The month of February started off with a visit from two of my favorite people: my mom and my dad. Back in December, my dad retired and had been planning a Mediterranean cruise with my mom and two of their friends from Birmingham (Sam & Doris). This would be my dad’s first trip to Europe (but his second trip to a French speaking country) and my mom’s second trip (her first was to Ireland). I’ve been singing the praises of Europe since my first trip to Italy back in 2005, and I was overjoyed they’d decided to take their first European vacation and even more excited they’d decided fly to Toulouse a few days early to see our new home.
They had somewhat of a whirlwind trip to get here with a flight from Atlanta to Paris (CDG) to Barcelona and then what I think might’ve been a puddle jumper type plane flight from Barcelona to Toulouse. This has some significance as I didn’t realize there was a flight from Barcelona to Toulouse. But, looks like they fly once a day at 12 noon from Barcelona and around 2pm from Toulouse to Barcelona. Good to know for future reference, as it’s (I’m sure) much faster than a train ride, though probably not as pretty.
Anyway, I met them at the airport and we took a cab into the city. By this time I think they’d been awake for close to a full day, so I’d planned we’d have a casual afternoon where they could shower, take a brief nap, and then prepare for a nice dinner at home then hit the ground running the following morning, as we had some sights to see.
The next morning the three of us made our way over to Marché Victor Hugo, which is maybe my favorite spot in Toulouse (it’s definitely my most visited). We shuttled to and fro with me pointing out rabbit, foie gras, horse, and various organ stations peppered about with bread, pastry, and cheese shops. I think the bread and pastry shops were my dad’s favorites, though nothing really feels more French (in my opinion) than taking a trip to a French market. I showed them where I buy my fish, my butcher, my boulanger, as well as my chicken, pork, and fruit/vegetable guy outside. Longtime readers will know I have quite the rapport with my fruit/veggie guy. I’m happy to report the love was shared with my parents as they were both gifted some dates (my dad’s first fresh date, ever). What a literal treat. We also left with un mélange de patisseries, which might have also been my dad’s favorite part.
Next we picked up some fancy, European hot chocolate (for my dad) and then made our way to a crêpe lunch followed by a walk around the city seeing sites like Pont Neuf (below) and the Capitole (below). It was a bit of a cloudy day, but the temperatures were mild and inviting.
I had heard from a friend (Alice!) that you can go inside the Capitole and there are gorgeous paintings/architecture. I’d alerted my parents, but suggested we return on Saturday when Jim could also join us. I regret to inform everyone that the Capitole is not open for viewing on the weekends. So, if you’re itching to do that, go during a weekday. Lesson learned.
A bit after lunch my dad went back for a nap and I took my mom out to find postcards and return to investigate the button/yarn shops close to our lunch spot. I have to admit, this store has some pretty cute things in it. If I knew how to knit (or had the patience to learn how to knit), I think I’d buy some of the cute little knit kits they had and give those types of things as baby shower gifts. They had a ballerina, an elephant, a fox, and a bunny. Each more adorable than the last. My mom made her way out with some fancy buttons and (I think) ideas for a bracelet. I’ve also now been tasked with finding some sort of a pin/piece of jewelry with the Toulouse “crest”/”symbol” on it. So, Toulousains, if you see something, please let me know.
We kept dinner that night pretty low-key with our famous Chicken & Dumplings at home (a family favorite), some French wine, chocolate mousse (made by yours truly) and a digestif of Johnny Walker Blue and Armagnac. I was especially keen to get my father to try the armagnac because we’d bought him smaller bottles at Christmas and wanted him to try a few more.
Jim joined us for some sight-seeing/eating on Saturday. We started the morning with another trip to Marché Victor Hugo, but this time we went upstairs for lunch at our favorite fish spot: Au Bon Graillou. There we’d really talked up the rillettes and fish soup. Unfortunately, with an onion allergy, both my parents opted for the shrimp, instead. Following lunch we made our way toward The Grand Rond and Garden of Plants with a quick stop at the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne.
There was a special antiques show that weekend behind the Monument aux Morts (the arch), which is 100 percent right up my mom’s alley, though the language barrier (I think) kept her from haggling and taking too much home.
From the antiques we walked toward the garden, but found it locked with a sign that explained it was temporarily closed for our safety. Weird, I thought. Only later did we find out why it was closed. Apparently on windy days the parks are closed as there are many trees within both that are old and not especially stable (held up by wires), so to make sure they don’t fall over on anyone, they just close the parks. Interesting stance. It was too bad, as I really thought both would’ve been nice to explore for my parents.
Regardless, after a little more walking we decided to rest up before dinner at Winter Garden, which seems to be the most favorite restaurant of all the Americans we know in Toulouse. It’s not hard to see why as the food is great (always) and the staff (Max & Matt) speak perfect English, always remember you, and are just generally delightful. If you’re in Toulouse and looking for a great meal, I’d recommend you go here.
The next morning we made breakfast at home – a French Baby (ok, really it’s a Dutch baby) with sausage and fresh fruit before they packed up and made their way back to Barcelona to start their cruise.
It was great fun to show my parents around our new home and help introduce my dad to Europe. I just hope they’ll come back again!