The Wild Wild *South* (West)

With the travel restrictions finally lifted, and my back doing a lot better (shout-out to my physical therapist!), I was able to take a trip over the long weekend thanks to the celebration of the Ascension of our Lord.

A fellow exchange student and I made the trip by plane from Lyon to Toulouse, the aerospace capital of Europe, and were rewarded with a bird eye’s view on the Cité de l’Espace, with its replica rocket. We were not, however, rewarded with good weather.

Upon arrival in Toulouse we had enough time to take a quick picture and get some groceries before curfew. We spent the evening cooking and watching a movie, before I decided to get some much-needed sleep before my excursion the next day.

As a Catholic, I became familiar with Lourdes and the associated apparition of Mary years ago – when moving to France, it became an item on my bucket list. So I am so happy to finally have been able to make the trip, which measured 8 hours in total (including a two-hour train ride either way from and to Toulouse). I had a wonderful time at Lourdes visiting the grotto, going to mass and confession, and being able to take the time for myself and my relationship with God. Even the rain was not able to extinguish my joy.

In addition, an unexpected bonus of the trip was getting a look at the landscape at the foot of the Pyrenees.

Back in Toulouse to pouring rain in the early afternoon, my friend and I were able to walk around the entire central part of the city. Toulouse has lots of parks, and beautiful, distinctive streets and architecture. Once again, I found myself in a new French town thinking that really everything (alright, most) there is just beautiful. Some time into our hours-long walk we were even rewarded with sunshine, which improved the pictures we were able to take.

After another movie night (there really isn’t a lot to do with a 7 p.m. curfew), the final morning in Toulouse had us visiting the Japanese Garden within one the city’s larger parks, the Basilica Saint-Sernin which is part of the extended El Camino, as well as the campus of the University of Toulouse. The latter was more difficult to access than expected – we were quite surprised to have to walk around a large wall that enclosed half the campus.

Another train ride with gorgeous views brought us past Carcassonne to Narbonne (that is, closer to the Mediterranean). In Narbonne, my friend took another train and bus back to Lyon while one of my French friends was waiting for me in front of the train station, hereby beginning Part 2 of the weekend.

I was blown away by the drive through the Corbières Massif – I had not realized that I missed sitting in the passenger seat of a car on a back road with the windows down that much (yes, I like country music). At the house, we were able to take a gentle hike in the hills around the small village.

The next day involved a longer excursion and picnic around the étangs which lie between the coast and the Mediterranean. Just like that, sooner than I wanted, the weekend ended with a coastal drive back to the Narbonne station and a few hours in a train back to Lyon. However, even these were enjoyable, listening to music.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my adventures in a bit more detail. If all goes well, there is more travel to come in the next few weeks. I just had too much to say about this one trip to wait any longer before posting.

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