By Veronica

City sights

We sprang out of bed when the alarm went at 6:30. So we were rather peeved on arriving at the station in Lézignan to find the train I'd booked two days ago didn't exist. I'd even double checked on the SNCF site last night, knowing there was disruption due to flood damage between Narbonne and Carcassonne.

Lézignan station has no staff to provide information, so we decided to drive to Carcassonne and get a train from there. Nope. Replacement bus service. We waited for half an hour, the bus arrived almost full, eight of the 20 people waiting were admitted, and the rest of us were left to fend for ourselves. We gave up, waved goodbye to the 60 euros I'd spent on tickets for non-existent trains, and drove. Arrived in Toulouse: mass un-signposted road closures resulted in a 20-minute drive around a far-flung suburb looking for a parking space. Positive: free parking. Negative: a 2 km walk into town. 

We were feeling quite stroppy by now. Over four hours after we left home we arrived at the Capitole just in time to catch the Minotaur leaving (blip). But it was nearly lunchtime, so we dashed off to the Place St Georges hoping to beat the rush, and a good-value lunch of perfectly cooked hake in leek sauce soon had us in a better humour.

The Machines Géantes were a project cooked up by the previous socialist mayor ten years ago. The Mairie then changed hands and the new centre-right mayor wasn't keen on the vast expense, so they've been sitting unused in a warehouse for the last five years or so. The Mairie finally bit the bullet and let them out for a four-day extravaganza reputedly costing several million euros. I suspect the security arrangements have become more draconian since the project was first mooted -- all of central Toulouse was closed to traffic by means of manned barricades (yes, the main reason we decided to go by train ::sigh::) and the machines were accompanied everywhere by gun-toting police and kevlar-jacketed security staff.

After lunch we had an hour or so to kill, so we expensively headed for the lovely bookshop Les Ombres Blanches. Emerging much later with eight books to lug around. Then the obligatory stop at the superb ice cream shop on the corner of the Place du Capitole.

The afternoon's display, starting at 3 pm, involved live musical accompaniment, with the musicians borne aloft by hi-lift trucks. I expect they were glad of their plastic-swathed shelters, since at precisely 2:55, it started to rain. Luckily it wasn't heavy, and at precisely 3 the giant spider was on the move, with the musicians' unwieldy vehicles following.

We followed along with the crowd for a while but then made the mistake of deciding to take a short cut to get ahead. The route was a closely guarded secret, and unfortunately we guessed wrong and lost it altogether. But we had had about enough walking and standing around by now anyway, so we paused for a coffee, made an impulse buy of fresh ravioli for dinner in an Italian deli,  and then took the metro back to (fairly near) the far-flung spot where the car was parked. And home.

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