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Published: February 15th 2012
Note the ice!
Ok people, as I promised in the last posting, we are back to sailing the blue, happy waters of France and will be avoiding the dark abyss of my self-analysis. So, grab a friend, grab yourself, or grab whatever, because here we go...
From windy Narbonne I jumped on a rickety old train and landed myself smack-dab in the middle of snowy Toulouse. There's no taste of home like the sharp, icy prick of winter air that burns your lungs and freezes your lips so that you can't feel the snot dripping out of your nose.
My hostel happened to be out in the bum-stink part of town, about seven metro stops away from the station. My least favorite part of traveling is the time spent on the metro with the great big pack on your back. In those moments, there's just no escaping the "ugh tourist" glare; the one that says "get off the train and go back where you came from!"
Once relieved of said tourist neon signal (aka my backpack) I sucked in some more frigid air and hit the sights...
...of which there are not many.
Basilique St-Sernin, a huge monstrosity, bears
down over the rooftops, its octagonal bell tower like an angry spire against the sky. It was built to commemorate M. Sernin who, as all saints must, endured trials and challenges, namely being dragged through the streets tied to a sacrificial bull. (Count me out for Sainthood.) It is prided for its Romanesque architecture, being the biggest church of its type, as well as its Gothic completion. Also a stop on the southern route of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, you can imagine the massive amounts of crushing humbleness that rain down upon these traveling repenters.
Nearby, in the Couvent des Jacobins, which is basically a long hall with partially completed stained-glass windows, is oddly enough where one Thomas Aquinas is interred. The little that I know of the conservative philosopher stems from a random purchase I made several years ago in an Oxford bookstore and though I do not remember particularily agreeing with his ideas, I seem to remember him being rather famous for them. So I have decided to count this as a celebrity sighting.
As a day trip I decided to add one more Compostela stop to my growing list and made for the small
town of Moissac, where I am told the Abbaye St. Pierre is unforgettable. If only. Due to my continued trouble with quickly
processing French numbers, I miscalculated my connecting trains by about three hours. Way to go, Aubrey. I had planned to use my expertise and see two sights in one day, the second being the fortified city of Montauban on the way back to Toulouse, but it seemed the fates thought differently. I did indeed see the Abbaye, and though its starkness fits well with the idea of repentance, I was more concerned with its lack of heat in the ever decreasing temperature. And since it took me only ten minutes to take it all in, I had nearly three hours to kill in a town deader than a ghost town without ghosts.
A beer and two cappuccinos later and after a slight panic moment when I realized I'd left my camera behind (no worries, I got it back), I raced to the train station, fingers frozen, nose red, and in a mood that could cut through steel. Thus I decided to forgo the second stop and stowed away on the train back to Toulouse and my hostel
(via those same seven stops)...and warmth.
Ended the evening sharing a bottle of whiskey (courtesy of an Irishman) with my fellow guests, prying into each others lives as only strangers can.
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