Week 1- 30-8-2019
Travel requires lots of early mornings. Today, we woke at 430 to get a ride at 530 AM for a 10 AM flight. The flights went better than expected because the international flight had OK food and was on time. From the long overnight flight, we gathered our bags and waited in the circus line that is most of the world’s customs and border patrol check-in lines.
From there we stumbled to the next challenge, SNCF. The trains in France are interesting and confused, much like the people riding them. When our train came, we tried to board it, but the line for our car was a mess. Young families with way too many bags, old people that couldn’t or wouldn’t get into the dang car as conductors started yelling at us in one of the many languages I don’t speak or understand. To speed things up, we were forced into a different car and the train sputtered to life with us in the wrong car. We rode in the wrong seats until the rightful owner showed up. We expressed our confusion and sadness and tried to get to our proper seats, but discovered a man and 2 kids that seemed to refuse to move and would only point at his phone. Stymied, we went to the first class section and waited to get yelled at yet again. This never happened and we arrived in Hendaye without having to relocate.
Hendaye is a small town that sits on the French side of the French-Spanish border. We got off the French train and bought 2 tickets using our bag of Euro change leftover from a trip 2 years before. Next was a short 100 meter walk to the Spanish train located in the Spanish-side town of Irun.
The train to San Sabastian was smooth and only took 30 minutes. We found the station that our Airbnb host instructed us to take and started walking. A short walk took us to the correct neighborhood, but no amount of calls, texts, human sacrifices, Airbnb messages, Google map searches, 3 laps around the neighborhood dragging our oversized bags and screaming at the heavens could help us find the proper house. With my phone battery dying, and both of us at wit’s end, our host drove up and picked us up. We had walked in front of our host’s house at least 3 times, but she hadn’t described the house well or how the Basque Regions like to have 2 street signs for each street. One in Basque and one in Spanish. Since they consider themselves Basque first and Spanish, the Basque signs were large and well located.
The next day, we pack our stuff up in our backpacks and walked the length of the beaches to the apartment we would be staying at for our week of Spanish school. The path there was easy and pretty.
Monday (2-9-2019) was the first day of Spanish. It was just me in the “moron level” Spanish class until an Aussie gal named Melissa showed up. She was also on a gap-year, but had run afoul on her passage from Turkey to San Sabastian. She ended up taking several buses to get there.
The rest of the week was a bit of a blur. Each evening we had meetups to practice Spanish. Most were lost on me as my base level didn’t allow me to add anything to the conversation, but I could usually follow along. The best trip was to the Basqueland Brewing Project. It is by far the best beer we tried in Spain for our 2 months there and on par with many US microbreweries.
Friday completed our week of Spanish class and we packed to start hiking the Camino de Santiago (del Norte).