Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Day 2 Got up before the sun today, which isn?t hard since it didn?t come up until about 7:30 and even then stayed gray and threatened rain. Eventually it tired of threatening and did rain. Cold and intermittent. Before I go much further I think I must confess, I love France. At the very least I love the experience I?m having here. I can?t wait to take Adrienne down some of these streets so I can see the look on her face. So, let?s see, ah yes?an indifferent complimentary breakfast and then a cab ride to the Airbus facility in Toulouse. The streets here are something. ?Paris is the same only much much bigger?, Rob says. I can imagine living here the better part of your life and still being surprised and occasionally lost. Narrow and tall, and NONE of them are straight but instead wander this way and that, turn back on themselves, jump with surprise over ancient bridges, and corner old brick structures that have long since lost relevance and in every corner, yes, EVERY corner there is something interesting to see, something?well?foreign. . The old brick (and new brick that was made to look old) are slick and wet to my cheap dress shoes so I walk carefully on a canvas painted with neon from still closed shops. The taxi waits, so does Airbus. Big complexes, lots of efficient looking serious, but friendly people. Seminars conducted by people to whom English is obviously a second language, but even then the intelligence is evident. At the company sponsored lunch in one of the buildings on site (after a quick walk in invigorating (<-this is BS it?s COLD) rain) we are offered some cold cuts of beef, salted salmon, proscuitto, string beans, water or wine. Yeah wine. In a little bottle like a soda with a screw top. Of course I chose the wine asking myself how I could possibly do otherwise, and it?s actually not bad. Then it?s back to contracts, logistics, etc and an early getaway. We take a quick walk to the building where the Airbus A320?s are assembled and peer through the windows. Airplanes are big. They are getting ready for the roll out next month of the A380. The biggest airplane you ever need to know about. The presidents of the most of the participating nations will be there. We roll back to the rooms to do a little work then at 7:00 we make our way out to get dinner. Tip: don?t bother trying to get dinner in Toulouse until 7:00. Nobody but McDonalds is serving dinner. At 7:05 you have to wait for a seat. Plan accordingly. At first we wander around looking for an Italian place since I hace a hankering for pasta. Thank goodness we couldn?t find one. We actually wandered back into the Hotel (Crown Plaza - Toulouse) and ask the people at the front desk if there are any Italian places around. ?Ehhhh, no?, she says, ?But, if you want to try some authentic French cuisine there is a place a couple blocks from here?. So she draws us a map and we head back out into a very light, very cold rain. The restaurant is called ?The Bon Vivre? and they specialize in local French cuisine and I had some of the best food I?ve had in a long time. The place looks fairly ordinary actually, but at 7:00 we were one of the first people in there. From 7:05 to 11:00 when it closes it was packed with be-sweatered, be-scarved smoking French folks. I started with a duck pate that is probably one of the top 10 yummiest things I?ve ever eaten in my life. Seriously. It?s not something I would ordinarily order, but I find I have pretty good luck when I ask the server what their favorite is. We complemented it with a wonderfully strong bottle of wine from this area of France. Chateau tour boisee - Minervois 2003. My main course was a traditionally prepared rabbit dish, 1 leg, half breast and liver, smothered in spices and garlic. Fairly tender and delicious, it was accompanied by some garlic potatoes and and cheesy rice dish. We were in a hurry since Rob had had the idea to go see the ballet that was performing in the theater in the square across from our hotel, so we promised the owner we?d be back for dessert after the ballet and headed out into the rain. We arrived about 5 minutes late, but managed to squeeze in with some others to sit in some seats with some other late folks and catch the first part of a touring tropp from Italy. The ticket says Casse Noisette was the name of the ballet. The music was by Tchaikovsky and I did recognize the sugar plum fairy dance thingy. Not sure if this was a compilation or the source of this piece, but the performances were very good. Now I?m expert on ballet, but I did very much enjoy watching the athleticism and beauty of these performers. My favorite parts of course for those of you that know me where the ones with lots of identically dressed ballerinas doing the same thing. Lots of anything gets abstracted to me and becomes art. Second act comes and we get the usher to kick some young women out of our seats so we can sit in the center to watch the second act which included the main ballerina falling into a dream with all these characters dancing around. I enjoyed it. Afterwards we headed quickly back to the Le Bon Vivre for our desserts and a cup of tea. I had the banana baked in some kind of Cognac sauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I enjoyed that too, and now I?m back in my room typing this up preparing to call my family and retire to bed. A wonderful day. I apologize for the lack of pictures, there just hasn?t been time. Good night.

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