This past weekend I traveled to Toulouse, France, to attend the European Choral Association – Europa Cantat General Assembly meeting. I left EARLY Friday morning (I had to be at the Bonn train station by 4:31 am), and I got back Sunday night. I had a wonderful time, meeting lots of nice and interesting people, and getting to know a city I’ve never visited before in a country I am always hesitant to travel to. Here are some of the highlights and accompanying photos from my excursion.
Despite leaving so early Friday morning, I was still nervous about catching my flight. I flew out of Düsseldorf, which is normally about one hour away from Bonn. However, if you want to take a flight at 6:55 am during the week, you can either leave Bonn at 1:00 am and arrive at the airport at 2:30 am, or you can leave when I did and arrive at the airport with only one hour before your departure. I only had carry-on luggage and strategically printed my boarding passes the day before, so I tried my luck with leaving later.
I had plenty of time to negotiate Düsseldorf. I have flown into and out of this airport several times, and while I was taking Goethe Institute courses in 2010, I took a regional train past the airport every day for one month. The security line took about five minutes, and even if I had been delayed with my train this time, my flight was equally delayed thanks to fog in Munich. The sunrise on the flight made for some pretty window shots.
|Airplane shot, in case you couldn't tell!|
I had about 20 minutes to catch my connecting flight in Munich, which I achieved while running only slightly longer than I had hoped. In many European airports you have a 50% chance of arriving at a sky bridge. The rest of the time you take a bus to your plane that is located somewhere on the terminal. I had to take a bus from my DUS flight, make it through the labyrinth of the airport, go through the boarding gate, and then take a bus again to my plane. I was one of the last to board. Unfortunately I had a seat on the right side of the plane, so I did not have as good of a view of the Alps as those to my left.
|The Alps lie in the distance.|
Arriving in Toulouse was a cinch. I caught the airport shuttle bus, which was located right where I left the secured area of the airport, and in a no-nonsense “I don’t actually speak French” sort of way, I bought a ticket and weaved closer to the city center to reach my pre-reserved hotel.
Upon arrival at the Ours Blanc “Wilson” Hotel, I found I couldn’t settle into my room yet, so I took the lunch hour to finish my Nutella® sandwich and walk to all the sites on my tourism list. These photos are from those wanderings.
|Near the Capitol Square. Toulouse is known as the Rose City because of all the red bricks.|
|Front side of the Capitol.|
|On my way to Saint Sernin Basilica - Europe's largest Romanesque church. Sorry Trier!|
|Inside the Basilica.|
|Here is the backside of the church, which includes a Cavaille-Coll Organ. I would have loved to have heard this one!|
|Exterior of the Basilica.|
|Along the Garonne River in the center of the city.|
|Again, along the river.|
|16th century Pont Neuf over the Garonne.|
|Toulouse is a university town with over 110,000 students. They were everywhere.|
|Me and Pont Neuf!|
|Le cupcakes francaise!|
|Another church in town.|
My official work activities began at 15:30, when I attended a special meeting for the cooperation partners of the “VOICE” program of the ECA-EC, the big EU money maker project the federation received this past summer. That evening members presented some best practices and activities dealing with voices, followed by a children’s choir concert and dinner at the Conservatoire. I gladly embraced my pillow that night; my early start made me feel like I had just taken an international flight from the USA to Europe.
Saturday morning I attended the official business meeting of ECA-EC, as I had just recently been accepted in one of the federation’s member choirs. It was very informative to learn how this organization does business, as well as get hands on information about the previous year’s activities. Everyone had lunch together at an organic restaurant, and then we
drifted off to
sleep attended workshops on different topics relevant to choral singing and
youth activities. During these afternoon activities I could make out the sounds
of a protest taking place near our conference meetings.
The most exciting part of the weekend was the announcement of the new board members, appointed for a three-year term. These new VIPs were whisked away while we listened to another children’s choir performance and summaries of all the afternoon workshops. We dined at the same restaurant as earlier on Saturday, followed by a performance by the national youth choir of France. These students could sing! My favorite pieces they performed were “Agnus dei” by Penderecki, because I had sung this piece during college, and “Long Road” by Ériks Esenvalds. Other than the somewhat extravagant and off-putting style of the group’s conductor, it was overall a nice concert at an amazing venue (think Romanesque church filled with stadium seating). That night I hung out with two people I met during the weekend. We all got strawberry mojitos!
Sunday included another workshop in the style of voice instructor vs. conductor. The session was led by a very spirited American woman from California. Most of the weekend’s proceedings were held in English, even though there were probably only five to seven native English speakers out of about 100 who attended. Talk about feeling a little bad for everyone else that my language overtook the majority!
Before catching my bus to the airport, I attended the first pieces of a baroque concert that featured period instruments and dancers. It was interesting to say the least, even if I had to leave early.
|Outside my hotel - it was located in a great part of the city, even if that meant I heard people yelling outside my window at the bar down below.|
|Actual view of Wilson Place.|
|Doggy pooping place!|
The most shocking and startling part of my entire trip was that I was NEVER asked to show any form of identification. I did not show my passport or my residence permit at the airports when going through security, and I didn’t need to show anything at my hotel. I know for a fact that travelers have flown using someone else’s pre-printed boarding pass, with success. Just because the barcode on your ticket is valid, doesn’t mean you are actually the person listed on the ticket! This method is a lot easier than paying name change fees.
|Hello, Alps! Don't worry, we'll be seeing each other next month and in January!|
Now I have another week ahead of me, which will probably not include a Thanksgiving celebration. L
I do, however, have a surprise for all of you readers! I will share more details on the 20th of November!