Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Loved About France and Spain: Musings on our Last Day in Europe

 What we liked (that you cannot get elsewhere, at least not in the same quality)

French cheeses
French panna cotta
French flan
Other French pastries and desserts
Pear crepe

French sauces, especially the buttery ones!Brittany caramels and house-made caramel sauces
Spanish tapas (the idea, rather than the execution; some of the cheap, tiny portions of potatoes or sausages were pretty sad)
A more expensive selection in Barcelona: eggplant and goat cheese

Gazpacho—sooooo much better than at home
Oysters caught daily on coasts of Atlantic and Brittany
Daily haul at Bay of Arcachon, Atlantic coast, France

Wildflowers of every color; spring was a cool yet beautiful time to be here!
Ile Grande, Brittany, France
Meeting friends and friends of friends, some American, some English, some French
Our first night in Paris: Amber, Michele, Ann, Sally

Old castles, houses, Roman villas and bridges, and whole medieval villages made of stone
Eze, Cote d'Azur, France
Ile de Brehat, Brittany, France
St Emilion, Dordogne, France
Grapefruit, oranges, and avocadoes fresh from the trees on farm in Spain
The day's harvest at Finca La Paz, Andalucia, Spain

Big, golden yolks of just-laid eggs on farm in Spain
2-euro bottles of wine in both France and Spain
Ancient winery at Chateau St Martin in Provence, and their expensive rosés and "cooked" wine (similar to port or sherry)
 Not your typical California rosé!

Amazing marinas and harbors on Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, which Pope wants to return to!
La Rochelle, Atlantic coast, France
Crowding boats into tiny harbor on Belle Ile, Brittany, France

High quality and friendliness at small, independent, inexpensive hotels found on TripAdvisor
Hotel Launay, Ploubaznec, Brittany, France
View from our window

High quality of hostels in Barcelona
Salt-water pools instead of chlorine
Iron work on balconies and windows
A window in Paris
And some railings in Paris

Poodle plants and other eleganct touches in formal French gardens
 Eyrignac Gardens, Dordogne, France 
Barelona walking tour with
Picasso's home in Barcelona
What we lamented (or put up with)
Finding stores and restaurants closed, again and again and again!!!
Scarcity of croissants aux amandes, one of the primary reasons Amber goes to France (these are not ordinary American-style almond croissants; they are moist, melt-in-your-mouth conglomerations of butter, sugar, flour, eggs, rum syrup, and almonds)
Failure to find one of the elusive human pyramids (castellers) during Spanish festival of Saint Joan
Weak wifi everywhere
Complicated and inconsistent car rental contracts and insurance coverage

Gavage, the process of force-feeding ducks through a 12-inch-long steel tube crammed down the throat and all the way into the belly to produce foie gras
Inserting the tube; face of farmer obscured by photographer
 The ducks flapped and struggled, with the whole tube inside, pouring whole kernels of corn straight into the tummy 
Skill of pickpockets and suspicious nature of their schemes—who is in on it?
The site of our only pickpocketing experience, in Barcelona, which had a happy endng and several unanswered questions

What we learned

Don’t trust bus schedules/maps.  Ask the driver.
You MUST MUST MUST flag down the bus driver if you want the bus to stop for you. How many times did I shake my fist at the back of a bus before I figured this out?  Your effort must be vigorous and sustained: once I waved at a bus; the driver put on the turn signal and slowed down, then kept right on rolling!
Schengen visa laws are at least somewhat lax; no one was around to stamp our passport re-entering France from Channel Islands, so no one will know how long we’ve been here. (But we still wouldn't take chances and overstay.)
Intermediate language skills are not sufficient to conduct business beyond accommodation and transportation--such as renewing a cell phone plan by phone; understanding recordings on answering machines; negotiating a refund; filing a police report.
Two months is enough to be on the road. After that things went downhill; afer two and a half months, we were tired of traveling and ready to go home.
Dancers are friendly everywhere!
 Cajun dancers, Chatillon, France



1 comment:

  1. Mon Dieux, but think of your readers. Are you sure there isn't something else to explore? (Surely, you'll at least let us know about the medical bills when and if they turn up.) BUT, thanks for the vicarious view of France and Spain!