This is a risky post … I’ve gone beyond jetlag and have turned to blogging therapy to rid my brain of imagination overload! After 36 hours of travel, we arrived in Toulouse. But the beautiful and very welcome French cliches started well before that – in fact they started in Hong Kong as we boarded our flight to London. The air host – he was a Frenchman (what do we call male hostess’ these days?), asked where we had traveled from and where we were headed. When he found out we were connecting through to his home town, he burst into a passionate babble about where we should go to eat. I couldn’t help but smile knowingly – he had no idea I’m a mad foodie and yet in typical French style, the first thought on his mind was restaurant recommendations – this is reason #26 on my list of why I love France!
Just as a side note – I’m pretty sure my blonde travelling companion has “gorgeous Australian gal” tattooed on her forehead. She commented very innocently about how friendly the French are … I assured her that her presence helps with that.
So, armed with a handwritten list of six restaurants, we headed into town with two goals: stay awake until at least 6pm (it’s now 8.30pm!); and find a place to create a memory for lunch. We nailed both.
We ate at Au Bon Graillou above the Marches de Victor Hugo (Victor Hugo Markets). The decor was very traditional – certainly not modern and typically not fussy at all – they’re more concerned about the food. For a total of 14 euros each, we oohed and aaahhed our way through three courses and a glass of local red. We both had a goats cheese salad for entree – it was confidently simple. The lettuce was uber fresh – crispy, crunchy rocket and buttery baby lettuce leaves dressed in a mouth-watering vinaigrette. Honestly I would have been happy with just a bowl of salad on its own. But to show off, the chef had crowned this dish with slices of fromage de chèvre doux on toast topped with honey and ever so lightly grilled. I’ve never experienced a texture like that before and we were both left speechless with how good it tasted.
Le Plat Principal was fresh cabillaud which I was sure must be some exotic French fish I’d never tasted before. But when I looked up the translation I was shocked to discover it was simply cod! It was cooked to perfection in a buttery, herb sauce and was light enough to allow room for dessert … More cheese for me of course.
My companion ordered the very last piece of white chocolate, raspberry and pistachio tart. And I’m so glad she did because this literally left us gobsmacked. I ran out of adjectives in my French vocab to explain to the very enthusiastic waitress how impressed we were with this heavenly dessert.
We left after paying way too much of a tip (I learned this later at the cheese shop) and went on to explore the town. We bought some berries, tomatoes, baguette, fromage and yogurt. The stores were like something out of a movie. The grocers asked us when we intended on eating everything so they could provide us with exactly the right instructions on how to store the food – they just REALLY care about presentation and ensuring we enjoy their produce in the very best possible way. Quite charming.
Day 1 has left us very impressed with Toulouse. Tomorrow we stop in at Carcassonne before heading further east to Bellegarde-du-Razes.
With grace and gusto,