Well, I’ve been meaning to get back to France for a while now. And now, I’ve done it. I still haven’t gone to the most mainstream of places: Paris, but it doesn’t bother me too much, as it seems like everyone ends up passing through there at some time or another. I was bummed that Notre Dame burned up… I was still in France when the news came in, crazy stuff, but hopefully I’ve seen enough huge, old churches to not feel too bad that I didn’t get to see it in all its glory.
People had been recommending that I visit the city of Toulouse since the first day I arrived in Europe last year, in August. (Literally.) The guy in the seat next to me on the Transatlantic flight was a student from Toulouse and we hit it off well and he recommended that I visited the city in the spring if I could, because that was when it was at it’s potential best. I thanked him for the advice and sat on it, thinking that I had many other places on my list, and if the time was right I would go. The first semester passes and then I hear from a couple of friends from UNM that they are both studying in Toulouse for the spring semester. I was like, wow that’s crazy, now I definitely need to go visit.
In March, my friends Zoe and Melanie (Zoe is one of the other study abroad blog writers) came down to Spain for a visit to Madrid, and I tried to show them a bit of the Spanish lifestyle what Madrid had to offer. And a month later, in April, I made my way to Toulouse to visit the city where they were studying.
Romance languages are very weird for their speakers because there are many Latin roots for words that make them almost the same in Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese. But then not quite the same. Very confusing. So sometimes you can read Portuguese or Italian or French or even understand the nouns and verbs or get the gist of what someone is saying, but sometimes you can’t understand anything. And you most certainly can’t speak it. Don’t even try substituting words in the language you know into another language unless you are ready for a misunderstanding or a very confused look. It is quite comical many times. I learned during this trip that while French is similar to Spanish in many aspects, I will need a lot of practice with pronunciation if anyone is ever going to accept my French. I guess that will have to be a project for a different day.
The language barrier made me very glad that I had my “guides” Zoe and Melanie to help me out and do the brunt of the talking that was required during the trip, although I was able to try my hand at the pronunciation (with some coaching) and many people speak a little Spanish or English as well. I don’t really know if my pronunciation got a lot better or not, but I think that ignorance may be bliss in this case. One can only try.
Well, I can say for sure, that I would also recommend visiting Toulouse if you are in the area, it is quite a nice city with some picturesque views of the river and nice architecture and buildings. I didn’t visit as many of the big and important buildings as I could have, but one of the things that I like best is just looking at the buildings from the outside, walking around the streets, watching people, and soaking up the sun (which my nose and face certainly did).
Melanie and Zoe were kind enough to introduce me to their Toulousian exchange friends, and we were able to engage in some “typical Erasmus” things which occupied a couple nights. It still stands that one of the most enjoyable parts of my exchange thus far has been getting to meet new people every step of the way across different countries, sharing experiences, stories, and good times. Nice to add to the collection with some other exchange students.
Since I was there for a few days we decided to take a day trip on Sunday to a city near Toulouse, and we ended up choosing Albi, a little city with some fantastic red brick buildings… or basically the entire city. The really used a lot of bricks on that place. The had a church that basically looked like the bell tower was a chimney because it was entirely made of bricks. (Lots of bricks.) As is typical of Europe, we ran into an American couple that retired to France, and we had a great lunchtime conversation. That’s how I aspire to be when I grow up, just chillin in a foreign country, retired and just talking to whoever you find to share a story and some advice with.
Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that it was also the weekend before we had to register for classes for fall semester at UNM. It was nice to be hanging out with some UNM students in that moment and having a similar experience with registration. We sat down in the back of a coffee shop in Toulouse with our laptops and got ready to register at 3pm, which was the our time to register, since they moved the registration to 7am in Albuquerque. 8 hours ahead in France. I think I got registered for all the classes that I want. Should be an interesting fall semester at UNM at least. I realized that by the time I make it back, I will have spent the same amount of time studying at UNM in Albuquerque as I have spent at the UC3M in Madrid. So we will see how the next academic year goes.
While the amount of sleep I received over the 4 days that I was there was very small it was inverse to the amount of fun that I had hanging out with some “old” friends and touring a couple of cities of southern France. Only a couple more months to go before I am heading back, and I hope there are still a few more trips around the block in the future.