Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've not been to London, but I went to France!

Seeing as that I have been traveling every weekend for the past month, I figured, why stop with this weekend! I have become friends with the girlfriend of my Canadian co-worker, Adam. Her name is Leire (pronounced like bear with an 'L' and the word rey - lear rey) and she is very sweet. She is Basque but was an au pair in England for 6 months and has visited the States before as well, so she speaks great English! She invited along a friend of hers that wants to improve her English, named Maria. So, as you can imagine it was a mix of languages the whole trip!

We started out in the morning, driving slowly up the French Coast. I couldn't even tell when we crossed over from Spain to France because they are both part of the Basque Country, and beside the street signs changing languages, are pretty similar. In our first town that we stopped at - St. Jean de Luz - I think I heard more Basque language than French! Either way, I couldn't understand haha. Thankfully, Maria speaks some French. Quite the international crowd we had.

The town was pretty empty although it was sunny. The wind was rather strong since we were on the coast, but that didn't stop us. I learned how to say it is very windy - hace mucho viento, which I ended up thinking the whole trip! We poked around the city, checking in little shops, walking on the boardwalk and hiking up a small hill for a great view. Here is a shot of St. Jean de Luz from the top of the hill. This city is very popular in the summer and I can understand why - it looks so beautiful! It was originally a martime city founded in the 14th century but became a popular place when Napoleon III started visiting with his wife. From then on, foreigners frequented this little charming city and by the end of WWI was a well-known seaside spot.

After a lot of walking around, we decided we were hungry and decided to leave and head to our next stop - Biarritz - for lunch. This little seaside city also was a maritime town, but became very famous when the Napolean III's wife built this huge Palace right next to the beach. This later became a hotel and is now called Hotel du Palais. It was just one of the really pretty buildings in the city! Even the tourism office was huge and ancient! The coast of Biarritz hosts many surf competitions during the summer but when we saw it, no surfer would have taken a chance! The wind had picked up and the waves were crashing into the jugged rocks. Biarritz has these neat little rock islands that jut out from the boardwalk and you are able to walk out into the water...which is somewhat scary but so cool at the same time! Here is a shot of the lighthouse in the distance through the fence on the boardwalk (I am really getting into all this diverse fences they have over here! They are all so unique and pretty and make for good frames of some of the photos I take). With the wet sea-water in your face and tough gusts of wind, we couldn't help but laugh at each other's crazy hair blowing all over. A nice French man offered to take a picture of us girls (from the left - Leire, Maria and me) on one of the bridges that leads out to one of the rock islands. He was pretty intense - this is only one of the many shots he took of us from all different angles of the bridge ha. Leire was pleasantly surpsied because she said from her experience most French men are NOT that nice ha. The boardwalk was very long and directly behind it are steep hills that house the city, which made for some really oddly built houses, nice hill landscaping and lots of stairs for climbing!
We stopped off at a little café for lunch. The waiter reminded me SO much of Mr. Bean...he even had silly faces like him. We laughed about it most of lunch. I couldn't read basically anything on the menu, so ordered what I knew I could read - steak. Yes, I know, kind of a weird choice for lunch, but a perfectly reasonable one over here. The steak came with can you guess? Not mashed potatoes, but French Fries. Over here, fries come with everything. Oh you would like the filet mignon? Let me bring that to you with some french fries. I even ate my french fries with my fork - as was everyone in the restaurant. Over here (Spain too) fries are considered normal accompaniments to a steak...odd. Despite this, I still made sure to said merci (thank you in French - you see, I speak so many languages!)

After filling up we wandered around town checking out old churches, shops and even a department store. It was decorated all Christmasy so we went in, and when I walked out I had bought a scarf and a hat. No surprise. Something that DID surprise me is that Leire went to the bathroom and had to PAY to use it. She had to put a 20 cent coin in a slot to open the door to the stall - isn't that CRAZY? It's a bad picture, but here you can see the coin machine in front of the toilet door.

After shopping we walked around some more until it started to rain and then decided we should head back to España. I loved both of the little cities we visited and will probably visit again someday, as it is so close! Funny thing is that the whole trip, everytime I looked south on the coast, I was able to see Hondarribia (the town where I work that is opposite France). So close! One of my favorite sights of the day was when we were lost trying to find our way back to the car. With all the roundabouts and windy roads, I can see how this happened so easily, but on one of the roundabouts we passed was this house. It looks as if the house has a walkway with a view of the ocean, windows with shutters and a porch, but REALLY it is all one big mural on the side of a blank building. I thought it was so neat! It looks pretty real in this photo and looks equally real in person.

I spent the rest of the weekend being a lazy and catching up on some much needed sleep! November has come to a close and in this month I successfully visited Istanbul, Munich and Frankfurt (kind of cheating since it was just the airport, but I am going to count it anyways), the French Coast and Madrid - not bad for a month! Can't wait for another month of travelling!

I hope you had a great weekend and enjoy the first week of December!

Bises (kisses in French...very similar to Besos wouldn't you say?)

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