This fourth and final blog post is about our stay in France, especially Paris, Toulouse and Tournefeuille.
On 8 June, we left Amsterdam and took a Thalys TGV train to Paris. We arrived there at 15:00, relaxed a bit at my uncle’s and aunt’s place and had a nice Italian dinner there.
The next day, after some nice Parisian pastries, we left for Place Charles de Gaulle also known as Place de l’Étoile. As typical tourists (and despite having already been there in the past), we could not miss l’Arc de Triomphe, les Champs-Élysées, la Place de la Concorde and le Jardin des Tuileries.
For lunch, we headed toward Le Marais, one of the most iconic quartiers of Paris and we had lunch at a typical Parisian bistro called Bouillon Chartier. The food was excellent and we liked the ambiance and decoration as well.
In the evening, we went back to where we were staying and met some family members.
On the 10th, we left Paris for Toulouse in a Ouigo train, the low-cost version of the TGV. The trip was OK but, now that we know, we’ll only get the Inoui TGV trains for our interior trips. We arrived in Toulouse at 17:30 and Stéphane, my brother-in-law who had returned from their holidays in India on the same day, came to pick us up.
We arrived in Tournefeuille at 18:30 and, at last, we were reunited as Anya and Cherina were waiting for us. We were all very tired, had a nice dinner and drinks, cool conversations before going to bed while the sun was setting…
On Sunday 11th, we decided to stay home and help Stéphane mow the lawn (which had grown quite a bit while they were away in India). Then, we had a great barbecue lunch with Stéphane’s mum. In the evening, we watched some nice videos courtesy of Anya, played some games, drank some new beers and had a light dinner.
The next day, Stéphane had to resume work. Cherina took us to Cordes-sur-Ciel, a fortified town which was built in 1222 on a hill above the clouds that frequently collect in the river valley and which has become a popular tourist destination (according to Wikipedia). We had lunch in a really nice restaurant called La Planche de Bacchus which, in addition to serving great food and wine, has a patron sympa! We stayed at Cordes-sur-Ciel until 15:30 and we then drove back to Tournefeuille before the heavy traffic.
In the evening, we all went for dinner in a Japanese restaurant called Nippon Teien at Plaisance-du-Touch. The food and the Japanese beer were excellent and Christina kept saying how much the brochettes reminded her of the small Japanese restaurant called Le Soleil Levant where we used to go in Lyon when we were students.
On Tuesday 13th June, we decided to discover some facets of Toulouse which we didn’t know. We got to city centre around 11:00, spent some time along the Garonne river, had a nice Lebanese lunch in a small restaurant called O’Saj followed by succulent ice-creams at Amorino at Place du Capitole.
Cherina had booked a guided tour of Toulouse for us which we started at 14:30. During two hours, our guide, Emmanuelle, brought us to many landmarks and gave us detailed information about them. We started at Place du Capitole and walked to Basilique Saint-Sernin, le Couvent des Jacobins (which is breathtaking) and other beautiful historical places. Toulouse is really a beautiful city.
In the evening, we had dinner at Castanet-Tolosan and enjoyed a wonderful paella cooked by Ghislaine, Stéphane’s mother and Cherina’s mother-in-law. After dinner, Cherina and Stéphane dropped us at Anya’s apartment.
On this Wednesday, Anya would be our guide. We started with a visit at La Halle de la Machine with very interesting electrical, mechanical and hydraulic exhibits. We were impressed by the Minotaure and many of the drawings made by François Delarozière, the initiator of the project. We were back at INSA Toulouse at 17:00 and we spent some time watching Anya and her friends practice some songs.
At 19:00, we went back to the Toulouse city centre and had dinner at La Gouaille, a restaurant where Anya had celebrated her last birthday. The food was amazing and I liked the Pelforth brown ale too.
We ended the night by having a few drinks at The Four Monkeys pub with Anya’s French friends as well as Joshna and Anaïs, her friends from Mauritius. I loved the Grimbergen brown ale a lot. I think I’m developing a taste for strong brown ales: Affligem, Pelforth and, now, Grimbergen.
The next morning, on 15 June, we left Toulouse for Paris again. Anya’s good friend had dropped us at the train station. We arrived at Gare Montparnasse at 15:15, did a quick shopping and headed back to my uncle’s place. For our last dinner in France, my uncle and his daughter took us to Aux Bons Crus, another typical Parisian bistro. Again, the food and the wine were delicious.
This concluded a very enjoyable stay in France over 9 days. We would like to thank my uncle, aunt and cousin in Paris, Cherina, Stéphane and Ghislaine in Toulouse and, of course, Anya. They all welcomed us warmly and we really enjoyed their company.
On Friday 16 June, my uncle dropped us at the train station and we left Paris by TGV Thalys and, after one and a half hour, reached Bruxelles-Midi. We took a 20 minute train to the Brussels Zaventem airport, which we reached around 14:30.
Our flight was supposed to depart at 21:40 and, therefore, we had a few hours to kill. We had some light lunch, bought some magazines and relaxed a bit before checking in at 18:30. Then, we went to the Duty-Free shop to buy some Belgian chocolates, some beer and other gifts. Kyan and I enjoyed playing some tunes on a piano in the lobby. The acoustics were superb.
We boarded at 21:00 but the plane took off after approximately one hour. We did land on time in Mauritius on the next day though. We arrived home at 14:00 and immediately went to fetch Kiki.
Visiting four different countries (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France) over three weeks was intense and expensive. But the experience was well worth it.
Kyan, Christina and I enjoyed meeting people who understood the importance of having a proper work-life balance. European cities and towns are really beautiful and well preserved. And the Europeans and Mauritians we met tend to be well-balanced, happy and nice people.