“A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.” – Tim Cahill
When I first arrived to Toulouse, France in 2012, my roommate (soon to be my very dear friend) and I decided to go for a walk to explore the city. Having bought cheap phones and even cheaper plans, we didn’t have Google maps to guide us around so we randomly chose different directions and paths to go on.
At one point we were starving for lunch and we decided to turn onto a street in search of some food. We came across a very small restaurant that served kebabs, wraps and such. There didn’t seem to be a lot of people inside.
The man behind the counter, who we quickly learned was the owner, saw us and with such a charisma, welcomed us into his restaurant. My friend and I turned to each other and thought, why not? We ordered some food and sat ourselves down. As we were waiting, the man started to ask us about where we were from and the conversation effortlessly carried on from there. We learned about his lovely wife and family, his own travel experience, his advice about Toulouse and life in general.
We soon wrapped up our lunch, then the conversation and were off to continue our little adventure but before leaving, the man delightfully told us we were always welcome and to come back soon.
And we did and not just once or twice; it soon became one of our spots in Toulouse. We couldn’t tell you what street this place was on or what it was even called but without second-guessing ourselves, we could lead you right there. Whether it was for lunch or a late night after-party meal, we made sure to come by as often as we could. It was not necessarily because the food was superlatively amazing but because of this genuinely kind man.
I remember one time when I came in and there were no more vegetarian options available for me, the man offered to make me a special vegetarian dish from whatever ingredients he could rummage from the kitchen. It was this sort of thing that really motivated us to tell as many people about this forgotten restaurant. We soon brought friends by and even for my birthday weekend, I took my visiting friends to celebrate there.
As more time passed, our visits became less frequent due to how unexpectedly busier our schedules became, especially from traveling. Near the end of our exchange semester, my friend and I decided that we had to do things right by having one of our last meals at this place. So we made our usual trek over and to our utter disbelief, the restaurant had shut down and the front doors were barred off.
Stunned, we continued walking, quieter than usual. I felt quite a pang of sadness. I was replaying one of the last few conversations we had with him. He had told us that he knew that it could be tough financially for students so if we were ever having issues such as not being able to afford food, then we can always come to his restaurant to eat for free and whenever we could, we could pay him back. Thinking back to that and then seeing the barred up doors, the magnitude of his kindness really hit me.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have many more of these nice tales from my travels and with each and every one I am learning an important lesson about the people that come in and out of your life. A quote from one of my favourite shows, Sex and the City, explains it best, “ Some love stories aren’t epic novels, some are short stories. But that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” And I feel this applies the same way to any sort of companionship.
To the man at the restaurant from Toulouse, I never got to express my gratitude so if this somehow counts for anything: thank you. May we one day meet again.