Things I’ll miss:
- The markets – Run-of-the-mill supermarkets, open-air/farmers markets, and covered markets (marches couverts).
- Focus on quality – This was apparent in many things, but most noticeable in food.
- Strawberries – Absolutely the most amazing strawberries I’ve ever tasted. That is saying a LOT considering how spoiled I’ve been with Oregon strawberries. French strawberries are small, delicate, and taste like strawberry flowers.
- Ice cream at every turn. There is a big ice cream culture in Toulouse. I’ve never seen so many ice cream shops per capita anywhere. Skinny French women walk around slurping ice cream from gigantic waffle cones. Go figure. I think they don’t eat anything else.
- Narrow, cobblestone streets.
- Old buildings made of stone.
- French: access to a 24-hour learning lab.
- Fries with mustard, best fried in duck fat.
- Village culture.
- Everything being so close in the city.
- Multilingualism – F rom the clerks at the grocery store to the clothing store clerks, most young people had at least a second language. Popular second languages were English, Spanish, and German.
- Shutters – The local style here is wooden shutters on all windows. They are open in the morning and night, and closed during the day to keep out the sun. A popular color is pale blue.
- Cafe culture – People hang out at cafes most of the day, after waking up at 10, that is. Generally speaking, people don’t seem to eat out, they drink instead. I think eating in restaurants is expensive here, so people go out and drink coffee or wine with their friends instead. Cafes and bars are packed much of the time. It helped that the whole country was on vacation for July.
- HOT weather.
- July sales – The government mandates that all stores have sales in July. It’s a trip! I think it’s because everyone is on vacation and maybe they want to stimulate the economy during a slow time. You walk around Toulouse and there are “SOLDES” signs in every shop window. Very cool.
- Dairy products – I’ve never seen such a huge variety of dairy products. From the corner grocery to the gourmet markets in the city, the French love dairy products! Gajillions of yogurt flavors and styles, butters, clotted creams, semi-whipped creams, milks, soft cheeses, hard cheeses, cheeses from ewes, goats, cows, and anything else you could possibly make cheese from, creme brulees in to-go cartons, etc. It’s a dairy lover’s paradise.
- Bisous – The French double-cheek kisses for greeting and departing.
- Gazpacho in a carton (which is pretty good).
- Learning about another culture (“The French have a different system” – how many times did I hear this statement?)
- Kir – Toulouse had an interesting violet kir (one of the city’s nicknames is the City of Violets), but my favorite was peach (peche).
- Beets at the market being sold roasted. I never saw a beet for sale that was not already roasted.
- Being on vacation.
Things I won’t miss at all:
- Being openly ogled by men on the street
- Men (ahem) relieving themselves openly in the street
- French drivers/driving with maniacs
- Dog poop on the streets
- Everyone smoking everywhere
Things I won’t miss for a while:
- Rich food
- Foie gras (impossible to believe, but true)
- Duck (ditto)
Things I’ve missed from home:
- The Man
- Mr. Pickle
- Sitting somewhere without having to buy something (they need more parks and benches in Toulouse)
- My house
- Sour flavors
- Gluten-free products
Things I’ve not missed from home:
- The news
- Daily worries
- Homeless people – There were some homeless people in Toulouse, but not anywhere near our numbers.
- Poverty – In the countryside and the city, they don’t have the obvious extremes that we do. I kept asking if I was just unable to “see” it with my American eyes, but I had to finally conclude that the extremes just aren’t as extreme as they are in the States.
Things that are apparently universal:
- Less than helpful postal employees
- Airport security
- People kvetching about taxes
Some mouth-watering pics: