Our Covid confinement started mid-March and I bought and began to use my first facemask on the 30th. Since then I have acquired a collection of washable, reuseable facemasks which is just as well since we were soon required to wear one everywhere but at home.
I took two of the collection with me last week on a visit to Toulouse where they only recently made the wearing of facemasks mandatory in all public places. Toulouse was the center of the French Resistance in the unoccupied part of France during WW II. During the lockdown and ever since, I’ve been reading books about WW II secret agents, double agents, and the French Resistance so I was curious to visit the city that kept coming up in my reading. In addition, it has the Canal du Midi and the Garonne River running through it, plus the area is the home of cassoulet – France’s very complicated-to-make homage to the bean.
-- the pink city -- was just as pink and beautiful as they said it
would be. If the weather hadn’t been so miserable, I might have
seen more of it and taken that long walk along the canal that had
been part of my reason to go. Not that I didn’t spend hours
walking in the rain. I did. And
I managed a short walk along the canal.
I also managed to wade my way through the rain to see the Museum of the Resistance and Occupation where there was a temporary exhibit of photos by Germaine Chaumel -- wonderful photos taken during the war but not so much of the war, but of people. You can find some information about her on this French website, if you can't read the text, you can admire the many photos. Germaine Chaumel
In the permanent collection I found a couple of photos of people I had read about and, very moving for me, an old wireless transmitter. You can’t read about World War II, double agents, secret agents, and the Resistance without reading about those wireless transmitters. The agents who used them often did only that – send and receive messages for several other agents. Theirs was the most dangerous of all the dangerous work that agents did, because they were the easiest for the Germans to find using their trannsmission detection devices. The transmitter was in its original, beat up leather case, a case about the size of our carry-on luggage. The agents parachuted into France with those. A very heavy carry on to drop down with.
Walking back from the museum (still in the rain) I took a path through the Jardin des Plantes, a park and botanical garden that I had skirted on the way there, afraid to vary from the GPS instructions. The verdant park was a peaceful haven and relief from the maze of streets of the day before. I spent the previous day blundering through those narrow ancient streets in the old town. (I used a map and was constantly lost. At one point, while consulting my map, a man in the doorway of a a shop asked me what I was looking for. “She’s looking for me,” said his pal. “Mais, oui,” I said.) So that next day I enjoyed a heavenly stroll through the garden and the woods. Upon entering and seeing that there was no one within sight, I took off my facemask, and, first time in months, took my first breath of fresh, fragrant air.