All good things must come to an end: Last weekend in Toulouse and Carcassonne

It’s so hard to believe that my time in Nice is already at its end.  As cliché as it sounds, it feels like I just got here a few weeks ago, yet here I am four months later preparing to say goodbye to the city.

This weekend our program had our end-of-the-semester excursion to Toulouse and Carcassonne.  After finishing the last of our classes at the Université de Nice this past Friday, all 16 of us (plus our professor) took an EasyJet flight from Nice to Toulouse on Saturday.

After arriving in the city I immediately knew why Toulouse is known as La Ville Rose, or The Pink City.  All of the buildings are made of gorgeous brick, giving a warm vibe throughout, complete with the red-orange tiled roofs.

CIG_IMG017

CIG_IMG018

After checking into the hotel we had some time to unpack and settle in, and then we set off for a guided tour of some of the city, learning about some of the history behind the buildings, the museums, etc.  After the tour we got dinner at a great Tapas place.

CIG_IMG023

CIG_IMG022

The next day had us up bright and early for another tour, this time to see the two big markets of Toulouse.  During this tour we were able to taste some locally made foods, including some fois gras, different porks, and, in typical French fashion, cheese and wine.

CIG_IMG021

After the market tour we went on a mini canal cruise.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying any attention to what the guide was saying, preferring to listen to my music while I watched the trees roll by, but nonetheless it was a very relaxing time.  Living in the city of Nice, I forgot how much I loved seeing lush green trees in all directions!

CIG_IMG019

Monday was our day in Carcassonne!  I don’t know about you, but I could look at country landscapes forever, so the forty-five minute train ride wasn’t nearly enough for me.  The French countryside will never cease to amaze me.

CIG_IMG010

CIG_IMG009

We arrived in the more modern half of Carcassonne and walked to the fortified medieval part.  From the outside it looks like Hogwarts or some other type of grand castle, but when you walk in you see that it’s actually an entire village inside!  Upon arrival we all separated into smaller groups to get lunch and wander before rejoining for another tour, which took us into the museum and along the wall for some magnificent views of the city before heading out to return to Toulouse.

CIG_IMG007

CIG_IMG008

CIG_IMG006

After another gorgeous and too-short train ride we returned to Toulouse for some relaxation.  After our return, Grace and I decided to go to to the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, which was undoubtedly one of the most magnificent cathedrals I’ve ever seen (and, to be fair, I’ve seen quite a few).

CIG_IMG020

CIG_IMG014

CIG_IMG015

CIG_IMG016

Because Monday was a national holiday (World War II Victory Day I believe), most of the restaurants weren’t open so we had the chance to cook in our hotel rooms since we all had kitchenettes!  Although when I say cook, that’s a bit of an overstatement.  For me this means boiling some raviolis and eating them with some butter that I took from the hotel breakfast that morning.  For others it meant microwaving some instant meals.  But no matter how complex (or not complex, in our case) our meals were, it was nice to have a relaxing night in to spend some quality time together, knowing that soon we’ll all be going our separate ways.

We all had a free morning on Tuesday, some we all had a choice of doing whatever we wanted.  Grace, Trey, Jojo and I decided to take a walk to the Japanese gardens.  We explored, took a lot of pictures, and soaked in the simple beauty of the gardens.

CIG_IMG004

CIG_IMG005
This pretty kitty was hiding in some of the garden bushes but came right out the moment we noticed her!

Afterwards we found a cute café to have lunch in before deciding that we (mostly me) wanted to see a view of the city from the rooftop terrace of the Galéries Lafayette, so we set off.  On the way we stopped at a beautiful stationary store and a magnificent poster store!  I didn’t buy anything from the stationary store, but I did buy a poster for myself as well as one for my parents!  However I’m still angry at myself that I forgot to take a picture of the store itself (I also wanted to take a picture of the actual posters but I forgot and now they’re trapped in my suitcase.  Oops…)

When we got to the Galéries, we were saddened to see that, after making our way to the top floor, the terrasse was closed!  Such a disappointment!  But we did wander upon a piece of street art by Invader!

CIG_IMG003

With that we wandered back to the hotel to drop off our stuff and get ready to leave for a french cooking class!  We arrived around 3:00 and after scrubbing our hands clean and putting on our oh-so-chic plastic aprons, we began making some pastries!  While in the end all of them together were a bit too sweet for me, we all had a great time.

CIG_IMG001

CIG_IMG002

We finished the day with one final group dinner at another tapas place, eventually heading back to the hotel to start preparing our bags and relaxing one last time.

CIG_IMG011
From left to right: Karen, Alyssa, Iris, Me, Jojo, Caroline, Grace, Lena, Roxy, Colton, Trey, Katia, Annie, Matt, Chiko

Yesterday, Wednesday, we had our flight back to Nice.  After dropping my bags off at my apartment, I went to get a haircut (gotta look fresh for Graduation in a week and a half!) and explored some of my favorite sights one last time before finishing packing my things (thankfully I packed most of my stuff before leaving for Toulouse, knowing I wouldn’t want to do it all tonight), had one last dinner with my host family, and sat on the beach one final time to listen to the Mediterranean waves crash on the shore.

This morning I said goodbye to my host family and flew to Ireland, where I’m spending Thursday in Dublin and Friday on a day tour of the Cliffs of Moher and the Irish countryside.  Saturday I fly off to Paris, where I’ll spend the day touring and exploring my favorite places there.  Sunday I’ll visit Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny for the first time, and Monday I’ll explore the city for a bit one last time before flying home to New York Monday night.

I would be lying if I said that this semester was perfect.  There were definitely ups and downs.  There were some very minor problems with a few of the people that I was here with, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the French education system, and I discovered that I honestly couldn’t live in a big city long-term (noise, pollution, everyone smokes, etc etc).  But despite these things it was incredible.  I learned so much about myself and my own identity, I made amazing friends, and I got to experience an entirely new culture, something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to have this semester, and I can’t even begin to thank my parents (who will likely be reading this very soon) for allowing me to do this.  And to top it off, I’m fortunate enough to be returning to France in the fall, but to the Bordeaux region, which will open a new set of adventures.

Here’s to the best semester of my college career, to a French filled future, and to a busy last few days in Europe before heading back home and graduating!

CIG_IMG001

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s