“Life is a journey, not a destination.” Emerson got it right when he verbalized this sentiment. We left on a 6:50 am flight from Budapest heading to Munich and then connecting to Toulouse. Enjoying the Diners Club lounge helped a great deal. We did not have coffee or breakfast at home, so we were able to indulge in both free, once at the airport.
Lufthansa is ever efficient. We left on time and arrived to the minute in Munich. Too bad, because we had a 3+ hour layover, so being late would have killed some time. We had the directions to the Diners Club lounge here too, but both lounges happen to be in Terminal 1, while we were in Terminal 2 the Schengen terminal. In order to indulge in relaxation, free food, drink, and easy access to the Internet all free, we had to emigrate from the secured zone we were in after landing.
Leaving the airport was no big deal. Walking to Terminal 1 was like walking the length of five professional football fields and then coming face to face with Passport Control. Since he could not find my latest exit stamp, he asked how long I have been in Europe. Twelve years did not bring a smile to his face. Meanwhile, Ron is sailing through with a different officer, no questions asked. I had to produce my Hungarian residency card. Thankfully, I thought to bring it and then he let me pass with a new stamp in my passport.
It was the same thing in reverse when we arrived at Terminal 1. Why are you here? This flight is from Terminal 2. We have over 3 hours before the flight so we are going to the lounge. My passport was getting anemic without many stamps recently; this was making up for it. Following Passport Control was security. I hate security. Undo the laptop, take off my shoes, no belt, nothing in my pockets, and follow the drill for the umpteenth time. They too wanted to see my boarding pass, but hesitated letting me through seeing that my flight was not leaving from that terminal. It caused some discussion, but my explanation satiated their need to know or be controlling.
The lounge was worth the effort once we arrived. Humungous, beautifully decorated, and well equipped with Internet WiFi, I was a happy camper. Did I forget the food and drink? There was a large enough spread we could have lunch, drink ourselves silly, but still it kept getting replenished. The variety of booze was fraternity-like in its scope; no bottle was denied admission. Regardless of the temptations, I actually read and graded some papers.
Leaving the lounge was somewhat easier, because we were not paying attention the first time. We could have taken the shuttle between terminals, which would have negated the need for security. We did have to do the Passport Control thing, but the sole officer was on the phone, so when he heard we were just lounging around in the other terminal, he was relieved to just stamp our books and let us pass.
The flight from Munich to Toulouse only required a small jet, which should have been our clue when we saw our seats were in the sixth row. Ron had to check his carry-on suitcase plane side. I had checked mine in Budapest. An hour and 32 minutes later, we were in the Toulouse airport. Tourism information sent us to the bus desk to buy our tickets to get to the hotel. No one could tell us where the hotel was, but we were told to go to the end of the line, the train station.
Once there, we found an Ibis Hotel, which is what I had booked. How fortunate! Opps, it was not our Ibis. We were in the Ibis Budget, down the street about five blocks. It was not a bad walk; close to the train station, but more importantly, even closer to the bus station where we will catch our bus to Andorra tomorrow. With the word ‘budget’ ringing in my head, I expected the worst. It was lovely and for €35, it was a bargain. The staff was very friendly; the room was well proportioned, incredibly clean and more than serviceable for a one-night stay. Had we really enjoyed the city, I would have not minded staying there even longer. Breakfast was an additional €5.95 each, but seemed like it did not make it worth having to hunt down a place. We did have a bus to catch in the morning.
We still had a few hours of daylight left to explore, so we did. There was no preparation for Toulouse. The objective for this trip was to get to Andorra. As we came into the city on the bus, I had noticed down one street an impressive church. It turned out to be Basilique Saint-Sernin. Although we could hear organ music and choir singing, none of the doors would let any of we curious people inside for a peek.
Leaving there, we walked around looking for a dining spot. On what was identified on the map as a main road through the city, there were surprisingly few restaurants available to choose from. There were however, a buffet of pubs lining both sides, but nary a one served food-food. Their extent of offerings was limited to peanuts or chips. What was or really should not have been alarming was the number of gyro restaurants around. Are the gyro places taking over the world?
We settled for a small Asian place that served noodle boxes. I had heard of these restaurants before, but was never in one. I think there is now one in Budapest. I am not clear whether this is a chain or someone else’s ingenuity. You start with a choice of noodles or rice; you then add a topping from meat choices or tofu, and finally a sauce. They cook it up for you then serve it in a paper ‘to go carton’ associated with Chinese restaurants. It was filling, tasty, and enough that we should not have ordered a side salad, but we had.
Walking back to the hotel did not inspire us with underestimating the glories and hidden excitement of this city. Perhaps on our return through before returning to Budapest.