Sorry I left you hanging on my update from yesterday–but it was a day mostly devoted to travel. We had an emergency travel meeting to reassess our plans as the night before we stopped and stayed in Tours which was 4 hours shy of our actual destination Toulouse and 8 hours away from the next destination Barcelona–rendering us quite a bit behind schedule. We decided it would be best to cancel our plans in Spain and instead start heading to Marseille early–stopping to rest in Lyon.
This was probably our most interesting drive through the French country side yet with rolling hills, changing colors of fall foliage, and little villages smattered across the horizon. We didn’t see any castles in our view yet but we saw plenty of signage advertising them as nearby. As we’re driving through, I can’t help but think of the other historical journeys of conquerors past–Joan d’Arc as we pass Orleans, Napoleon as we pass just about everywhere, and Hannibal with his seemingly not so crazy elephant expedition through The Alps which I can now say that I’ve seen.
I wish I could say that I saw Lyon–with it’s Roman Amplitheatre, cathedrals, and city lights–but in a rush, we booked a hotel that turned out to be located in an out-of-way troubling suburb prowling with police officials interrogating passersby and, having never seen such a thing before, a homeless hovel (small shacks bundled together w/ sheets for walls with people gathered by a communal bonfire). As we exited our ramp, there were families gathered along the side of the road holding signs in French asking for money and help–Syrian refugees in need of assistance–a sobering reality for any tourist excited about trotting the estate of Versailles to remember and never forget the reality and current state of the world.
Once we were settled into our hotel, we decided to check out the French version of an outdoor shopping mall. It felt a bit space age and reminded me of entering Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida through ascending escalators. I bought a spiffy new jacket because it’s starting to get cold in France and I was planning on already being on the Spanish coast!
For dinner we visited a chain restaurant called Leon which reminded me a bit of a cross between Red Lobster and Applebee’s. Their specialty was mussels–3 pages worth of it to order on the menu (never-ending all you can eat mussels, order by the bucket, pasta with mussels, mussels with mussels). I’m an asshole though and ordered chicken.
This morning we woke up ready to head for 2 nights in Marseille. First stop was a local grocery store to pick up a chocolate croissant for breakfast! It’s amazing–there was literally ONLY fresh food there. No processed, no boxed, no frozen foods (forget about barbaric TV dinners!). I really wish the USA could step up our game in this front.
I tried using exclusively French to order my breakfast. Since the 7th grade, however, my French as been dreadful–I always prounounce things with a Spanish/Italian flare. My German teacher, baffled, had told me after an oral exam (2 years in to studying German) that I spoke it with a Spanish accent and he didn’t understand how I could do it!
The boy at the bakery humored my French and was very nice–smiling at me like a cute puppy who as trying so hard to perform a newly learned trick. The girl at the register continued to let me try for about 10 seconds before figuring me out and switched to answering me in English even though I continued to try at French. I love these people for putting up with me like good sports–here’s hoping Italian goes better!