Finally, after more than two years, we left the country on vacation! Although, we have traveled quite a bit in Spain and my husband has traveled for business, as a family we hadn’t since December 2019. So crazy all that the world has been through, and somewhat surreal that we are just back to normal.
Anyway, we chose a road trip to Toulouse as our first destination. I have always wanted to visit Toulouse. I once had a French teacher who told me that she found the people of Toulouse to be so friendly, which was in stark contrast to the people of Paris. For the record, I don’t know why, but French people seem to like me. Spanish people not so much, but I have always had good experiences with the French and found the people I met in Paris, very kind and welcoming.
However, my french teacher was not wrong. The people of Toulouse and really anywhere we went in the south of France were very friendly.
To me, Toulouse is the French version of Seville. The city feels charming, with low rise flats, distinct french aesthetics, and a lot of restoration happening. the central old town is kept clean and inviting with beautiful shops, restaurants, and tourist services.
The pink palace, grande place area was a bustle of activity as much at night as it is in the day.
A few things I noticed were the lack of americano coffees and the quietness…let me explain.
Saint Georges place is a well-kept square with a children’s play area and many restaurants with loads of outdoor seating. However, it was quiet? I have never seen so many people in the same place but yet so little noise. Even a few french women seated near us on the patio spoke freely and laughed, but we could hardly hear them.
So, are the French known to be quiet talkers? Toulouse, although busy with many industries is home to the French Space Agency, Air France, and Airbus. So, the city attracts many types of engineers who perhaps are not known for rowdiness? At least after college. I always heard stories that the engineering department at the Univeristy of Toronto was very party centric. Is this perhaps the reason for such quiet speech? I don’t know.
As well, there seems to be a lack of knowledge or willingness to embrace the americano coffee. For some reason, at multiple restaurants or coffee shops, my husband was unable to get an americano. The staff went to great lengths to encourage him to have a drip coffee or took ages to slowly drip hot water through a coffee filter and make some kind of makeshift americano…needless to say it was not the same. When asked why they couldn’t make it with the water from the expensive coffee machine, fully available for my caffe latte coffee, there would be some excuse about it not working or why not just try the drip. This even happened in our beloved Starbucks, the very people who introduced the Americano to the non-italian cultured world. So, if you’re visiting the fine city of Toulouse, be warned.
Dining hours! Spain has long gotten a bit of attitude from its north American visitors for the seemingly late dining hours. However, once a restaurant is open they are ready to serve until at least midnight. As well, if you’re going for lunch in Spain, you usually have between 12-4pm to make fetch happen. not so, in France.
The lunch hour is fast! Usually between 12-2:30 is all the time you get to find a place, eat and be on your way. And dinner, although some places open as early as 6pm, they are done and dusted between 9-11pm. As a Canadian, I could adapt to this schedule, but I can only imagine how the Spanish family on vacation, might wonder how their country carries the bad rap for this dining hour debacle. This condensing of hours creates a business in the restaurants like no other. I marveled at the wait staff and how organized, and efficient they were at their jobs. one lady pretty much single-handedly managed 20 tables inside and out while barely breaking a sweat. as a former server, who now feels overwhelmed serving one husband and one son, it was amazing to watch.