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Opening Up In The Pink Heart-shaped City

The Garonne at Sunset Treasure Aamayah

Do you believe in fate or is everything in life just a blissful coincidence?

Sometimes I question whether I am actually in control of the decisions I make. It often feels like I’m being guided by a mystical foretold destiny.

My time in France has only worked to solidify this theory in my mind. Maybe I was always meant to run away from Paris, skip from city-to-city in Alsace, and miss my bus on the way to Annecy. Somehow, someway, these past decisions led me to Toulouse. A special little city that sits on the edge of the Pyrenees in the south of France. 

Toulouse—which is affectionately known as "La Ville Rose" because of how pink the buildings look in the evening light—was my ninth city in France. As you can expect by this point, I had zero expectations when I arrived. Maybe it would be my home and maybe it wouldn’t.

Spoiler alert: It was not to become my French home. However, it gave me something much more valuable. 

It was late evening by the time I checked in to my Airbnb. Usually, I like to wander aimlessly and organically find somewhere to eat when I first arrive in a new place. However, the streets were busy with football spectators heading to watch a game. Feeling a little uneasy with the crowd, I searched for places to eat close by. I settled on a cute little empanada bar called El Almacen, a five-minute walk away. After looking through the menu online, I pre-decided what I was going to have. I strolled through the new unfamiliar streets of Toulouse, anticipating how delicious my dinner was going to be. As I approached the bar, the lights were on, but I noticed the clear roller doors were pulled down and the lady inside was preparing for closing.

In a city that originally formed the shape of a heart, I began to feel like I could love again.

The saving grace in that moment was the street I was on, Rue des Filatiers, happened to be a foodie's paradise, full of bars and restaurants. Little did I know how an innocuous bar closing early would have such a profound impact on the rest of life. Fast forward a few days and after getting incredibly lost wandering through the streets of Toulouse, I found myself back on Rue des Filatiers. This time however, El Almacen was open. 

I walked up to the counter and ordered the empanadas I had decided on days earlier.

“Et voudrais-tu quelque chose à boire?” the guy behind the counter asked.

My French at this point was coming along but with a slight turn of phrase, I could easily get lost and so I just stared back at him with a blank expression.

He responded with a slight sigh and reverted to English. "I said, 'Would you like something to drink?'"

Embarrassed, I panic-ordered a drink and watched as he placed my empanadas into the quick bake oven to warm up. He then asked where I was from and why I was here and so on. Like water flowing down a small creek, we ended up in a gentle but easy flowing conversation. 

Once my food was ready, I ate on the terrace outside in the sun. When I finished, I could have easily returned my tray to the designated space outside—but something pulled me back inside. As I handed over my tray to him, that gentle conversation picked up right where we left it. I learnt he was Chilean Italian, speaks at least four languages and before I knew it, I was giggling like a schoolgirl. The conversation came to its natural conclusion and we swapped Instagram handles. 

A few days later and after a bold DM on my part, we decided to meet on the Pont Neuf bridge at sunset. Going with the flow, we ended up on the banks of the Garonne drinking wine. The gentle stream of conversation from the previous day had now expanded to a fast flowing river of discussion. An evening full of laughs balanced by a level of mutual understanding and respect for the individual lives we were trying to create for ourselves.  

I believe there are people who we are guided to meet in life, who gently heal pieces of ourselves we didn’t know we were trying to heal. I remember how safe I felt with this perfect stranger. Like a closed-off flower starting to bloom in the sunshine, flirting with this handsome Chilean, opened me up and I began to flirt with life again.

It is almost poetic that in a country associated with romance and in a city that originally formed the shape of a heart, I began to feel like I could love again. Through a stream of indelible conversation, I became open to loving myself in such a way that one day I know I will be the main character in my very own love story. 

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Treasure Aamayah

Treasure Aamayah is an Aussie living the dream in the south of France. She is a storyteller, lover of engaging conversations with strangers and known for being a perpetual nomad, with her current move to France on a working holiday being her fifth international move. Follow her at @treasureaamayah.

Website: www.coddiwompleandco.com

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