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Published: July 14th 2015
I finally convinced the kids to come riding along the canal with me
The French really know how to throw a conference, because as we all know, it's not the information but the food everyone talks about after these things! I'm obviously being tongue-in-cheek, because the papers have been quite amazing. They do need to be, because we start each day at 8.30am and finish at 6.00pm. Lunch is a gastronomic, 90 minute affair involving foie gras, freshly cut jambon, all sorts of little blinis with prawns etc., then some sort of hot dish and salad. On the first day I thought we were done and went back to review some work, when Suzanne announced that dessert was on - a selection of wonderful petit fours including Isabel's favourite macarons, served with espresso. I would have saved a couple for her if I hadn't been sure they would be a melted mess in my bag by the time she got them.
The last few days have really been work, eat, play, repeat. How lucky that Toulouse summer evenings last until about 11pm! We have certainly crammed a lot in to our time here.
After the conference cocktails on Thursday evening - a lovely Toulouse liqueur made from violets which was topped up
in champagne glasses with sparkling rosé and candied violets - Brendan and the kids met us in town. We wanted to do a bit more sightseeing and have dinner at a lovely square quite close to the university that we had spotted on our train ride. It was a lovely wander down, over the the Canal du Midi (I looked longingly at the bike path) past lovely shops, a bar advertising live jazz and an antique carousel. I had to stop at one point when I spied a group on Segways - I have this embarrassing desire to do a Segway tour - however it looks as though even with two adolescents providing cover for me, my work schedule will stop me ticking that one off my bucket list. All Toulouse evening tours are booked out or cancelled due to the heat.
As we arrived in the square, it was absolutely humming, with people sitting having a drink at little outdoor tables all over the place. With the help of Suzanne's better telephone French, we had booked a table WITH AIR CONDITIONING at a restaurant called Chez Emile, upstairs overlooking the beautiful Place Saint George. Couples were dancing very
impressively to fabulous live music and some sort of mime show was happening in another corner. I stood outside for a while before meeting the others upstairs and continuing to watch in comfort through the restaurant window. It seems we lucked out with Chez Emile. The food was sensational, the view over the square lovely, and everyone kept trying to decide whose meal was actually the best (Obviously that involved lots of taste-testing). There was a festive atmosphere at our table and Suzanne and I toasted with champagne to celebrate a big day that was over. Isabel's seafood 'Zarzuela', my melt-in-the-mouth Catalan lamb hotpot, Suzanne's cassoulet and Josh's pigeon were all amazing. I can't remember what Brendan ate but it looked good! Excuse all the food photos below, but I know some of our friends and family will be appreciative!
Afterwards we wandered and found a creperie to satisfy Josh's craving and sat outside as dusk turned to that lovely French blue twilight. The walk to the metro and train ride home was hilarious. Isabel was in fine form, entertaining us with funny dances at the railway station, and then our choice of seat turned the ride home into
something as good as Disney! Having no driver and a big glass window at the front of the train is fun when hurtling into tunnels after a glass of champagne.
The next morning at breakfast our hosts at La Maison laughed and told us we'd unknowingly picked their favourite restaurant in Toulouse. Apparently it's lots of people's favourite, as Suzanne spoke to a friend later in the week who also suggested they eat there!
Off we went again to the conference, before meeting the others at 6pm. This time I did succeed in convincing the kids to ride a bike with me for a while with me along the canal - not to the next town of Albi, which one day I will do - but at least far enough to find some tranquility in the middle of the city. The Toulouse bike system works just like the Velib in Paris, so there was the disadvantage of €150 per bike being held for 7 days on my credit card, but it was well worth the effort. Suzanne and Brendan went off to the conference Gala Dinner while Isabel, Josh and I finished our ride then sweated it out
at dinner and a guitar concert at a tiny NON-AIRCONDITIONED restaurant in Toulouse, thanks to me missing the "Pas
de climatisee" in my telephone booking conversation. Hmmm.
An evening fun run was on in the Capitole square, so we wandered through crowds of hot, sweaty people on our way to the Metro, enjoying the pump-it-up music and watching the last exhausted stragglers make it across the finish line at about 11pm. It was a hot night for it.
Isabel and I said good-bye to the Wakefield-Luno family today and began our big drive back to Paris eating left-over ice-cream from Wednesday night's dinner out of the tub. Breakfast of champions. Yes, it's still hot, 37 degrees again today, but luckily our sleep has been better since we worked out how to tweak the shutter/window/fan thing. (3 shutters and windows completely closed, 4th window furthest from the road open with the shutter rolled half-way down, fan positioned to pick up the cooler air) Result = sleep.
My sister-in-law, Sarah, is going to meet us in Paris for our final days in Europe. Having finished work until I return to Melbourne, I'm feeling particularly happy and have turned up
the radio, Jerry Maguire style.
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