Barging in France in 2008

Read my advice and hints for boating on Europe – by using this link.

Tuesday 1st September 2009

Ibis Hotel Toulouse

We flew in to a warm, slightly overcast day in Toulouse, the pink city of France, and the epicentre of aeronautics and aviation.  We planned to arrive and leave via Toulouse for our canal boat holiday along the historical Canal du Midi.

The French style of doing things was immediately apparent as we spent our first hour making our way to the hotel. We had done a basic French Speaking course to be on the safe side. We like the Michel Thomas method of learning a language. We did try a language school but forgot all they taught us. With Michel Thomas we were able to at least make ourselves understood and string words together.

Maybe we were lucky, but we found the French helpful and friendly, contrary to expectation. It started at immigration. Border control let you through with a stamp in your passport and skipped the harrowing interrogation some countries find necessary. It’s a much nicer way to start a holiday.

View from hotel room

The airport was clean and their information or ‘accueil’ went beyond what was required to help us. They phoned the Ibis Hotels to find out which one we’d booked into. Who knew there were three? And they gave us plenty information and maps so we could find the shuttle bus, all in perfect English.

At least two people saw us with our map and offered us directions as we walked to our hotel so we eventually hid our map. We were not expecting the French to be so helpful.

Anglicization going on here

After checking in and showering we popped out for a bite and promptly changed our minds. Toulouse is bigger and so much prettier than we imagined. We bought snacks and went back to our room to furiously read up on Toulouse and what to do. We like Wiki travel for travel information. wikitravel Toulouse

Our rudimentary French was slowly coming back. The complimentary Wi-Fi was great but you sign-on in French. And one has to be able to ask things like, “Can I drink the tap water here?” or “Where is breakfast please?”

We were glad we have made the effort to learn basic French many times.

Wednesday 2nd September 2009

Jardin du Plante

We like Ibis Hotels. Ibis Hotels Booking on-line is easy, and the rooms, although cosy, are always clean and comfortable. We opted to have the hotel French style breakfast at €7.50 each, which was a spread of the usual fruits, cereals, pastries as well as some regional foods such as cheeses, tortilla and good coffee.

Pont Neuf on the River Garonne

We had two days to explore the city on foot before we collected our boat. Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France. It’s home to Airbus, the aeroplane manufacturers, and has the 2nd highest number of universities in France. The modern energy contrasts sharply with the old architecture of the city. We strolled through cobbled walkways passing by cafes and buildings with typical Mediterranean architecture, terracotta roofs and shutters on the windows.

Then we went to the city gardens, which had fountains, sculptures and plants grown to resemble faces and objects. We ambled along the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi, which was built in the 1600’s, and was a vital link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

At lunchtime we remembered the superstores in France often have cafeterias, which offer local cuisine at excellent prices. We found Monoprix, a block away, and we each had a plate of assorted fresh salads from the buffet, boiled eggs, a small carafe of red wine to share and two carafes of water.
Not bad for €10.00?

Streets of Toulouse

The French style of eating is right up our street. They utilise lots of fresh vegetables. Fruits and salads are common components of a meal. Plain tap water and a small glass of wine usually accompany food. They take their time to enjoy lunch, which is from 12.00 to 14.00. Everything comes to a complete halt lunchtime in France, as people head home, baguettes in hand, to enjoy their midday meal.

That said that, we avoided the pricey French Bistros and Brassieres. The challenge of deciphering what we could receive on our plate, as well as the prices, kept us on the streets where we found great food. We regularly ate at Lebanese cafés where a huge combination mezze and salad platter would cost around €8.00 each, and a large carafe of wine to share (500 ml) was about €4.00.

We ended the evening with a stroll along the Garonne River, which came alive at night with students engaged in various activities along the banks.

Click here for Barging in France Day 3 and 4.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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