I arrived in Touffailles from Valencia, Spain. There is a bus line, train, and airport as modes of transportation to Toulouse, which is a city near Touffailles. From Spain you can easily get there from Valencia or Barcelona. Touffailles gave me a glimpse of the quaint, historical, flourishing land of French countryside. Before, my only experience had been the bustling tourist destination of Paris. Touffailles is an entirely different world. If you enjoy rustic buildings, old architecture, slow village life, and gorgeous natural scenery (with plenty of open land) Touffailles is the spot for you. Upon arrival I ate at a café—enjoying cheap but strong coffee and yet another delectable unpronounceable chocolate pastry—in a square closed in by an 11th century abbey. After breakfast, I ventured inside the church; its foundations were built in 600 A.D. and painted walls and arched ceilings were added in the 1000’s. The inside of the church sparkled with high stained glass windows and the walls shone uniquely of hand-painted gold and red that stretched all the way to the arched ceilings. After leaving the square I resided in my B&B for the next three days (relatives!), which is settled in a small village that is surrounded by blooming green hills and colorful flowers. The old houses in this area were the real treat. Rustic and beautiful, my room over looked the village, equipped with chapels, old churches, and homes sprinkled between the hills. So far, I’m loving Touffailles.
My first night in southern France I spent at a weekly evening Marché Gourmand in a square in Lauzerte. There, I enjoyed curried sausage, a local beer mixed with lemonade, and my first ever snail! Drenched in garlic—they’re not half bad. There was live music, dancing, and local vendors selling a variety of dishes. French chips (French fries) are delicious and so are their crepes; I had a Nutella one for dessert. Around the square you can take in the views of Lauzerte below you. Many towns are atop hills like this because in the ancient world they were built up high for protection. A particularly good locally grown wine was the Château d’ Aix Rosé. This square hosts these evenings every Thursday during the months of July and August.
On the second day I enjoyed yet another beautiful view of the French southern countryside atop a hill in Tournon-d’Agenais. In this area you will find many war memorials, churches, and breath-taking scenery.
Sitting outside looking down the rolling hills on which this small village is perched, surrounded by vibrant flowers and their accompanying butterflies and bees, one cannot help but be inspired. Touffailles is an undiscovered gem of the world.
My family’s beautiful home!
confit de canard (duck leg)
Restaurant in Miramont-de-Quercy
Breakfast at home
Madrid is very much a normal city. I stayed in a business-y district, so there wasn’t a lot of cultural differences or exceptional architecture. If you go to Madrid and only Madrid, it would not be an accurate portrayal of all of Spain. However, that’s how most large cities are. My favorite part of Madrid, which was pretty awesome, was going to El Museo del Prado. This museum is home to Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez, my favorite piece of artwork I saw in Europe.
My second favorite thing I saw in Madrid was the Royal Palace. I cannot explain the lavishness of these rooms… not even a picture does it justice. Each room has deeply colored walls and patterns with sparking, ornate chandeliers. The detail that blew my mind the most was the amount of gold decorated in every single room. So. Much. Gold. Each room was so decadently furnished and maintained; it was really a sight worth seeing.
Madrid is a cool city, but not my favorite place in Spain. Reflecting back I really loved the more cultural, smaller towns. Which I will divulge into! In later posts 🙂
For those of you who love San Diego but are looking to get a little more adventurous, don’t forget about our neighbors! I recently visited Tijuana, Mexico, and it was a great time. Here are some tips on how to make your trip fun and safe.
Go in a group. This seems obvious, but you want to make sure to have a somewhat ratio of guys to girls for extra caution, and also keep in mind large groups are safer but tend to split up if too big!
Pick a nice club. If you go on a weekday night, ladies night, or other special night, fancy clubs in TJ are not expensive to get in to. Plus, nice clubs are less likely to be seedy, have better drinks, and a more enjoyable environment. We went to a club my friend had been to previously on their ladies night where girls drank for free. Entry was $10 and it was a perfect place to spend the night. My advice is to do some research before hand and ask others who have been there for club recommendations, don’t wait until you get there to pick a club or bar
Carry cash but not a lot, mostly small bills. DO NOT bring a lot of money or a debit/credit card, as well as anything extremely valuable. Bring what you’ll spend and maybe $20 extra in case of an emergency. Cash is best for entry fees, drinks, cabs, gambling, and small meals
DO bring your passport and have a small bag or pocket to carry it in. We had a couple friends who left their passports at home and did get across the border, however they had to go through special security and the process of entering the country took a lot longer
When you first get across there will be a lot of vendors trying to sell you candy and paraphernalia, as well as taxi drivers trying to lead you to their cabs. DO NOT use these cabs; they will charge you more than if you walk further down the road. Try making a club that is walking distance your target, and only use a cab to get back to the border
Lastly, have fun! As long as you stay with a big group, be aware of your surroundings, and follow normal night-out safety precautions, you’ll have a fun, unique adventure!