Oh my goodness, the travel chaos we've seen on this trip! I have traveled a lot in my life and I don't think I've ever experienced as many transport mishaps consecutively as on this trip. Ok, here's the latest one- in the train station Tuesday morning, we were heading down the Toulouse escalator to board our train for Paris when someone's strap got caught at the bottom which pulled them down and anchored them to the bottom of the escalator. Suddenly, several people descending right above the fallen person started to pile up on top of her because it was rushhour so the escalator was jam-packed and moving very fast. All of us a few steps above this pileup started yelling, "backup, backup," but we couldn't back-step fast enough. Tommy was still half asleep, so he went right into the melee (he's fine- maybe he jumped over it or the escalator stopped- it all happened too fast to be sure), but I turned around and hightailed it back up the escalator, basically dodging around people to run up a descending escalator- which just goes to show what I always say about myself: if the emergency doesn't involve kids or animals, I'm no hero! Finally, someone hit the de-activate button and everyone stopped screaming and disentangled themselves and went on their way (hospital visits for minor cuts and bruises after an accident only happens in America). Seems like chaos ensues every time we get on a mode of transport this summer!
Anyway, here I am, thrilled to back on a regular computer and I have lots to update you all on, so bear with the next two longer posts-they'll be chock-ful, if you can read through it all. First, some observations of Toulouse, France- it is a smallish big-city, kind of like Austin, TX in size. From the little bit I saw by car, train, and a walk around, it seemed slightly scruffy. The traffic at rushhour was terrible! The city has a reputation of being young and "marching to the beat of its own drummer." People say its a great city to live in rather than visit. Here's a photo:
In some rather big news we heard while driving through Toulouse, the French Ministry of Education announced that elementary students will start attending school five days a week until 5pm (having academic classes til about 3:30) like the secondary schools already do! This is instead of the current system where students have Wednesdays off, academically. Here's a news link for more on this change if you are interested:
Another education-related observation I'd like to mention here is teen fashion. At my school back in the US, we wage daily battles with "dress code," meaning that our teens/preteens need to pull up their pants, cover up their cleavage, avoid profanity/gang slang on tee-shirts, etc. With the kids I saw in England, France, and Germany, there were many of the same fashions that our teens have here in the USA- skinny jeans, droopy drawers, grey hoodies, etc...but European teens seem to cover more and show more respect in their dress. In fact, I saw a big group of teenage boys in black suites for their school uniforms and instead of mobile devices in their hands, they held newspapers!! Sigh, if only...
Ahhhhhh finally, the Louvre. So magnifique and yet grueling- all rolled up into one fancy palace package! Let's start with the magnificence of it:
- the Mona Lisa...seeing the relatively small painting was something like catching a glimpse of a famous supermodel as she exits an LA restaurant-- you know you are in the presence of something big because you can't get closer than 30 feet for all the cameras flashing at her in front of you (see below). Oh but, supermodel= very pretty, while Mona= not so much.
-the most astounding part of the Louvre , for me, was the amount and sheer size of such incredible works of art, like the Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese which was probably 20 by 30 feet in size, at least. And to walk into a large room and see these paintings by Cezanne, Velaquez, Da Vinci, Vermeer- to name a few- stacked ceiling to floor was just breathtaking!
Now, onto the challenges of the Louvre...it's kind of like driving in Texas-- unless you've been raised on it, the (road) layout is endlessly confusing. Both Tommy and I had Louvre maps but we never could seem to figure out where we were going and most of the exhibits we wanted to see, we found only by stumbling upon them...much the way you get to a location for the first time driving in Texas!
Whew! Long post. I'll write a final post Monday once I get settled with some final thoughts and experiences and videos I haven't yet had a chance to include...