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Published: August 5th 2012
Our weekend in Toulouse was a wonderful surprise. We had not heard much about the city, and didn't really have any expectations. We had a beautifully sunny summer weekend exploring the narrow streets, cathedrals and parks. We picnicked by the river, had our first Plat de Jour at a gorgeous restaurant by the river and rode a ferris wheel for amazing views of the city. Toulouse fast became one of our favourite cities in France.
On Sunday afternoon we caught the bus out to Chateau Brametourte in Lautrec, our home for the next two weeks. Chateau Brametourte is owned by a British couple named Alison and Paul. They have owned the Chateau for about 6 years and renovated it from a derelict ruin to a stunning B&B using HelpX labour the whole way. The name 'Brametourte' means Crying Dove, which refers to the Chateau's resident ghost. In the 11th Century the Count of Toulouse had passed through Lautrec and was mesmerised but the young daughter of the nobleman that lived in the Chateau. The Count agreed with the Nobleman that he would come back in a few years and marry his daughter, under the condition that her father
safeguarded her 'Purity'. The young girl was locked up in one of the rooms on the top floor for years and years, and the locals of Lautrec referred to her as the 'Crying Dove'. The Count of Toulouse never returned, and to escape her captivity she threw herself out of the top window and died. Alison had a few stories about some encounters with the ghost (they even had a helper a few years ago conduct a seance, and told Alison that the ghost didn't want to leave and was happy to stay up in her room!). Unfortunately (or fortunately?!) we didn't have any ghost sightings during our time at Chateau Brametourte!
The Chateau is a spectacular place. The building is amazing (the rooms have been renovated beautifully) and the grounds are picturesque. The fields surrounding the Chateau are full of sunflowers which were all in bloom while we were at the Chateau. They most recent addition to the Chateau was the outdoor pool with views over the rolling hills, which we made use of most days! It was soooo luxurious!
One of the best things about our time at the Chateau were the
amazing people that we met there. In addition to the very lovely Alison (Paul was working in Australia the whole time we were there so never got to meet him), the Chateau was run by the hilarious house manager, Liz. Liz is also British, and probably the most fun person I have met in a long time! There were also two other helpers at the Chateau while we were there, a gorgeous American named Claire, and a hilarious Scotsman named Richard. Claire and I spent most of our working days together cleaning the B&B rooms and painting the outdoor furniture. Abe and Richard spent a lot of time outside getting involved in hard labour, digging up tree stumps, planting grass and whipper-snippering.
Weekends in the village were great fun. One Thursday night Claire, Richard, Abe and I saw a wonderful performance of Turkish music at our favourite cafe in Lautrec. Friday nights were spent at the local bar, Les Terasses, eating pizza and drinking 1L carafes of red wine! Alison and Liz have a whole friendship group in Lautrec consisting of other British expats and French locals and they were all so welcoming and friendly.
We also managed to coincide our time at Chateau Brametourte with the end of the pink garlic harvesting season. The last day of harvest is celebrated by the Fete de L'ail Rose (Garlic Fete). On Friday morning the village is swarmed by all the locals and there is a garlic parade, garlic statue competitions (people make different models of the pink garlic and they are judged on their creativity - hilarious!!), free garlic soup and hundreds of market stalls. The parade was a very strange precession of a bunch of middle aged people from all the surrounding villages. They were in groups of about 10, all dressed in matching velvet robes (each group had a different robe), and were marching under different banners that showed what 'Brotherhood' they belonged to - all the Brotherhoods were all related to food! There was the Brotherhood of the Poulet (chicken), Boeuf (beef), garlic, donkey… This was topped off on Friday night with a massive dance party in the Village. We drank far too much red wine, talked in terrible French to the locals and danced the night away. It was amazing fun!
The two weeks at the Chateau just
flew by, and before we knew it we were sadly saying goodbye to our new friends (we're looking forward to seeing Claire in Paris later in our trip, and catching up with Alison the next time she is in Melbourne!). We spent another night in Toulouse where we had a fleeting visit with my cousins Sarah and Nick, which was lovely. We went out for dinner at a French Bistro recommended to us by the very friendly dude at our Hotel reception deck and had a delicious feast of duck.
We're saying goodbye to the beautifully hot summer weather of Southern France and heading back up to Paris, for the tedious job of applying for our Indian Tourist Visas and the wonderful occasion of Kamelia and Charly's wedding next Saturday!
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