Wednesday, June 10, 2015

France: Chapter 2

I did not want to take this long to make another post but it is what it is. Just waking up from an unintentional five hour nap, I believe now is the best time to make another post. I last left off right before my weekend trip to Gavarnie and the Pyrenees...

We had left at 7h (7:00 a.m.) in the morning. With it being about a three hour drive, of course I decided to sleep on the bus (I have begun to value sleep more than ever). About 45 to 30 minutes away from Gavarnie, we started to enter into the mountains. Luckily, I had awoken because in the remaining time of the ride to Gavarnie, I saw some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The first thing that had struck me was the river running through the valley. Never in my 20 years have I seen water like this. It was glacier-blue and very clean looking. Its source is the melting snow on the mountain tops of The Pyrenees. I could not take my eyes off of it for the rest of the way. My description does not even come close to describing how perfect this water was. There were dozens of waterfalls of all sizes pouring into the river scattered across the mountainside. The mountains reminded me of those in Colorado. The utter majesty if the mountains were a sight to see--very picturesque. We arrived at the refuge/hotel and spent a bit settling in before we had lunch. The lunch was very simple: a baguette that was used to make a sandwhich, an apple, chips, tomato, and a small dessert cake. I was not disapponted. I am not sure exactly what time we began our hike but it was the early afternoon. We headed out on a set trail in Gavarnie from a town located at the base of the mountain. The group started to stretch out as we began our hike up the mountain. I made sure to keep up front so I could converse with the French program assistants. That has been the best way for me to learn the culture and language so far and I often find myself in their company. We stopped at the halfway point of the mountain to wait for more people to catch up and to take pictures. As it would happen, the unpredictable mountain weather brought in a thunderstorm. We had to turn back and head down the mountain toward the town. The rain was very light until we got close to the bottome. The skies opened up and large, cold drops drenched everyone who was there that day. Luckily, the majority brought rain coats or jackets, and one guy had brought an umbrella. It pays to be safe. We got back to the town and tried to stay as dry as possible as we waited for the bus. The bus arrived and we headed back to the hotel/refuge. Everyone changed and got ready for dinner at 7 p.m. While waiting for dinner, nearly everyone was playing card games. It felt good to be doing something familiar. I got involved in a game of euchre with three other people. It was definitely a blessing and something I have not done in a while. I have not met that many people outside of my family that plays euchre and it was nice to find some people that did. Dinner was served and I have to say, even though I did not know what I was eating, it was amazing. It was served in the traditional French style. Soup/salad first (we had soup), main course, bread and cheese, then dessert last. All of it was delicious, even though the cheese smelled like feet. There was no complaining after the long day. A lot of people went down to the bar in town to watch the Championship Soccer game between Barcelona and Juventus. I stayed at the refuge with the rest because I was exhausted and my shoes were still damp from the rain. I continued to play cards and enjoyed a nice cup of vanilla tea. Later in the night a large group of us decided to stargaze in the mountains. It was very serene and calming. The big dipper was bright in the night sky. The next morning we woke at about seven and had breakfast. We departed for Lourdes, France, the Holy City" at about 10:30.

We arrived in Lourdes and had a picnic style lunch, I wondered off from the group in attempt to find a restroom. I ended up finding myself in a situation of not being able to communicate with anyone and I could not find a restroom. I know I was saying the right words in French but maybe my American accent was too strong, or maybe they just don't like Americans. Either way I, didn't find a restroom until a little bit later when I rejoined with a group that had all of the program assistants. We stopped at a cafe and had tea and coffee. I don't think I mentioned this before but one of the program assistants had gone to Purdue for a study abroad. I spent a decent portin of the day talking to her about her experiences in America and at Purdue. I find myself fortunate to have a program assistant that I can connect to through Purdue. It makes things easier in a way, less stressful. Anyways, our group went downtown in Lourdes and saw the cathedral and churches that were everywhere. A little history about Lourdes: it is known as the Holy City of France because there was a woman, Saint Bernadette, who saw the Virgin Mary on multiple occasions in a cave, the Grotto.  Miracles have occured in the cave and the water that flows from it is considered to be holy water. You are allowed to collect the holy water from the cave and that is one thing I regret not doing. I didn't have a container or bottle with me and I should have bought noe when I had the chance. Definitely the biggest regret of the weekend. But Lourdes was a beautiful and moving place. Seeing some Catholic history in France was a nice change.

I wish I could spend more time on this and even add pictures but it is getting late here. I will try and post again tomorrow (hopefully with pictures from the weekend) because a lot has been going on this week. This weekend is in Barcelona and I know there will be a lot to say about that. Bonne nuit!

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