Rue d’Alsace Lorraine

We alighted the metro at Capitole and walked up the stairs to a street level.

Square Charles de Gaulle was basking in the late afternoon sunshine.

I needed to buy some light summery tops because the weather was too warm for all the stuffs I brought with me from UK.

Conveniently, ZARA was right in front of the square, therefore, I started my clothes hunting from there.

After rifling through their clothes rails, I opted for a sleeveless top with a lace detail around the neck.

Then, I spotted a pair of cute Capri sandals in the shop window on Rue d’Alsace Lorraine and decided to try them on. ‘Est-ce que vous avez taille 35?’ I asked one of very friendly vendeuses.

One thing I really loved about shopping in France was most of the shops I visited carried small sizes. For example, I hardly had found any shoe smaller than 36 in UK but in France, I witnessed many models of shoes on the shop floor did start from 35.

Mum encouraged me to take time to choose a pair since we would be moving on to Avignon the next day, therefore, I wouldn’t be able to return them if I changed my mind overnight.

Eventually, I decided on a pair of flat sandals with gold and tan leather and walked out of the shop as a one very satisfied customer.

‘Shall we buy our grocery at Monoprix?’

We bought some fruits and yoghurt at the supermarket and strolled back to the metro station.

Mum posing in front of Mairie de Toulouse…

Now, let’s find a restaurant for well-deserved beer and snack!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gare de Toulouse-Matabiau

After circling around our hotel in a state of semi-panic more than a few times because all the approaches we should have taken in order to access a car park were blocked by extensive roadworks happening on Allée Jean Jaurès and Boulevard Bonrepos.

Eventually, we decided to park at a multi-story car park next to Gare de Toulouse Matabiau.

Must take a picture so I won’t forget where our car is.

The mainline station was undergoing a major facelift…

After checking in at the hotel, we headed back to the station. ‘Mum, why don’t we try the metro?’ We needed to do some shopping and there weren’t many shops around our hotel.

There were two policemen in the station concourse when we walked in. So I asked one of them if he could point us towards the metro entrance. He told us to use the stairs further up and to follow the sign. I thanked him and we headed to the stairs.

Which ticketing machines are for the metro???

I can’t remember which one was the correct one but eventually I managed to buy two sets of the returns for us.

Down the escalator…

And on the platform…

We used the line A from Marengo-SNCF to Capitole.

Our little adventure in Toulouse commences!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

To Toulouse

After swinging by the famed train station so mum could admire it from a car window, we headed towards A20 which would lead us to Toulouse.

The distance between the two cities was about 290km and the journey took just under four hours.

We had a break at a service station near Masseret…

In the inside of the motorway services, we found loads of local souvenirs…

Many violet related products were sold there. Mum later regretted that she didn’t buy boiled sweets which were made from violet then. ‘It would have been fun to try them with my friends when I was back in Japan!’ Mum lamented.

However, we bought a box of canelé to try later at the store and moved on to have coffee and apple pie.

Coffee tastes nicer if it is made by a human behind the counter, not by a vending machine, mum and I agreed as we shared the cake.

One thing I remember very distinctly about this service station was some idiot parked his van very very close to my car and it caused a huge problem! If I weren’t this petite and flexible, it would have been impossible to climb into the seat from the co-driver’s side and therefore we would have to wait until the idiot returned to his car…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins

The mainline railway station in the southeast part of Limoges was one place I managed to visit while I was in the city.

It was a great shame that mum hurt herself at the very beginning of our adventure and as a result, she could not accompany me on foot to see this ornate station.

The station was less than 10 minutes walk from the hotel. A park which separated the station from the city centre seemed to be a small oasis to local people and I could see students and office workers here and there, enjoying a little “me-time” on the benches and the grass.

The first Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins, which was built of wood, was opened in 1860. The present station was designed by a French architect Roger Gonthier in 1917 and the building was listed as a monument historique in 1975.

The style of the building was distinctively Beaux-Arts. Opulent decors adorned the various parts of the exterior of the station.

Bénédictins, the part of the name of the station was due to the presence of a Benedictine monastery nearby which was closed during the French Revolution.

I entered the station, expecting the interior to be as ornate as the outside. However, I wasn’t so lucky.

Apart from the entrance and the ceilings, nothing was very notable.

The vastness of the ceiling somehow emphasised the emptiness of the interior.

After all, it was a working railway station, not a museum or a theatre. A business-like interior was more appropriate, I supposed.

A dome above the passenger concourse was constructed with a metallic framework covered in copper.

Limoges is a part of the Orléans-Montauban railway. There is the intercity services from Paris to the city which typically takes a little less than 4 hours.

A sight of railway tracks disappearing into the distance always made me feel nostalgic, and the sight I saw from Rampe des Bénédictins bore the same effect.

Before we leave the city tomorrow, I shall bring mum here by car so she can see the famous station from outside, I thought.

So she won’t feel too missed out…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Tours to Limoges

Our first dinner in France was a very modest affair. Apart from the fact that the day we arrived on was a French bank holiday, therefore, most of the shops except newsagents were closed but also we, especially mum, were exhausted from a long drive. ‘Shall we eat our emergency foods?’ Mum sighed. ‘Japanese pot noodles?! Yeah, let’s!’ I was rather excited because I hadn’t had any Japanese instant noodle for years!

I must say I found it rather surreal that mum and I slurping the noodle and watching a French news programme on a flatscreen TV attached to the wall. ‘Have some plum tomatoes, mum.’ I passed a plastic containers with the tomatoes to her. I found those tomatoes at a general store / liquor shop which was a stone’s throw from the hotel. The shop was rather shabby and sparsely stocked but I managed to buy tomatoes, apple juice and yoghurt for the next day. I reckoned mum might have liked to have breakfast in our room rather than to visit a dining room because of her hip problem.

The next morning, we set off to our next destination, Limoges. From Tours, we took A10 and found the route pretty straight forward. ‘Look mum! You see the word “Poitiers”?’ The city was where one of the famous battles of the Hundred Years’ War took place, and I was excited to be close to the place even though we were passing it by on a motorway.

At a service near Luant, we had lunch. Instead of pre-made sandwiches, we decided to have some hot food – grilled fish on a bed of pilau rice each and a bowl of salad to share.

The dish was good except it was a bit under seasoned. Having said that, some people may have to watch out salt intake for their health reason, we thought.

One thing we found it shame during this road trip was how rare it was to come across motorway services which were equipped with decent eateries. We didn’t expect gourmet dining but hot food cooked at the premises. However, most of the services, except a couple of exceptions, offered pre-packed food and hot drink from vending machines only.

We found a “what to do when you are attacked by terrorists” instruction on the wall of a toilet.

Unlike during our visit to Strasbourg last summer, we didn’t see any group of soldiers patrolling the streets this time. Yet, the notice on the loo wall reminded us how real terrorists’ threats still were in France.

Between Tours and Limoges, there was a famous national park, le Parc natural régional de la Brenne. There was a large map of the park by the dining area.

We arrived at a hotel just before 3pm. As we stepped out of the car, we found the air warm and slightly humid as if it was going to rain later on. ‘Bonjour.’ I and mum walked through an automatic door and met by an owner of the hotel who somehow reminded me David Bowie – slender, blond and tanned. While mum sat on a chair by the vestibule, I asked him where I could find a pay-point for public parking. ‘We need to sort it out too!’ A couple who were checking in before us wanted to know the location of the machine also, so we all followed the owner to the corner of the street and bought tickets to display on the dashboards.

The hotel had a sweeping spiral staircase which was decorated beautifully, but alas, no lift! ‘Sorry mum.’ I apologised to her while I hoisted our cases to upstairs.

Our room had a large window which faced the street and the bathroom was large and well-equipped.

‘Now, we have to sort out our dinner.’ Mum appeared still not quite fit enough to walk too far nor to go up and down the stairs. ‘What do you wanna do?’ Mum suggested if we could have a little stroll around the vicinity of the hotel and decide what to do about the food. ‘Hopefully, we may find a deli or a bakery nearby!’

Unfortunately, we didn’t come across anything as such. There were a plenty of cafes and eateries but they were closed as the time was mid-afternoon, too late for lunch but too early for dinner!

Then, we bumped into the couple who we met at the hotel hall. ‘We are trying to find some shop to buy snack.’ I confided to them. ‘Ohhh, it’s not easy in France, is it?’ They suggested that I should ask the guy at the hotel.

Sure enough, he directed me to a Carrefour City which was situated a block away from the hotel. We have been sniffing at the wrong tree!, mum and I lamented. After taking mum back to the room, I went to the supermarket alone.

At the shop, I bought two boxes of salad, cartons of juice, a bag of croissants and four small boxes of yoghurt. ‘So the dinner is sorted then.’ I also bought a huge reusable Carrefour shopper made with cotton and the bag proved to be a very valuable asset during our road trip.

Now, I am gonna visit the famous Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins!

‘I will take pictures and show them to you, mum!’

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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