Wandering through the center city one last time before my imminent departure my heart found resonance with some mournful Balkan melodies I heard. Around a corner I found an old Bulgarian busking on the sidewalk. I gave him my last few euros and sat down to listen for a while. His French was pretty minimal but he did show me how his gadoulka, which has no fingerboard, is played with the nails rather than the tips of the fingers. Over perhaps 20 minutes he gave me a little tour of Balkan melodies, some melancholy, some cheerful and some so beautiful I didn't want to leave.
Eventually I did leave, of course, and I wish him much success in his wanderings. He is certainly doing his small part to spread joy in the world -- a sort of inverse traveller, voyaging more to give away what he's brought with him than to bring back something new.
The Occitan Language
For those who speak French, it will be apparent (maybe not immediately) that the name of the region of which Toulouse is the capital - Langue d'Oc - means Language of "Oc". The indigenous language of Toulouse, Occitan, was once widely spoken throughout southern France and, in the 12th and 13th centuries, was the language of a vibrant poetic tradition that influenced much of Western Europe. Occitan was surpressed after the French Revolution in favour of French, but the rapid decline did not come about till the last century, as mass communication, urbanization and improved national education combined deal a near-fatal blow to the language. Despite the fact that many people no longer use the language as a daily tool of communication, it is undergoing a renaissance, and more young people are learning it. It is also used with greater frequency in the media, schools and universities, and, as you can see, it is also used on bilingual street signs in Toulouse. Occitan is a romance language that is closest to Catalan (not French) and that has numerous regional varieties, of which Provençal is one. Lenguadocien, spoken around Toulouse, is the medial dialect. Its name comes from "òc", which means "yes" - the Romans had no specific word for yes, so the romance languages had to make up their own. The Franks came up with "oïl" (later "oui") from hoc ille, while the Occitans used "òc". Books in and on Occitan can be bought at most major bookstores in Toulouse.
Don't forget to eat in some...
Don't forget to eat in some vietamite restaurants or indian restaurants...you can find a lot..and they are normally very good, go trough the Pont Neufs and you can find on the left a very nice place alon the river where to have a walk or just seat on the grass and have the best view on the other side of the town...
The area behind St Sernin is the arabian quarter....with nice markets....where to buy olives, spicies etc....
Le charme du sud
Le charme du Sud de la France, c'est de pouvoir déjeuner dehors, même au plein coeur de l'hiver. Dans les petites rues piétonnes du centre historique, les nombreux petits restaurants n'hésitent pas à sortir tables et chaise pour le plus grand plaisir des consommateurs. Vous avez souvent déjeuné dehors au mois de février ?
The charm of the South of France, it is to be able to eat lunch outside, even to the full heart of the winter. In the small streets pedestrians of the historic center, the numerous small restaurants don't hesitate to leave tables and chair for the biggest pleasure of the consumers. Did you often eat lunch outside in the month of February ?
Roman remains and a peaceful garden
Just next to the sublime St Sernin church is an archaeological museum: Musee St-Raymond. It is laid out with great elegance and has artefacts from the neolithic age through to Roman times. A picture of the fascinating pre-Christian Eve can be seen in one of my travelogues.
For those attracted to the ghoulish, there's a basement necropolis, but I didn't spend much time there, being of a nervous disposition!
Outside the museum you'll find a pretty oasis of a garden with palm trees, sweet smelling mignonettes, and a little coffee stall. A good place to take a break from site seeing.
Entrance to museum is €2.20 (this is as of autumn 2004).
Open summer hours (June -Sept) 10am - 7pm, closing at 6pm Oct to May.