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Published: November 9th 2009
My first day in France wasnt exactly a smooth one. The train I wanted was cancelled and the one which followed terminated one stop before the station where I needed to catch a connecting train. So myself and about 20 others were left stranded in a one taxi town only 5 minutes train ride from where we actually wanted to be. Madness! 2.5 hours later me and two boys from Ballarat finally made it to Cerrbere station. Then we got to hang around there for another 1.5 hours for another connecting train (because of course we'd missed the first one). Eventually, after a full day of travelling (in which more time was spent just hanging around) I made it to Toulousse. All I can say is Im glad I love reading. Hehe.
SO, day 2 in France could only get better and despite the rain it did. There are heaps of free things you can do in Toulouse. The best of these is to visit The Capitole, which is the seat of the municipal administration in Toulouse. You can wander through a series of public rooms which have been gorgeously painted in vivid colours. One picture of a fireman putting
out a fire actually looked 3D to me.
The Basilique Saint-Sermin is also free. It's interesting because it's made up of a few very different styles and is still a little unfinished. I think the difference in periods is most obvious from the outside though. The bell tower is especially photogenic.
The Chapelle des Carme'lites was another wonderful free attraction. It's basically one fair sized room with detailed paintings all over the walls and ceiling. It looks odd for such lavish descoration to be in such a small and inconspicuous building.
For me though, the highlight of Toulouse was Jardin Compans-Caffarelli. It's only a small garden but there's something inevitably romantic about walking through a quiet autumn park in a light rain. I can't get enough of the fiery reds and oranges and the delicate yellows of the leaves. They look especially beautiful when they're wet and the sun shines on them. (You can tell I'm from a country full of boring old evergreens can't you?) There's also a little lake with a giant bronze dragon rearing up out of it. Very cool. You can discover more beautiful views if you wander along the Boulevard de L'Embouchure
and the Alle'e de Barcelone nearby, both of which follow a river. Watch out for all the joggers though!
After getting in touch with nature I headed in to the Galerie du Chateau d'Eau which is a photography gallery housed in what appears to be some kind of old water pump building. The exhibitor was Anders Petersen and whilst I didn't actually like his subject matter (most of the photos were of poor people partying in a diner) some of the images were striking. I had a little epiphony (been having a few of those this week). Truly great art should SAY something. It should have some kind of message or meaning and try to evoke emotion in the viewer. To make them think or at least pause for a moment and be taken out of themselves. Whilst often that kind of art is not something I would want to hang on my wall, it can be more memorable than what I would. I know you could easily argue against my little theory but it works for me and has gotten me thinking more about my own photography.
Still pondering my epiphany I stumbled across Foundation Bemberg. The
Musee des Augustins
first floor had a range of Italian and French art arranged in rooms furnished as they would have been in the 1800's. A beautiful setting in which to admire decorative arts (especially the leather bound books with intricate gold embossing). The 2nd floor was a more standard art gallery but had an unusual range of specifically French paintings. Pointism was one movement I wasn't familiar with. While I was in there I overheard the two guards trying to guess my nationality. It was clear the others in room were English but I didn't speak to anyone. I saw a picture I liked and instead of walking closer to it I walked backwards to get a better view. It was at this point they concluded I was French! I don't know if it's the way I was appreciating the art or the way I was dressed (my black hat fits right in here). When I got closer and one the guards peeked at the laguage on my brochure he sounded suprised as he said 'English!' to his mate. I thought that was a laugh. They must have been truly bored. Quite flattering though I think.
The Musee des Augustins just
down the road (and my original destination) was nothing startling, though it did have a couple of the most beautiful sculptures I've seen for a long time. One of a woman fending off a brilliantly carved winged gargoyle and the other of a very handsome man who reminded me of Dorian Gray. It was nice to see a sculpture with clothes on too.
Final note; whilst my heart may still be in Verona, my stomach is most definitely in France! Everywhere I go something smells tasty. Even standard bakeries display the most gorgeous pastries and cakes. I don't know HOW the French are so thin!
Second final note; I find it funny how signs here have some english words in them but just randomly. Like 'Validez votre ticket' on the bus. The french word for ticket is actually 'le billet'. It's very helpful for me though!
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