Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 80: Ross' Time in Toulouse

The Garonne river as it passes through Toulouse.

Known as "la ville rose," or "the pink city," Toulouse is a spectacular place to visit. Magnificently divided by the Garonne river, complimented with beautiful parks along its banks. Out of the city's many attractions, my favorites were its parks and cathedrals (of which there are many). It's the perfect size for a week long stay; it's small enough to walk around and has a ton of sights to see and activities to do. The metro makes the entire city accessible. Aras lived on the outskirts of the city and I took the metro every day as I went to explore.

A fascinating ruined cathedral.
Random shadows during magic hour.
Bigger, better, faster.
This one should be a post card.

Another nice church. Woo.

Much of my time in Toulouse was spent in self reflection and meditation. Aras changed my life. We spent a lot of time together, cooking, meditating, and talking. I gained more of an appreciation for how my hosts can impact me. Among other things, I also learned the value of a long meal. Nearly all conversations we had happened during meals that would last for two or more hours. This was the first instance where I felt like I had more to learn from my host than I did from the city. Although I spent a lot of time at Aras' I also had a blast nibbling the fruits of Toulouse. It was fascinating to be aware of how I was focusing on the present. In trying to live in the moment, I would have brief glimpses of astounding freedom and clarity when I was able to quiet myself to completely experience whatever situation I was in. Aras' teachings were so fascinating because of their immediate applicability to daily life. Putting them into practice walking around Toulouse was joyful.

Kids 'n rockets.
An authentic gypsy camp!
This dude was really interesting to watch. His hands were black.

Beautiful wide streets and rich architecture.
The Toulouse Cathedral was astounding. Someone was playing the organ.
A true architectural wonder.

Thankfully, staying just over a week in Toulouse allowed me to spend time with Aras and explore the city. I met up with two other CouchSurfers while in Toulouse. They were both around my age and desperately trying to find jobs. One girl was from Transylvania! I asked her if blood was a traditional Transylvanian food and we both had a good laugh. We strolled aimlessly around the city and saw an architectural photography show and hung out in the Japanese Garden. The other dude was a recent graduate of university who was born and raised in India. I was so fascinated hearing about his life growing up in India that I can't wait to visit. He took me for some ridiculously decadent hot chocolate and we went out for drinks. One night we met up with a bunch of Aras' Iranian friends and went out for an amazing crêpe dinner and watched The Way Back.

I bought a new lens that takes photos through the floor.
Magic hour!
Apro was a ton of fun to hang out with. He was also into photography.
He took me for the best hot chocolate I've ever had. It was 100% chocolate.
Aras' traditional Iranian dish of saffron rice with sauteed mushrooms!

Originally, I planned to stay in Toulouse for about three days. During the second day it was clear that I needed more time to absorb. Fortunately, Aras had no problems letting me stay with him for a few more days. The combination of Aras' wisdom and Toulouse's beauty was perfection. I felt so comfortable there that leaving was difficult. When I felt the pull of the universe, it was time to move on. I had a goofy smile on my face as I left – the perfect balance of love for the past and excitement for the future – the present. I was Barcelona bound...

Au revoir!

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