This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.


Manuel "Senso" Lanctôt
Toulouse, France

Alexis de Tocqueville may have loved America at the time of his famous happy stroll but would he still love the Big Mac-eating, warmongering and arrogant country that it is now? Probably, since France is starting to like fast food, chauvinism is a national past time and they used to be pretty aggressive (they started what became the Viet-Nam war after all).

France is well known for its famous wines, cheeses, bloated goose liver pâtés, seasonal car burning (about 40,000 in 2005) and holier-than-thou attitude towards the USA. The latter can be explained by the fact that Americans consider themselves to be in the best country in the world while the French believe that all other countries suck. This is what happens after three Napoleons and a revolution - just don't mention the German occupation.

After a bit of traveling around, Toulouse is still my favorite city, mainly because this place is older than Jesus and also, of course, because it's not Paris. Students make about 1/8th of the city population so there is a good nightlife filled with distant drunken singing, but unfortunately I'm not a student. It's pretty hard to find a bar where you can sit and have a calm drink on any day of the week except in Irish pubs.

Toulouse is also the head quarter of Airbus, famous for its huge A380 plane that keeps getting postponed and being the laughing stock of Boeing.

I never bothered to understand why but the public transportation system here goes on strike every now and then. There's nothing funnier than being stuck in a crammed bus for an hour and seeing 500 students waiting at the next bus stop. Well, nothing except maybe stepping on dog poo poo, which Toulouse has more than enough. Those little carpets in front of doors are used to wipe that poo poo off your shoes more than anything else.

As for the dirtiness cliché, this is not true anymore. French women do shave their armpits and they smell pretty good. The average Toulousain (or "Toulousaing" in the local accent) is trendier than most North Americans. They're also sexier since obesity is not yet a general problem here. That alone, my friends, is a good enough reason to come visit us.


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Next week on GARA:
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