Lots of big stainless steel tanks at Domaine J. Laurens.

Stainless steel tanks at Domaine J. Laurens. That’s a lot of Blanquette!

The fabled Lady Carcas.

The fabled Lady Carcas at the gates of Carcassonne.

To the ramparts!

To the ramparts!

The deadly cassoulet from Brasserie Donjon.

The deadly cassoulet from Brasserie Donjon.

OK. So, there is a reason I say that the cassoulet was deadly. First of all, it was brilliant—rich and crusty and flavorful. So brilliant, in fact, that almost everyone in our group who ordered it went back for seconds. Here’s the problem: that’s a lot of (admittedly, wonderful, decadent, and tasty) fat and salt to take in at one time, particularly if you may be dehydrated. This left Tom (who was seated next to me), to begin having an accelerated heart-rate, high blood-pressure, and a feeling of dizziness almost immediately upon finishing his meal. We all expressed some concern, but he was cautiously optimistic. After lunch, we headed back to the Disco Bus and he was noticeably struggling.

The tension in the Disco Bus was high and we all, eventually, convinced Tom to head off to the hospital in Toulouse. This meant that we would miss our winery visit in Gascony, but Tom’s health would be assured. We pulled over and waited for an ambulance at a highway interchange outside of Toulouse. The paramedics were great and were kind enough to take photos of Tom in the ambulance on his phone for posterity. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t take any more photos for the rest of the day.

While Tom and Philippe spent their time waiting, undergoing tests, waiting some more, and engaging the student medical staff in the hospital for the next six hours, the rest of us killed time knocking back beers in a Barcelona Football Club bar in the middle of this bustling college town. When it was finally determined that we would be staying in Toulouse for the night, our splintered group ended up at a largely unmemorable restaurant for a fun dinner and conversation. The food was fine, but I made a horrible wine recommendation based on experience with a prior vintage (this wine has since been closed out in my store).

By the time we arrived at the hotel, Philippe and Tom were already at the hotel bar with Tom going to town on a sammich and a Heineken and back to being the smart-ass we had grown to love. All was well. Off to Bordeaux tomorrow.