Today was Do The Errands Monday. The biggest errand was to pack Cuddles for Beautiful fountain her trans-Atlantic journey to her next home. Even though she threatened to hire a lawyer to prevent her departure, we prevailed. The friendly folks at the French post office didn't have a large enough international mailing box so we got a box at one of the many photocopy shops in this university neighborhood.
It's still raining off and on, but we wanted to see more of the central city so we jumped puddles. Our timing was a bit off; the church which was closed because of Mass on Sunday was closed for lunchtime today. Generally, as we get farther to the south we find more observance of the midday closing time, not only by shops, but by churches and museums as well. Leads a person to believe a leisurely lunch is in order. Public facility
The restaurant we chose advertised cassoulet which is a Toulouse, or rather a southern French specialty. We were served a large casserole, piping hot. A base of white beans, carrots and ham pieces cooked in a mild tomato sauce held two long and narrow sausages, four sausage slices and two duck drumsticks.
While we were waiting to be served, we were able to observe a tiny old lady at a nearby table. She was so short that the restaurant had provided a cushion for her to sit on, and still she reached only slightly above table height. She was dressed in a grey plaid wool suit with a brown patterned scarf over her shoulders, with a white angora wool cap fitted tightly over her white-haired head. For her dessert she had selected a little bowl of white pudding, which was accompanied by a shaker of sugar. She carefully topped her pudding with four little sugar mounds, then stirred it and ate it.
So naturally we needed to try it too. It is called Fromage Blanc and, Garonne River unsweetened, tastes like buttermilk beaten smooth, and was a perfect complement to the rich cassoulet.
Apart from the little lady, we were entertained by a trio of Upper-Class English. They wore good woolen suits, had long, horsey faces with turned-down mouths, and spoke loudly, in the Queen's best properly accented English. We enjoyed hearing their comments about snobbish Parisians as they, too, tucked into cassoulet (theirs had mussels).
Fortified, we hunted down Books and Mermaids, an English-language shop. We'd found their monthly newsletter in the Tourist Information Office; it is full of useful information for English-speakers in Toulouse. The shop itself sells used English-language books.
Although we were fifteen minutes early for their after-lunch opening, the proprietor, a genial gent with a generous white beard, popped out the door and welcomed us in just as we were turning away. Turns out he is an expatriate from Historic canal Toronto, who shipped the contents of his Toronto bookstore to Toulouse about twelve years ago. He and his friends and a very nice bookstore cat offer a comfortable setting for browsing. The strength of his collection is an excellent array of Canadiana, both fiction and non-fiction, which we would have loved to read while we were touring Canada last summer.
Books and Mermaids serves as an information source for Anglophones in Toulouse. The proprietor said he receives questions on almost every subject: one recent one was "Where can I learn Irish dancing in Toulouse?"
Our return walk took us to the banks of the Garonne River and its hydroelectric plant, then to the historic canal and finally through the public garden.
At the grocery store, each woman shopper was given a rose today (it was the special customer promotion) and we were welcomed to Toulouse by a fellow shopper who has visited Carmel, California.