. We had a fantastic class of bright, motivated people from all over the world. It was sad to say goodbye to them.

In addition to the 3.5 hour class each morning, Rose and I signed up for a twice-weekly supplemental course to work on our comprehension. This was good - but it was very tiring. After the supplementary class, and on afternoons when we didn't have class, we did guided tours (intended for the French, so no mercy shown) visited museums, churches, historical sites, went to fantastic concerts, shopped and visited. In French. Even Rose and I spoke French a lot of the time.

When I say 'Rose and I spoke French' you understand that no one was there to correct us, so probably not great French - but it kept our brains in French mode. Then, a couple of hours in the evening over dinner with our very gracious and kind hosts, who spoke very fast French with a Toulousian accent. Fortunately they served lots of wine and good food and it was a great experience.

So, that's enough for now. I think I will post some pictures of some of the things we did there in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A moment of zen in Cordes sur ciel

Yesterday we went on a field trip with the school. The first place we visited was Cordes-sur-ciel (Cordes in the sky). So named because it is perched at the very top of a hill and when fog descends on the valley below, it seems to float above the clouds.

However, yesterday was perfectly sunny and warm, so we didn't see that. Cordes was a bit touristy, but lovely. This little film gives you some idea of the view. The field below us was filled with poppies and cornflowers, but that didn't show up so you'll have to imagine them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sublime Concert

Sister Rose have just returned from a concert - Vivaldi's Magnificat performed to perfection in St. Pierre la Cuisine. It was an an amazing, astonishing, splendid, sublime concert. Beautiful music, wonderfully performed in the most incredible setting.

St. Pierre la Cuisine is a ragbag of a building. There are bits from the 5th century when Toulouse was Roman, afterwards the Visigoths, whose royal palace was nearby, left some bits of walls. There's a Christian necropolis and then an 11th century church was rebuilt on the site and bits were added in the 13th, 16th, 17th centuries. More recently, they cleaned it up and stabilized it and put in an acoustical ceiling and very comfortable seating, in a kind of deluxe bleacher-type seating.

The video is disappointing, I filmed for much longer than this, but something obviously didn't work. But I've included it. Even 5 seconds is worth experiencing. And I've included a still picture so you can admire it even more.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

OK, yes, I'm 8 years old.....

Sister Rose and I visited a really fascinating museum today - La Musée Saint-Raymond- which houses artifacts of Roman Toulouse. It was splendid and perhaps I (or Rose) will write more about it, but among the intellectually fascinating things was one little tiny thing that I must share. There was a bust of a Roman general named: Quintus Fufius Calenus.

I can't say Quintus Fufius without giggling.

And it doesn't help that he was (according to Wiki) 'instumental in helping Publius Clodius after he profaned the Bona Dea.'

If you are a mature, deeply intellectual and non-giggling sort of person, and you want to know more about him, you can read about him in Wiki by clicking here.

Note: This is not a picture of the real Quintus Fufius, who died 2000 years ago. This is simply a model dressed in some vaguely Roman military outfit.

Hey - I just thought -does the name 'Quintius' mean there were 4 other Fufius's before him - Unius, Dueis, Tertius, Quartius?

(falls on floor laughing).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

For Son-in-law of COG

These are some excellent things we saw at the flea market on Saturday. The mirror was especially grand - just made of pieces of machinery welded onto a metal frame. Really georgeous.


Sister Rose and I are always amazed at French dogs. They are so well socialized that they are even allowed in restaurants. And yet they retain their dogginess, they are not completely repressed.

The first picture is of a dog who lay patiently on the floor right next to us while his owners ate their meal..

Our hosts have a lovely dog whose name is something like Yuki. Sunday, our hosts were gone when we left the house. Yuki was so pleased to see us and wanted us to play with him. He looked so sad when we left. That's a shoe in his mouth, by the way. He has a sweet habit of picking up something (more often a toy) and offering it to us as a way of greeting us.

It's lovely to have a dog in the house, though it's a little depressing to think that he may understand more French than I do.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sideways - Toulouse Street.

I'm really sorry that I flubbed and took this little film with my camera sideways. I don't know how to rotate it, and it's too good to omit. So here, sideways, is a small flavor of what it's like to be on the street on a typical afternoon. Nothing out of the ordinary about it. The camera is pointing toward Saint-Sernin and that's also where the bells come from.

PS. If anyone knows how to rotate videos, let me know.

The View From My Room

We're right next door to the circus! Apparently this is some kind of school for circus performers. It turns out that the flying trapeze and many related acts were invented here in Toulouse. And this school apparently attracts performers from all over Europe. As far as I can make it out.

The second picture is taken from a different vantage point - in front of the metro that we take to school.

Yes, Saint-Sernin Again

Sister Rose and I went to a concert one evening at Saint Sernin. To be in the 900 year old church and hear a choir of 80+ singers fill the church with music... it was fantastic. And also, it was a completely un-touristy experience. This was a local event for local people.

It was, of course, a little difficult to take pictures but I managed to snap one, at the end as we were leaving. The choir stood just at the end of the crowd. They stood on the steps leading to the ornately carved seats the monks used to sit in - their seats were placed before the actual altar. You can just see the painted ceiling above the altar at the far far end.

Saint-Sernin has been a traditional stop for pilgrims going to Compostelle for 900 years or so.

Saint-Sernin Two Details

I liked the contrast of the pigeon having a nap against the wonderful carved stone.

And the bell tower is really grand!

Tales of the Crypt

This week, Sister Rose and I spent some time at Saint-Sernin, a 900 year old Romanesque basilica, which is the largest in France. We even went down into the crypt. Which was cool mostly for the architecture. It feels really really old. Because it is. It's where they keep the relicts, although they've moved all the smaller stuff upstairs and the crypt just has the big caskets (in the sense of boxes) with bones in them. I guess. I don't really 'get' relicts. It kind of grosses me out to see two teeth from a saint, or a single vertebra displayed in a richly decorated box with glass sides. But.... à chacun son gout, I guess.

In the first picture notice that the casket is in the shape of the building, Saint-Sernin. It might be that those are the relicts of Saint-Sernin, himself. He was an early bishop named Saturnin (Sernin for short, I guess) who came to a bad end. I'll spare you the details.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

We interrupt this blog ....

To bring you a story about puzzling British road signs. According to the BBC, even the British are puzzled by their road signs. In Wales, where road signs are biingual- English and Welsh - this sign was recently put up. The English is clear enough, but the Welsh says "I'm sorry I'm not in the office right now. Send signs to be translated..."

Apparently they sent a sign to be translated to the usual email address and, when they got a response in Welsh, they assumed it was the translation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 2 - Typical Scenes of Toulouse

These are all places I've been today. A typical narrow medieval street with really old buildings and cars.

A flower seller on a busy modern boulevard - with the sign pointing to the Victor Hugo Parking Garage.

And a medieval gallery connected to somewhat younger buildings, but all being used everyday at the University of Toulouse.