Frankie is a tiny bundle of bounding French energy. She had joined a British motorhome forum in order to improve her English, which is already excellent, and welcomes friends from the forum stopping by on their way to and from other places.
I have to say Toulouse was a far larger city than I imagined, being the fourth largest in France with well over 1.25 million inhabitants, and is supposedly the most dynamic city in France. Somehow I had imagined Toulouse as a sleepy backwater city, maybe like Hereford or even Ludlow, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The city was the capital of the Visigoths back in the dark ages; in the 15th C prospered by exporting Bordeaux wines to England; then in the 17th C built its fortunes on the blue dye obtained from woad, which was grown on the fertile soil surrounding the Garonne, the main river of the region – a trade which disappeared overnight with the introduction of indigo from India. Nowadays it has re-invented itself yet again, and is the centre of the European aerospace industry: the air route between Toulouse and Paris being the busiest in Europe, transporting nearly 2.5 million annually
So my intention of parking somewhere near the centre of the city and exploring it on The Supter was out of the question. Even when Frankie kindly took me round in her car it was almost impossible to stop, though we had to in the end, as the road we had chosen ended in an underground carpark beneath the central square! I was just grateful I was not in Thebus.
Frankie whizzed round the narrow lanes of the centre, driving as only a French woman can – a mixture of shrugs, waved hands, and toots on the horn while she wove in and out of the traffic.
The city centre is enormous, and full of luxury shops and restaurants.
Frankie said that when she was younger most of the wonderful buildings in the centre were luxurious apartment buildings each with a concierge and still retaining the huge gated doorways to the courtyards for the carriages, and some still are private dwellings.
She and her family had moved to Toulouse when she was three, and she describes herself as a ‘Blackfoot’. The Blackfoots were French emigres to Algeria, when it was first a French colony in the early 19th C., and her forbears had lived there until the troubles of the 1960’s when they returned to France. It was wonderful being able to communicate with Frankie and learn about her culture, I really shall have to press on with learning French, otherwise I will never be able to understand the people and places I visit.
We had visited a lovely old restaurant just on the outskirts of Toulouse for lunch, where I tried the local dishes of Goose Pate followed by Cassoulet and Crepe Suzette with Grand Marnier flambéd at the table. All most enjoyable.