The Sockeyed Blog

Ben Johnson's Blog

Archive for October 1990

October 17 1990 – Toulouse

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Had quite an enjoyable day yesterday. I bought 5 postcards and wrote them to Derek, Mom + Dad, Anthony and Graham. I wrote one for Jessica on Sunday. They were all mailed yesterday in Ramonville.

Simon and I headed towards downtown to look into a division of an American college on Rue Japon in search of French language studies, but they offered nothing at our level. It was interesting to see a group of American Ivy-league types speaking fluent French.

We walked into downtown to St-Étienne cathedral, a gothic piece whose mottled, unbalanced outside doesn’t do justice to its wondrous inside. The stones were all worn from 800 years of people walking around the choir, the light shone through the stained-glass windows, and somebody played the organ, the sound rattling my bones in a most pleasurable way. Sat down and just listened for a while.

After we walked around downtown with buildings one associates with France, with balconies, shutters and window boxes. This inspired us to search for a place to live, so we searched downtown for à louer signs.

Written by sockeyed

October 17, 1990 at 15:06

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October 15 1990 – Toulouse

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Woke at 7:30, feeling groggy and headachey. I wandered around the house and watched some French TV.

Around 11:00, Simon and I walked to the bus to go to the Mirail University. The buses run often and quickly.

We wandered around the university, which is a rather peculiar lay-out; essentially one ground-level gridular unit of connecting rues. After a fair search we found Amphi #1, then went for lunch which we ate on a nearby wall. We had poulet sandwiches in baguettes.

At 1:30 we took our placement tests for French classes along with about 150 other students from literally all over the world.

The test itself was challenging, as a large part was responding to oral selections, chock full of words I could not understand, plus in between sections, people would all start smoking, and there was a crying baby and a dog present.

Not quite recovered, we took the bus home and headed out for exercise. I tore along the canal which runs through the city and connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Imagine that! It takes one out of the city and into the country quite quickly. Following the canal, which is tree-lined, is both a gravel and a paved path. I hammered out for about ½ an hour before heading home. I felt much better as a result.

I am looking forward to living away from a family because , to be honest, I don’t really like the family situation here.

Written by sockeyed

October 15, 1990 at 14:56

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October 14 1990 – Les Pyrénées

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October 14 – 7:30am

Yesterday: slept fairly well, then woke up to eat a wonderful continental breakfast of fresh croissant that melted in one’s mouth, bread, jams and coffee.

After a while we all piled into the car and drove southwest. The first hour and a half was flat and fairly dull, but then we started coming to villages, and then to the foothills of Les Pyrénées. In a town we bought some cheese and poked around in a market, then drove further into the mountains, encountering the switchbacked, narrow roads the mountains are famous for.

We came to a village a fair ways up, and turned down into a valley by a river to eat our lunch, which I took pictures of.

The valley was breath taking, typical of what one would expect in these mountains: steep, high peaks, grass, ancient buildings, warmth, grass. It took my breath away.

We set off again after an hour and a half, and drove to the Grande Randonnée, a hiking trail which extends along the entire length of the Pyrénées with lodges that contain beds and food every so often. We hiked in about 5kms, up about 350m to Lac d’Oô, which sits in a basin high up in the mountains, with a waterfall crashing in, peaks looming over, and goats bleating wildly.

We trekked back down the trail to the car after sufficient absorbing of the scenery, and drove to the top of the col 1560m, which had spectacular and hair-raising switchbacks, but afforded a lovely view.

Driving home, I dozed a little. We ate pizza emporter for dinner, then I went straight to sleep at about 9:00.



Went for a lovely ride in the country south of Toulouse with Simon. It was sunny, hot and very windy. The hill here are phenomenally steep, providing terrific winding descents. We only rode about 40km, but ended up quite baked. We would often climb the hills just to survey the countryside, which is dry, rolling and agricultural, with many a small, scenic town.

Many other cyclists were out and about on a sunny Sunday, almost all older men but I saw two females. No youths were visible. They must spend all their time dressing up and smoking.

At home we watched the Paris-Tours race which was presented in a very detailed, live format. I also phoned mom and dad.

Written by sockeyed

October 14, 1990 at 13:54

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October 12 1990 – Toulouse

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Had a turbulent night’s sleep, that is waking every 2 hours, but I am becoming accustomed to the time here.

I got out of bed at around 8:00 and had cereal for breakfast. I walked to David’s work with Eileen and Simon. It is about 20 minutes away along a lovely canal which connects the Mediterranean to the Atlantic [Canal du Midi]. We took a different route back, stopping to buy pain au chocolate to had with our morning coffee.

Eileen took us on a drive into the countryside which is so close, where I found what I had anticipated in France: narrow, winding roads up and down hills in lovely country, and shops selling cheese, produce, fresh bread and wine. I was in heaven, and the weather was beautiful and warm.

We ate the bread and cheese for lunch, then drove into the city to explore. I changed some money, which fetched a poor rate of 4.3 francs/dollar. I wandered around the curving, busy streets looking at the ancient buildings and the people who spent a great deal of time primping and preening themselves, and don’t look at you.

I saw Les Jacobins, a large church and St-Etienne, a romanesque cathedral dating from the 11th Century. It is a very solid structure, inside and out, and quite austere within. I sat inside for a while, simply enlightening the senses.

Simon and I met at 3:30 and drank citron pressés before heading home.

I slept for an hour.

For dinner we had turkey in baguette pieces, fresh mozzarella and tomato salad (yum!) 12 franc wine and very stinky camembert for dessert.

I greatly look forward to riding my bike that I assembled this evening in the country.

I miss Jessica deeply.

Written by sockeyed

October 12, 1990 at 20:40

Posted in Travel

Thursday October 11, 1990 – Toulouse, France

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I’m here.

A long time ago, back in Vancouver, we woke up at 5:00am. Simon had just got in from whooping it up all night.. I had had a nervous night of strange dreams.

I had a last breakfast of toast + jam and tea, looked around the house, kissed the cats goodbye and left the house.

Corinne, a friend of Simon’s and Reckless employee [Reckless Rider – the bike shop I worked in] drove our huge amounts of luggage and Simon to the airport in her van, and I went with mom and dad in the Omni.

At the airport with had a bit of a problem with all our luggage. We each had one excess oversized bike and our suitcases (Simon’s hockey bag) were overweight, mine by 10 pounds and Simon’s by 30. The check-in attendant gave us two boxes to put in our overweight excess. In total we had eight pieces of luggage, four over the limit. We probably would have had to pay $500 in excess fees, but we slipped the attendant two Reckless t-shirts, and she didn’t charge us a cent! I couldn’t believe it.

It was sad to say goodbye to Mom and Dad of course, but the should be out in May. We gave each other big hugs.

Our flight to Toronto took about four hours and was uneventful.

We stopped over for 2 ½ hours in Toronto airport and played video games and walked up and down the terminal.

Our flight to Paris was aboard a 747 which stopped shortly in Montreal. Once again it was a smooth uneventful flight.

Arrival in Paris was absolutely spectacular. The sun was just rising above the absolutely huge, modern Charles de Gaulle airport and there were all these rabbits running around between the runways on the grass.

We transferred through the airport onto a 727 commuter flight to Toulouse. It was a clear morning so I could see the country down below. Small towns existing continually and absolutely nothing is undeveloped and wild.

Of course the Pulfreys met us at the airport, but only two pieces of luggage arrived with us, luckily they were my suitcase and Simon’s hockey bag.

We drove around the less scenic part of the city to the Pulfreys’ house in the southeast end of Toulouse.

Their house is quite small, two floors, but nice to live in. WE had a lunch of fresh baguettes, cheese, ham, veggies and orange juice.

At this point I had a four hour nap, then a bath and a shave, here I write this now.

Quite amazing to be here!

Written by sockeyed

October 11, 1990 at 20:28

Posted in Travel