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July 20, 2012 / edwardonbebop

An initiatory and symbolic walk in Toulouse

That Saturday, I chose to take a walk in the streets of Toulouse. Without any particular goal, or almost. My shopping done, I headed to the city center by foot using only small narrow streets (when possible). I wanted to know my town better and remember a few street names. I discovered the “rue du Tabac” (Tobacco Street) near the Garonne – the river that flows through Toulouse. It is a pretty nice street with buildings made of red bricks.

There was that other street that I like (without really knowing why) “rue des Lanterniers” (Lamplighter Street) which is perpendicular to the previous one.

After walking several kilometers I decided to find a place to rest. I chose a restaurant & tea room that appeared to be rather quiet (despite its proximity to the street). Le Safran (the name coul be translated to The Saffron). A Moroccan tea place. I was welcomed as a V.I.P and a tired and burdened traveler.

“Be welcome you and all your equipment.” were his first words.

The smiling man could have seemed derisive or mocking all my high-tech equipment (actually just my mobile phone and my big headphones) and yet his smile was perfectly sincere and his words sounded more like: “Lay your equipment here and have a rest dear traveling man”. This is my free interpretation of his words but I like to think that I am not too far from being right. It was a very warm welcoming actually.
After I had chosen a table, he came to me asking for what I wanted to have in a very courteous way. I don’t if his words can be translated to English, but I will give it a try:

“How may I burden you ?”

Behind this very unusual form of politeness several ideas were hidden in my opinion.

First of all the man states that he is available to help his guest. Then the word “burden” surprised me. In the end to my ears the word sounded more like: “How may I fill your table so that your wishes are satisfied ?”

That was a very original way to ask what someone would like to order and far more courteous than the usual: “What can I serve you ?”.

Since the very first moments spent in that tea room different emotions cam to me: surprise, well-being, amusement and curiosity. Despite the various feelings I mostly felt like I was home. A rather amazing sensation taking into account the fact that this was my very first visit here.

As a tea lover I had to have one (moreover this was one of the goals of all that walk in a way), so I chose a ginger tea with a makrout to go with it (how could I resist dates and honey in one pastry ?).

That was a true delight ! That little snack contributed to my relaxation and satisfied the little hunger I was feeling. I was absolutely not disappointed !

Only a short time passed before I wanted to write something down (anything). I wanted to keep a track of my passing in that place and also let my imagination wander a little. The two sources of inspirations came really easily and I can even say that they feed each other. The more I wrote about one thing, the more ideas came for the other. It is the first time in my life that I experienced such a phenomenon.

After several minutes of reflection, I assimilated this place that felt like “home” to a possible link to the unsung origins of my family (at least not well known from me if not from my parents too).

I chose to take that tearoom as a symbolic place that would mark the path of my quest for identity. Because a lot of my current preoccupations revolve around that “simple” question: how am I ?

This place will be like a starting point, a landmark.


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