Friday, 31 August 2012

Days 58-65: Orleans and Toulouse

So let’s start with Orleans. Orleans is somewhere I have always wanted to go; I have always had a strange fascination with Joan of Arc, and have always wanted to see the place whence she came. So when we decided we were going to the Loire Valley, and discovered that the popular places like Tours were well out of our Price Range I decided to push for Orleans instead. This I think was a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, Orleans was very pretty, and we ate some nice food, and saw some nice things, but there wasn’t much to do, and I think we would have been better going to Tours than Orleans. We didn’t get to go to a vineyard or try much Loire Valley wine.  Oh Well C’est La Vie as they say.

On the first night we arrived quite late, and after finding our hotel, we decided to go out for dinner. We went to a place near to our hotel, there weren’t many places around, and we were a bit worried because the place didn’t look like it would do very good food. We were wrong. It was one of the nicest meals we’ve eaten. They did a cheap Formule – a deal where you can pick off a select menu and get a starter, main and desert, usually for about the same price as just a main.  We also ordered a bottle of Loire Valley red wine. One of the greatest things about coming to Europe is discovering that I can drink red wine over here.  

For our started we had Aubergine Crumble. This was absolutely one of the best things I’ve eaten in Europe. It was amazing, and, although I don’t have the actual recipe, I’m going to tell you what we worked out of how it was made, so that you can try it for yourselves. You really should it’s amazing.

Aubergine Crumble:

Sundried Tomatoes in oil
Red Onions
Garlic (not too much)
Goats cheese (or other strong crumbly cheese such as strong Feta)

First prepare the Aubergine mixture. Finely dice the aubergines, sundried tomatoes, red onions and garlic, and sauté them in a little bit of the oil from the tomatoes and the herbs, only a little of each.  When the mixture is very soft and well-cooked put it into a medium sized flat ramekin ideally about 10cm diameter, one dish per person.

When the mixture has cooled flake some of the cheese evenly and sparingly across the top of the mixture. You don’t want this to completely cover it, but use your own judgement and preferences.

Next make the crumble. Use flour and butter as you would for any crumble, and add a little bit of polenta to give it a bit of crunch.  Sprinkle a layer over the top of the mixture, not too thick, but not too sparing either.
Bake in the oven until top is slightly browned, and eat while still hot.

You should try it, trust me it’s amazing.  We will be cooking it for my grandparents when we get back to England.

What else did we do in Orleans? We did a little shopping, bought some amazingly soft summer Pyjamas, everything I had with me was way too warm.  We also went and visited the Cathedral in Orleans, I think it was called Sainte Croix, and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in France, comparable only to Notre Dame. I can see why they compare it to Notre Dame, it has a similar structure and form, and it was very beautiful. But nothing like as grand as Notre Dame.

The only other thing of interest that happened in Orleans was being picked up by two guys as we got the tram back to our hotel on our last evening in Orleans. These two guys just started talking to us, they missed their own tram stop and went with us to ours instead. We stood around on the platform making awkward conversation for a while, awkward because only one of them spoke any English, and my French is pretty bad, and Megan speaks even less. After a little while, one of the guys, Alain, decided to ask me in French “Have you ever slept with a Frenchman? Tres Boom Boom” which we took as our cue to leave. 

M had given the other guy, Aladji, her phone number, and we went back to our hotel to get ready to leave. He called about 10 minutes later asking us to come and meet them on the tram station. We said no and goodbye. After another ten minutes or so he called back again asking the same thing, this time we decided we may as well, and said yes. When they got to the tram station they each made a beeline for one of us. Aladji proclaimed his undying love for me, only after I had given him my number. He called me at least 6 times a day for the next week, until I told him that it was too much and to stop calling me, then it slowed down to only 1 or two calls. Now he seems to have given up, but I’m not sure because I’ve been in Barcelona for a week.

Again, Toulouse was somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time. I have a very good friend, who I’ve known for many, many years, who grew up in Toulouse. We had always had plans for me to go and visit her there, but with one thing and another it never ended up happening. So I was very excited to go to Toulouse, she had given me a list of things to see, places to visit. When we first arrived it was late in the evening on Saturday, we’d eaten on the train so we really just wanted to sleep. The hotel we were staying at for the first night was very simple and plain, but that wasn’t a problem as we only wanted to sleep.

The next morning we went to our next hotel, we were hotel jumping to save money, one was very central, but very expensive for the first night, the other was quite far out, but much cheaper on the first night. I’m glad we stayed there though, it showed us a place called La cite d’espace. A space museum.

When we got to the second hotel we checked in and then went off to have a look around. My firend had told us of a flea market that happened on Sundays in the Square of the big Cathedral in Toulouse, which just so happened to be only 15 minutes’ walk from the place where we were staying. The flea market, although cool, wasn’t what we were expecting, and seemed not to have much there. This is probably because a) we were there quite late in the day from the hotel jumping, and b) because it was August, and everyone in France goes on Holiday. We had a look around, and then went to look in the Church.

The Church was beautiful. Apparently it was built by one of Toulouse’s very own saints, and built to house a reliquary as Toulouse was a site of Pilgrimage in the middle ages, it was thought that a better church was needed to host them. It was pretty cool, it also means that although M and I are not Pilgrams, we have now seen three pieces of the “true cross” as well as seeing the alleged Crown of Thorns.

The next day we went to visit the city of space that we had seen from our hotel. It looked very intriguing. There were big rockets, and half a globe, and some  a big white building called l’Australia. It was quite interesting, despite most things being in French. We went see an Imax movie about the Hubble telescope, and we went to the planetarium, both of which had translations, then we went to the globe thing which turned out to be a quiz game, which we played, but  as it was all in French we didn’t do very well.  

The rest of our time in Toulouse, we just wandered around the town eating at places that looked nice and not doing very much at all. Not all of the places did the nicest food, and one place gave us both food poisoning, which was not very nice at all! Particularly as the next day we had to take a six and a half hour train to Barcelona.

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