I went to Toulouse so I can enter Andorra, but my time in the Southern French city was impeccable.
My visit to Toulouse was one of it’s kind. My main purpose was to take the bus to Andorra, a landlocked country where travellers can only enter from South of France or North of Spain. I spent 1 day in the city centre and 2 nights with my host family, and I feel really lucky I stopped over.
As always, I couldn’t leave a city without visiting a single museum. On my way to the museum of my wish, I discovered the main art museum. I walked in and was immediately attracted to the outdoor garden in the middle of the museum buildings. Art works are always nice but I value more a green, quiet place where I can sit down, have a sip of my cappuccino and just write. There were also sunbathing canva chairs with vivid colour prints and so it was even more relaxing. It was a bit chilly, but with the trees I felt perfectly fine. And of course, the air was fresh.
Search Toulouse on Couchsurfing and you will find Julia and her family a very famous/ popular/ experienced host. Her profile was very interesting to read and I was very lucky to stay with her and her family. Julia was originally from Indonesia and in her living room it was decorated with wooden furnitures from Indonesia. I felt very warm and cozy because wood is one of my favourite materials. It is earthy, lively and I feel wood will never get cold unless you put it in the freezer. Maybe that’s because once, woods were trees too. On the table I found a special item and I asked what it was. And this was how I discovered Congklak, a traditional Indonesian game.
On the item, which basically is a boat carved with 16 holes (7 each side and 1 each end), one put 7 beans or seeds or beads or seashells in each side hole.
Congklak is a 2-player game and what it requires is really math. Me and Julia’s daughter had great fun playing it, often spending the whole night on the game table. I was very flattered because Julia told me I was the first and only couchsurfer in many years who asked about the item and because of me they started to play Congklak again. The item was meant to be a decoration, but she was happy I asked about it. I was surprised, because how could such an interesting game not be more appealing than Animal Farm or Tetris Battle ? I have always loved board games and chess because it is always the easiest way to bond with other people.
The second night at Julia’s place I cooked a Chinese dish. It was not good at all, but the family finished the whole plate. Julia’s husband, JP, made my time especially unforgettable by offering me the last batch of fresh oyster available in the year. He told me the oysters won’t be available anymore the next week after I am gone and so I was really lucky. What’s more, it was the first time I have ever had oysters and I have to say after this, I still won’t eat any oysters at home (Hong Kong) because no oyster will be comparable to those ones I have had in Toulouse ! They were almost too fresh, huge in size and sweet in flavour. I just feel blessed and could not settle for anything less because then it will be a great shame !
It was especially hard to leave Julia’s family on the last morning. The bed was too comfortable I almost missed my alarm and I had Julia knocked on my door to wake me up. Turns out I was not the only guest who loved their bedding so much. Haha. Julia also cooked me really really nice fried rice, and I almost cried when she packed me a box of those so I could eat it on the bus to Andorra. Also JP asked me to take the fresh cherries he got from the market early in the morning, even that he already offered to send me to the bus station (it was a Sunday). I have been out (of home) for such a long time I already forgot the feeling of being taken care of, and being spoiled by my parents. It wasn’t like such feeling should always be desired, but every once in a while we all just want to be Mama’s child. Julia is a mother of four, and I believe she treats every guest like her child as well.
Here in Toulouse I learnt a few lessons. The best things in life are not the free things. The best things in life come when you don’t expect them and when you got them, you feel you earned a bonus and you feel blessed for it. Yes, my stay with Julia and her family was also “free”, but I didn’t feel happy because it was free. I felt happy because I didn’t expect anything from them but all they did was to be kind to me. Also, when everyone opens up their mind a little bit, everyone gains more than expected. It was only 2 nights I stayed, but we talked about everything in life. It was inspiring to learn about the couple and how they run their family, their jobs, and their country. And so, with the love and care from this family, I set off for my hike adventures in Andorra.