One definite plus of our new location is its proximity to the Spanish border. We took advantage of this fact and spent one fabulous week on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees mountains – in the Aragon Region -in the Province of Huesca- and also in the bordering Catalonian Region (which is, incidentally, hoping for a referendum later this year in order to leave Spain). The weather was great, the landscape magnificent, the locals very friendly and the food was delicious. Cod, calamari, mushrooms, dried meats (for example the longaniza sausage), red peppers and summer fruit featured regularly:
The children particularly liked the tradition of tapas and one of the cepe/porcini mushroom dishes was sooooo good that our formally mushroom-hater son asked for a second helping!
The food was far more popular than the mountain hikes …at least according to our kids, despite the stunning beauty of the Aigues Tortes National Park and surrounds and the numerous 12th-century churches that are listed as World Heritage Sites.
Although, there is a language known as Occitan (or ‘lenga d’oc’) which is spoken here in southern France (with its roots in Latin, it sounds like a cross between French and Catalan – and is apparently an official language in Catalonia), I am actually thinking of adding more Spanish to my limited repertoire in preparation for our next trip to Spain.
In the meantime, I’m training my ear to understand the local Toulousain accent: the “ai” sound, for example, is much more nasal and so the word for bread, ‘pain’=/pa~/ spoken with a Toulousain accent sounds more like ‘peng’= /pɛŋɡ/. Also, I found that the locals speak more melodically than other French; they seem to ‘sing’ as they talk.
They also use expressions and vocabulary that I had never heard before. One example is the local word ‘chocolatine’ for ‘pain au chocolat’ (chocolate croissant). There are certainly many more examples but I haven’t deciphered them yet.
I hope that our two children – who will be starting at their new school next Monday – will be able to understand their teachers. And I hope that I too will be able to understand the locals and manage to build some friendships with other parents….like those below:
Place Saint Georges, Toulouse: That’s where we and 3 other ex-Shanghai couples and kids – who have now relocated in and around Toulouse – reunited for an al fresco dinner (actually, it wasn’t very cool on the terrace but rather hot and sweaty). I couldn’t believe that the large Square – bordered entirely by restaurants – was completely full on a Monday… late into the night. Toulouse has many universities and it has the reputation of being a ‘party town’.
Something to celebrate, I’ve just finished my 100th blog post!