Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Toulouse, Part I: Evacuation Plan

Yes, the weather is terrible. "Violent wind, DANGER, risk of falling branches."

Our trip to Toulouse was another excellent illustration of the complexity of navigating a new place. You may recall a previous post, in which we discussed the pros and cons of relying on local publications versus established guidebooks. In that post, it's possible that we may have overemphasized the value of local guides. In fact, what we should have suggested is that reliance on a single form of travel guidance is not much better than using none at all.

We arrived in Toulouse on Thursday afternoon (Le Routard guide in hand). Once we got to the hotel, we also had the advantage of internet access (which we didn't have in Bordeaux). Et puis, it took Jefe only about four hours to find Let's Motiv, the local (free) toulousian guide, which became the third prong of our navigational apparatus.

third prong--100th edition of Let's Motiv

One of the first, and in many ways, best finds in Toulouse was thanks to Let's Motiv. El Chivito del Léo may look like a shack, but the Argentian tacos, sandwiches, empanadas, & cetera were so good that we went back two days later for more. And people who have been to Spain would appreciate the availability of San Miguel, which is, in Jefe's opinion, the best cheap beer in the world.

The next day, on the suggestion of Le Routarde, we went to the Marché Victor Hugo; the guide mentioned that the restaurants located on the upper level of the market were very good for lunch ("Get there early, or late, or prepare to wait," it said). What the guidebook didn't say was that in order to get to the restaurants, you have to go through a fire door, ride in an elevator of death (some graffiti on the inside warned that pushing on the door while in transit would cause it to spontaneously open) and walk down a spartan hallway. In fact, the only clue we were on the right track was this placard of the evacuation procedure noting the location of us and the nearby restaurants.

Vous êtes ici

Once we found them, everything went well. We walked through all the restaurants (since they lack separating walls, this is a little awkward, and the only way to tell them apart is their chosen color scheme) and finally chose Attila, which specializes in seafood. We had dorade carpaccio, shrimp risotto (unbelievably good, I think it may have had veal stock in it), and three small filets of different kinds of fish fresh from the market below. Don't forget the crème brûlée, mousse au chocolat, a little wine, and two p'tits cafes all for a reasonable price.

After lunch, Jefe went to Les Abbatoirs (the contemporary art museum, which had an exhibit by Antonio Saura, a series of paintings reinterpreting the Pinoccio story, and more abstract art),

Crucifixion by Antonio Saura

and Rebecca went in search of vintage clothing, books, and perhaps a small suitcase for our increasingly frequent train excursions. Just before separating, as we were walking off our wine, we noticed this unusual poster and took a picture (we'd recommend this to those of you who travel with a digital camera; it's often easier than writing stuff down, and you can avoid misspellings and incorrect times/dates).

It tooks us a few minutes to decode the alternating color typeface. The difficulty in telling where words begin and end (is that Cride la Mouette or Cri de la Mouette?) caused the ensuing internet search to take a little longer.

After the museum, Jefe looked up the address of the venue, Cri de la Mouette, on the internet. The address listed on Google was merely a street with no number (Allée de Barcelone), and so Jefe went to check it out to avoid prolonged wandering in the dark later. What he found was this:

is that...a boat?

to be continued...

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