May 31, 2010

After all this time, almost time to leave

Posted in planning, travel tagged , , , , at 12:42 pm by Fat Girl Dancing

I bought my train ticket to Paris today. My last ticket to Paris. The ticket that will take me to Paris, and nowhere else. Not back to Bordeaux. My heart broke a little when I told the cashier it was a one-way ticket. Because from Paris I will go to the airport and from the airport I will go to Dublin, Chicago and then home.

I teared up a little. I’m counting down the days until I’m outta here. 26 days till I leave Bordeaux, 29 till I leave France. But I’m so not ready to leave. It’s the biggest catch-22. I can’t imagine living anywhere other than France.

When I left in 2008, I remember standing on a bridge in St. Jean de Luz and saying “I will live here.” I made it my goal and I worked towards it, and I did it. I lived here.

I will return.

May 5, 2010

Spain! Part 2

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 9:20 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Tuesday we tried to be up and out of the hostel by 9:30am, but with five women it was closer to 10am by the time we’d all finished breakfast and were ready to go. The original plan was to hit the beach just two blocks from the hostel in the morning and the further beach in the afternoon, but it was still fairly cool that morning so we went shopping instead!

Spain doesn’t have the restrictions on sales like France does, so there were some great bargains to be found. We went to some of our favorite French stores (H&M and Pimkie). I bought a Hello Kitty shirt-dress at H&M for only 10 euro. At Pimkie I was delighted to find a skirt I’d had my eye on back in France was marked down 40% here in Spain!

0427_sansebastian2
Melanie’s new look

We finished shopping for souvenirs in the old section of town and walked back to the hostel for lunch. I had bought a microwavable potato tortilla from the grocery store the day before, and it turned out to be quite delicious and very filling! I had to share it with everyone else, because I couldn’t finish it all on my own.

Fed and shopped out, we were finally ready to hit the beaches! We started at the close beach, which was really the “surfer’s beach” because it was directly on the ocean and had very large waves. We spent a few hours there and then walked to the other beach — this one is actually in a bay, so the waves are much more calm. Melanie and I braved the cold April waters and went for a little swim! I love playing in the waves!

0427_sansebastian3

We spent the last, dwindling hours of sunlight playing cards before walking back to the hostel to get cleaned up for dinner. As we were once again walking across town, we managed to catch the last rays of the sun before they disappeared behind the water.

0427_sansebastian7

The hostel had recommended a Pintxo bar to us for dinner, but we’d had trouble finding it the last two nights. Finally I asked for directions (in Spanish!) and was able to understand the answer well enough to lead the group to the bar. The menu was all in Spanish, and everyone immediately demanded a translation, which was a bit overwhelming, but fortunately there was one employee who spoke English well enough to translate for all of us. It was only at the end of the evening that we saw a French translation of the menu hidden behind the bar! If we’d seen that earlier, it would have been much simpler ^_^

0427_sansebastian8
Scallops (wrapped in ham — beurk!)

0427_sansebastian9
Duck

We tried lots and lots of tiny dishes, including a superyummy risotto. It was a fun way to try lots of foods and get a very filling dinner. Once again we tried to find some kind of non-sketchy nightlife, but had no success with it, and went back home too early 😦

Wednesday was our last day in Spain! The day began warm and just kept getting hotter. We ate breakfast outside on the terrace, packed our belongings and checked out of the hostel. They very kindly allowed us to keep our luggage in a private room since we didn’t need to leave the city until 5pm. We did some more sightseeing, wandering around the city, up hills, and around the bay.

0428_sansebastian1

0428_sansebastian2

0428_sansebastian3

0428_sansebastian5

0428_sansebastian6

And of course we needed a Cheetos break.

0428_sansebastian8
Alicia, Karin, and Melanie nom some Cheetos

We walked towards the opposite side of the bay to see a sculpture that some members of the group were interested in, but as we hiked further and it got hotter, I could feel myself wilting. I knew if I continued the walk without water or rest (we were pushing ourselves because two members of the group had an earlier train to catch), I would dehydrate or get sick. When we passed a little cafe on the beach, I told the others to go ahead and catch up with me on the way back. Melanie decided to hang back too. We had drinks (I had a sangria!) and played cards while listening to Spanish conversation and watching the beautiful blue ocean.

0428_sansebastian10

Back at the hostel, we said goodbye to two of our group and the rest of us changed into our swimsuits and went back to the surfer’s beach for the last time. Melanie and I tried to go swimming again, but the waves were definitely much bigger here than the ones at the bay! It was scary, but exhilarating.

We showered (the hostel was SO GREAT, letting us shower even though we were already checked out. Seriously. Olga’s Place in San Sebastian. Best hostel evar.), stopped to stock up on Cheetos, and headed back towards the train and to France. In the border city of Hendaye I grabbed a slice of gateau basque. You can’t come all the way to Basque Country and not have gateau basque!!

It was a great vacation with great friends, and I’m glad I got to go and have such fun times!

May 1, 2010

Spain!

Posted in travel, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:13 am by Fat Girl Dancing

This week, for three days, in order to somewhat salvage our vacation, my friends and I headed south to the warm and sunny beaches of San Sebastian, Spain.

I had been to San Sebastian once before, two years ago, on the fourth of July, for about 6 hours. I was looking forward to spending more time in the city and really exploring it. Once again I was the only Spanish speaker in the group, and I was looking forward to blowing the dust off my Spanish brain and getting some use out of it again. Living and breathing French for the last 7 months, plus not studying Spanish for 10 months had made me VERY rusty.

We met bright and early at the train station at 7:30 on Monday morning, and we were off! I tried to read a little of Crepusculo, my copy of Twilight in Spanish to help orient me, but we were all too excited to do more than chat. Once we got off the train in Hendaye, the border town in France, I took charge and got everyone to the Spanish train that would take us to San Sebastian. My first attempts to speak Spanish — to the ticket agent — didn’t go so smoothly. I was able to say I wanted a ticket to San Sebastian, but when he asked me if I wanted one way or round trip, I couldn’t remember how to say the word “today!” (as in, “just for today”) It wasn’t until we were on the train that I remembered it. Fortunately I had my French-Spanish dictionary, which came in very handy.

Once we were in San Sebastian I discovered we had bad directions from the station to the hostel. The group bugged me to ask someone on the street, which I did awkwardly (“Oh yeah, ‘z’ is pronounced like ‘s’!”), but she had no idea, so we went back to the station where the woman at the desk spoke English and had a map. Very helpful.

The hostel was about a 20-minute walk from the station, but it was a GREAT hostel. Only 14 euros a night for our room, and we had a balcony with a view of the ocean!

0426_sansebastian4
View from our balcony

0426_sansebastian5
I totally climbed that mountain

0426_sansebastian6
Sangria!

The first thing we did was celebrate being in Spain with a bottle of Sangria we’d bought in France. Then we decided to climb a mountain. We’d gotten a map from the front desk of the hostel, and the woman there had marked interesting places and attractions for us. One place she’d marked was a mountain very nearby the hostel.

No kidding, this was a fucking mountain. Straight up climb, great picturesque scenery, but I was sloooooooowwww to climb, while all the others just kind of hopped up. My body just does not like gravity.  It took me a long time to get to the top, but the view was so worth it.

0426_sansebastian19


0426_sansebastian21

0426_sansebastian24

0426_sansebastian26

0426_sansebastian30

Then we climbed back down the mountain because we were STARVING. Down is much easier than up. It was too late for lunch in most places, but one restaurant was willing to serve us bocadillos. I had a queso tortilla bocadillo that was AMAZINGLY delicious.

0426_sansebastian31
YUM

We did some grocery shopping for breakfast and lunches for the next few days, and I bought CHEETOS. This became the Cheetos vacation. There are no Cheetos in France. I remembered from my last trip that there were Cheetos in Spain. I wanted Cheetos. Everyone thought I was nuts until they too tasted the Cheezy goodness. Then we were all going nuts for Cheetos, stopping in alimentaciones wherever we found them for MOAR CHEETOS.

We came home and passed out. It started as just having a bit of a lie down and turned into a three-hour nap. So much for going shopping! We headed back out to the other side of town just as all the stores were closing.

0426_sansebastian34
But I found a Sanrio store!!

0426_sansebastian35
This paella was so good, I wanted to eat it forever. And ever.

We passed a gelato place, and I had been named decision-maker for the evening, so i said, “DECISION MAKER SAYS GELATO.” Fortunately they agreed with me. The place was so good and cheap, we went back every day!

We wandered around forever, trying to find some famous Spanish nightlife, but everything was either really seedy or empty. We settled for a drink along the quai and then went back to the hostel for the night.