Thought I would write a quick post with a light summary of my trip during les vacances d’hiver before doing the more detailed posts, partially just because I haven’t written anything in a while and partially to get the bigger picture down before I forget things. But no worries, I’m sure I will crank out several overly-wordy posts as per usual about what I did and saw and whatnot.
So, the big focus of this trip was that I wanted to get OUT of Paris and crowded cities and into the mountains. The Alps weren’t going to work out at this time of the year (high season=high prices) so I went south, to the Pyrenees. I started off with a few days in Toulouse, a city I had originally requested to be placed in for teaching (or rather, the region if not the city) with a quick day trip to Carcassonne and then headed further south into a small mountain city called Foix.
Toulouse was lovely. If I have to live in a big city (and it is, although it doesn’t feel that way) then Toulouse is the kind I’d like to hang about in. As opposed to Paris’ white limestone buildings with delicate lacey ironwork everywhere, Toulouse is called the “Rose City” because of its brick buildings. It still retains a lot of old, almost even medieval character around the center, and on clear days you can even see off to the mountains. It’s the academic center of France with tons of educational institutions and universities in its borders, and thus the scene is multicultural, young, and fun. I didn’t get to do serious digging into EVERYTHING worth seeing due to limited time and frankly a limited desire–by which I mean I’ve done a lot of museum tours since coming to France and I’m a bit tired of them. Spent a large portion of my time just walking around and wishing I lived there instead!
My one-day-trip was to a city about 40 minutes via train to the east of Toulouse called Carcassonne, which features a massive medieval castle (which technically has roots as a Roman fortress-y-thing and in a large part is reconstruction work now but wonderfully done) of the same name surrounding a little town. The newer town is below by a lovely little river. I’ll save more details for the actual post, but basically it’s France’s #2 tourist destination (supposedly) for a reason and I consider myself VERY lucky that I was able to go in winter with less tourists but on an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day, so I got all the benefits minus blooming plants. Huzzah!
Annnnd finally Foix–not particularly a destination point, even for people who live there. I chose this place because it was the biggest city in the Ariégeoise region of the Midi-Pyrénées which somehow or another I stumbled onto on the internet and the regional park there looked really lovely, so I thought it would be a good jumping off point for hiking. I was finally able to leave city life behind here, couchsurfing with a woman who lived on a small farm/in a hamlet of sorts about 15 minutes’ drive out of the city, with hiking right outside her door. The weather was beautiful the first two days and I got some good hiking in (alas, no really stellar pictures as it was hazy and I wasn’t far enough into the mountains for the best views, but whatever) and enjoyed my host’s 6 month old kitten and puppy and simple lifestyle. Unfortunately my experience with her sort of started going downhill after a day or two (I will detail this later as well) and I left about a half a day early and retreated back to Toulouse for the night because I wanted to be gone very much, which has kind of stained the trip a bit in my memory. HOWEVER lots of good times were had before that and I count myself very lucky to have still been able to take the trip both in general and to Foix specifically, so stay tuned for more about it!
So that’s the brief summary of what I’ve been up to for the last week-ish, check back in now and again for the versions that have too many words! 🙂