the old woman from the Japanese garden

Hi. Weekend post is here for you.

I read many blogs. And by read, I mean of course, look at the pictures posted. Should this be offensive for me to say, since I consider myself a [wannabe] writer? No. Because the blogs I follow are not writing blogs, they are fashion blogs. And featured in these blogs are many segments falling under the "Travel" category.

Now, did I really need this introduction to tell you what I am going to write about? Not really. But you're stuck with it anyway.

I wrote this when I was visiting my best friend in Toulouse. So I will be featuring it under the new "Travel" umbrella. [As I write this, I pray to God and cross my fingers that this post will not be an orphan in the Travel category.]

We were in the train, going to visit the wonderful medieval town of Carcassonne, when I decided that I should keep a scrapbook and enrich it with adventures and memories. And this is where I wrote about the day before and our more-than-strange encounter with the old lady from the Japanese Garden.

Though all you might find in that scrapbook now, are dead leaves I found here and there, a page filled with all the [disappointing, I must say] vintage stores I penned down to remember to visit during the trip, and this long journal entry about the old lady, I think that it will be a nice tangible [as opposed to the intangible photos forever stuck inside my laptop] souvenir for me to remember in the future.

On that pretty sunny day, my first day in Toulouse, Dina and I awoke and had labneh and thyme and a keshk mankousheh for breakfast* , a breakfast we spent heartily talking for hours about things I cannot seem to recall now. [I'm sorry, Dinou].

We left the house a little before eleven and started to walk around town. Dina, the good tourist guide that she was, wanted to show me around the place. My ovaries, the good and timely backstabbers that they were, decided to play a dirty trick on me.

We walked, walked and walked, pausing at the Japanese Garden to take pictures. The pain was beginning to be felt, evermore enhancing the chill of the wind. 

An elegant and old woman, leaning at the railing, turned her head several times in our direction, before she decided that we were the ideal candidates to converse with. She had silver white hair, neatly tied to the back in a bun, clear blue eyes and bright pink lipstick in her wrinkled face. She was clad in white save for a blue scarf and worn-out, taupe-colored leather gloves. Seeing how we were clearly immersed in the view, and wanting to initiate a conversation, she commented on the subject of the photograph we were I was [poor Dina was just waiting for me to finish] snapping: “Those trees never flower in December. Do you believe this? Trees, flowering? In the coldness of December? I’ve never seen anything like it!” [or something similar to that.] And then she smiled, a sweet, gap-toothed smile that begged for us to listen. For anyone to listen, really.

I've always loved trees. And I always will. But at that very instance, I could not care less whether they were flowering or not. Really.

The woman succeeded in holding us captive in the conversation. First it was the trees. Then it was that random woman who wished her dead for a Christmas present [Don't ask]. After that, it was her fall, on the side of the road, the neglect of the passers-by, her pain as she lifted herself up, four hours later, from the sidewalk to the pharmacy. Then, where did we come from? Ah, from Beirut? Beautiful city**. By the way, she bought flared trousers from Beirut. She visited all the Middle East, you know. Will it ever be as it once was, she pondered to us. The words kept flowing from her mouth. Dina and I nodded, the kind of nodding that makes your brains jumble and your head hurt at the end. We had to get away. What could we possibly say to that poor old woman, who was now rambling on and on about the empty, scotch-taped suitcase she received upon her arrival from Argentina. [Because she visited Argentina too, go figure!] And the lawsuit that followed. And the money she finally retrieved…

I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Excuse me but we are really behind on our schedule and we must absolutely leave! I was a pleasure meeting you!” I said. [I didn’t actually say that. Nor should it be read in British English. I only fumbled with my out-of-practice French uttering some quick apologies before the woman interrupted me once more, saying that she hoped to meet us in Lebanon one day and wishing us a happy stay in Toulouse and a happy new year!]

And then Dina and I were running, laughing, escaping.

We never met the woman again, but we told her story to everyone we met that day [and during the days that followed.] We questioned her sanity, that we did. Quite a few times. Was the old woman spiraling down into a cobweb of delusion? Or was she simply a lonely woman in need of some ears to listen to her? We would never know for sure.

But for her sake, we opted for option two.

And that, kids, is how we met the old woman from the Japanese Garden of Toulouse. Unfortunately I don’t have her picture because 1/ asking for her picture would entail another half hour of non-stop talking, and 2/ was too shy to do it and was afraid it would offend her.

We continued to a sweet little tea parlor “Le Salon d’Eugenie”, where I had delicious Green tea, flavored peach and apricot.

I wrote this in the train the next day, but it is the Beirut-edited version that I present to you today.

That's it for now, but you can be sure that this won't be the last you hear from Toulouse.

snippets from the famed scrapbook!
upper left; leaf from Toulouse
upper right; the vintage stores to visit!
lower left; leaves from Carcassonne
lower right; finally, I found a good usage for business cards! 
The Japanese Garden .1.
The Japanese Garden .2.
That pink tree where the man in the red shirt stands? That's the tree that started the conversation.
I obviously had to add a picture of Carcassonne. I mean it's only fair since I mentioned it.
This is the tourist picture of the castle.
Here was my view when I was writing down in the notebook.
And that's the tea.
And the cup, [which is the main reason I took the picture, obviously.]

Everyone a good night and a good night to everyone.

*[an odd breakfast to have in France, I know. Let’s just say that when you’re Lebanese, and visiting a close acquaintance living abroad, you’re lucky if you can leave without carrying tons of Lebanese food. It wasn’t the case for me, but I did it gladly for Dina.]
**[sorry, just between brackets, why does everyone love Beirut? I mean, what is there to love? The smoke? The pollution? The complete and utter disregard to the heritage? The wonderfully polite people? What?] 


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