Toulouse

I woke up the next morning in Colomiers and felt a lot better. The hostel offered free breakfast and Nancy, the owner of the place, was super friendly and helped me with the bus route into town. Even the guy who was so standoffish the night before turned out to be charming and funny in the morning time. I tried the first bank on the way out of town and got cash immediately. Things were definitely looking up!
To top it all off, the sun came out as I reached Toulouse. And even though I felt embarrassed at my complete lack of French, I managed to get myself a map and explore the city without having to talk to too many people.
Although I hadn’t travelled very far distance wise, France felt wildly different from Spain. And yet, I can’t quite pinpoint what is was. Churches were large and impressive, but had less detailing or moorish influence. It felt more medieval, Joan of Arc-esque and less Arabic or Gaudi than the architecture of Catalan or Andalucia. But nevertheless, it did not lack in beauty.
The churches, the cobblestone, the river running through the city: Toulouse is very picturesque. And, being my first French city, I was able to confirm or deny all my French stereotypes…
For starters, mimes, dressed in white face paint and sporting French berets are, perhaps sadly, no where to be found. However, people DO walk around just holding on to baguettes! (Not everyone of course, but a surprising number, so I dub this stereotype to be true).
People do NOT clean up after their dogs, but the general populous smell fantastic! Okay, so I don’t think smelling good is a stereotype, but maybe just a general observation of mine. I now understand why so many perfume ads are in French… The French are the ones who wear them!
But my real difficulty was not stereotypes, it was the accent. My mind was still in Spanish mode, and switching to a new accent was too much for my little brain to comprehend right away. This of course has made for some interesting conversations of late. My first of which was back at the hostel in Colomiers after I was finishing dinner.
I picked up some veggies at the grocery store on my way home and made a big salad for dinner back at the hostel. When I was finished, I started talking to two of the guys staying in my room. No one at the hostel really spoke English, but these two could get by in basic English, and so attempted to include me in their conversation.
“Do you like chocolate?” One guy asked me.
“Yes, of course!” I said
“I have some black chocolate, do you want me to get you some?”
“Actually, I’m so full from dinner, but thank you.”
“But with salad! Black chocolate, it is the perfect combination!”
“Dark chocolate and salad is supposed to be a good combination?” I asked skeptically, thinking he was joking.
“You do not have this in Canada!?” The look of profound shock on his face was almost comical. “But it is the best!”
“No, I can’t say that chocolate and salad is a popular food pairing at home”
The debate went back and forth for a while until finally he gave up.
“Well you must try it for yourself” he exclaimed, “I insist!” And he ran to his bunk to get the chocolate. When he returned he broke me off a piece and handed it to me.
It was delicious, obviously. Dark chocolate is my favourite. Not sure if it was really a winning match with my salad, but c’est la vie.
“It’s amazing. What’s it called?” I asked. He was confused and didn’t understand. “May I see the box?”
He passed my the rest of the chocolate. It was a brand I hadn’t heard of, but I instantly saw what the confusion was. The box read “chocolate noir et sal” or “dark chocolate with salt” it wasn’t salad he was saying, it was salt!
For some reason I found this so funny, I burst out laughing.
“Ooooh! Sal! Not salad!”
He looked confused.
“I thought you had said dark chocolate and SALAD went together, but you meant SALT!”
“Salt?” He asked confused
“Sal, not salad” to him, the words sounded exactly the same, so he still looked at me with a confused expression. But all of a sudden the guy behind him understood and started laughing hysterically as well.
The poor guy had no idea what was going on until the second guy calmed down from his laughter and explained in French.
“Salade? Salade?!” He yelled at me “But why would black chocolate go with salade!?!”
“Well that’s what I was trying to say!” I replied in between what had turned into uncontrollable giggles.
It was my first of many, many, many mistaken conversations. And I’m not quite sure why we all found this one particularly hilarious, but I was glad to be breaking through the language barrier, however slowly, and making some French friends!

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