In a previous post, I wrote about making lifelong friends in Albertville, France during my summer in Europe in 2007. Little did I know that the same thing would happen again towards the end of my trip – this time in Toulouse, France.

My friend and travel buddy, Teresa, had very briefly met Tonja before we left the U.S. and had mentioned to her that we would be traveling through Europe that summer. Tonja graciously invited us to stay with her and her family if we were going to be near Toulouse. Normally I would baulk at staying with complete strangers in their home, but for some reason Teresa and I were both on board with this idea.

Fast forward a few months and Teresa and I were on a train, zipping along the coast of France, traveling from Milan to Toulouse! This was the longest train ride of our ten weeks in Europe – 12 hours! – so it’s a good thing that 1) I love traveling by train, and 2) the views out the window were divine! We passed through Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Antibes…I just wanted to throw on my swimsuit, leap off the train, and jump into the gorgeous, blue Mediterranean! But that would come later (minus the jump from the train 😉 ).

Sleeping while the gorgeous scenery rushes by

Sleeping while the gorgeous scenery rushes by

We arrived in Toulouse in the evening and easily found Tonja’s husband, Lance, waiting at the train station holding a sign with Teresa’s name on it. 🙂  He drove us to their home located in the small town of Lavernose-Lacasse, about thirty minutes from the city.

We spent the evening getting to know the family: Tonja, Lance, and their children Caleb, Jake and Chloe. We immediately felt at ease with them and knew we were going to have a lot of fun over the next few days.

One thing we absolutely loved about this family was the fact that they enjoyed sleeping in just as much as we did. And the following morning we did just that! 🙂  We finally made it out the door around noon and headed to the fortified city of Carcassonne.


Tonja dropped Teresa and I off at the entrance to the walled, medieval city then took the kids to a nearby park. The fortress of Carcassonne is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a major tourist attraction in this region. We walked through the city and tried to imagine what it must have been like to live there during times long past.

Carcassonne 2

The town was so crowded and the narrow streets were packed with people but it was still a great place to explore. Teresa and I both agreed that it would be great to spend the night here to enjoy it once the hordes of tourists leave for the day. It’s on my ever-growing list of places to visit again. 🙂

Once we were finished exploring, we met up again with Tonja and the kids and headed toward the coast and Valras Plage. Oh how I love being near the sea! This beach was very crowded on this perfect summer day but we managed to find a spot in the sand to set up our many chairs, umbrellas and towels.

Valras Plage

After basking in the sun for a bit, Teresa and I decided it was time to head into the Mediterranean. Oh my goodness! The water was freezing! But I was determined and finally made it all the way in. In my mind I had always imagined the Mediterranean to be perfectly blue and warm. Not so.

Valras Plage fun

After spending a few hours floating in the sea, building sand castles, and lying out in the sun, we packed up and walked through the fun beach town. We each got some kebabs and ice cream cones then started heading home around 9:00. A very fun-filled, enjoyable day!

The next day we just hung around the house and had fun celebrating Caleb’s birthday. We carried the celebrations into the following day which was Teresa’s birthday! Again, we just hung around the house and had fun with all the kids that would come and go throughout the day.

Sorry Teresa, it's leftover birthday cake for you

Sorry Teresa, it’s leftover birthday cake for you 😛

On Sunday we attended church services with the family then went to another family’s home for lunch. On our final full day in Lavernose, Tonja, Teresa and I spent the entire day together, laughing more than I had in ages! From trying to climb a giant tower of hay…

hay stacks

…to eating lunch at IKEA (Europe on a budget! 🙂 )…

IKEA lunch

…to arguing with the mannequin at the Leroy Merlin store…


…to eating a wonderful French dinner at La Commanderie in Saint Sulpice-sur-lèze.


We ate our dinner outside and it was perfect! We didn’t know what half the stuff we were eating was but everything was delicious!

Our time with Lance and Tonja and their family was so much fun and we were sad to say good-bye. All of us felt like we had known each other for years instead of just days. The good news is, we didn’t know it at the time, but the following year Teresa and I returned to France to live with them for three months! And now they are back in the U.S. and we try to see them at least once a year (the next trip coming up this July 🙂 ).

I love this family so much and they have become some of my favorite people! And my time spent with them in France some of my favorite memories!



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