Here are our parting thoughts of Spain, and initial thoughts of France:
Smokers are EVERYWHERE! It makes me appreciate the non-smoking status in much of America. Maybe we don’t have quite as many European tourists because their smoking addiction could not allow them to take the long transatlantic flight.
The Spanish don’t seem to learn English. Fortunately, we knew more Spanish than they knew English so we stumbled through conversations.
I noticed that most women wear a scarf around their necks but rarely wear a hat, even when it is cold. Stylish shoes and boots are worn. I certainly stand out with my hiking boots. I loved their unique merchandising displays.
Dinner times varied greatly throughout Spain. Rob is used to eating at 7:00. Most restaurants in southern Spain did not open until 8:30.
However, in Bilbao pintxos started around dark and continued well past midnight. In San Sebastian, pintxos were throughout the day and ended at 10:30pm.
We were either too early or too late for dinner. Most of the restaurants in San Sebastian were closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Rob has been telling me about the food in France-the sauces, the breads, the pastries!! His mouth waters just thinking about it. He spent a summer in France while in high school. He longs to buy some bread and cheese and have a picnic in a park.
Our first stop was Toulouse to see Doris, a friend of our daughter, Elle. Doris had been an international student at Lakota West High School in West Chester, OH. Toulouse is not on many travelers’ bucket lists and was not originally a planned stop, but Elle said that Doris was counting on seeing us. We made a hotel reservation by the train station so it would be easy on and off.
The day before our arrival, Doris informed us that her job was requiring her to go to Paris as the result of the recent European elections. She would not be available. Oh well-we will make the best of this stop.
While Rob bought our next train tickets, I looked around the train station. I was seeing things that I had not yet seen on our previous tourist spots – homeless, dirty, and overly crowded. I held on to my backpack a little tighter.
Even though the reviews for our hotel were good, it was obvious that this was not a 5-star hotel. (Upon closer look at the reviews, Rob said one reviewer used the word SCARY.) The door was hard to open, the closet door would not close (there was an old non-hotel towel and underwear in the closet) and there was only one towel with unwashed glasses in the bathroom. We weren’t sure what kind “hotel” this was and if we should change hotels but figured that this will not be the worst place in which we stay in our yearlong adventure.
After doing laundry at the laundromat, we set out to find a lunch of this amazing French food. On our way we passed winos in the doorways and scantily dressed prostitutes on the corners. As we passed them, I prayed for them as God wants to redeem all of his creation. They are beloved of God.
At 3:30, all of the food establishments were closing – too late for lunch, too early for dinner. We did find a kiosk that was selling sandwiches. They were delicious but mostly because we were hungry.
Redemption was coming. We ate dinner at a menu-less restaurant. The only thing that they wanted to know is how you want your steak cooked.
We were served a delicious salad of greens, a heaping pile of “French” fries and deliciously seasoned thin slices of steak.