A Visit with an Old Friend

So as a young person, my father had a Spanish exchange student come live with his family. Somehow even after all this time, my father has kept in touch with her. When we came to Europe the first time when I was nine, we went to visit her and her family. I remember a whole trip filled with people I didn’t know chattering away in Spanish and eating new foods and having a fun time exploring around Bilbao where she lived.

Now, I hadn’t seen these people in fifteen years. However, my family decided it might be nice to stop by and say hello while we were in the area. So that was how I ended up at a table with about twenty people all speaking Spanish and enjoying a fantastic meal together.


I will say, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not speak a language. Sure, I’m terrible at French and still struggle. However, I can sit at a table and at least know what’s going on, and order my food. So it was a bit difficult to readjust to not understanding much of anything at all.

Still, it’s always nice to be around friendly people even if you don’t speak their language.

Our friend of the family started by taking us for a beautiful walk in the countryside. It was a lovely day, so nice we didn’t need coats (this was December 23rd just to keep that in mind). And we walked with her, her parents, and her adorable dog! My brother and I had a great time watching the silly dog and giving her attention. That was until she rolled in cow poop. Well, that’s the one problem with dogs I suppose.

After a very pleasant walk, going over a Roman bridge, and seeing sheep being herded, we headed by car to a nearby town to have lunch.

We started with an aperitif in another restaurant while people continued to arrive. We eventually finished drinks and moved to another restaurant that didn’t even have enough room for us at first, because there were so many of us!

At long last we settled at a table and began a feast!

We started with some kind of a traditional bean and sausage stew. Since I didn’t speak the language, I never did see the names of the dishes, but it was very good.

Next I had a chicken dish. And I finished off with a delicious pastry dessert. It was all amazing, but it was also fun to spend time with people we hadn’t seen since childhood. Still, some things never change. I remembered my brother pulling out his Gameboy back in the day to interact with the other boys. Sure enough he and one of the boys pulled out their phones to play games together. Well, guess technology at least can pass the language barrier.


After some coffee and more chatting, we said our goodbyes and headed on the road. Everyone was pretty full from all the food, so there was some napping on the road and otherwise we went straight towards our destination.

We stopped in Madrid for the night, though we didn’t head into the city as it is hard to find parking and all, and we were all pretty exhausted anyways. So we stayed at another B&B near the airport. Everyone was tired, so we took advantage of the restaurant in the hotel and ate there. I had pizza and for the most part everyone enjoyed themselves even if it wasn’t fantastic food.

With full stomachs we headed off to bed to get some rest for the next day.

The Christmas Adventure Begins- Bourges and Brive-la-Guillarde

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”-Walt Whitman

So, as I’ve just finished up writing about my last round of travel so it’s time to start another round.

For Christmas vacation my family came to visit me in France! The joke is that my family never ever does a relaxing vacation. On the first day, my brother remarked that couldn’t we just have a relaxing rest at a resort instead of our usual crazy rush from one city to another. My joke, the one time my family tried a vacation on a beach in Mexico a few years ago, we all became sick and weren’t able to go to the beach due to an incoming hurricane. So yes, it’s been concluded that my family is not allowed to have a restful time traveling. We must always be moving or we will invoke some kind of unknown deity’s wrath. The family curse I tell you.

Therefore, I invite you to follow the next few weeks worth of blogs to hear the full experience of this trip. It was almost two weeks long, and covered five (six…unsure on technicalities) countries, and multiple different cities, all while celebrating the holidays. So there should be some very interesting posts to come. They might seem a little crazy at times, but I hope you can enjoy hearing a little bit about our adventures.

The first day of the trip isn’t all that interesting for two reasons. One, long drives down towards the Spanish border. And two…jetlag.


So my family flew into Paris Thursday morning, and I took a train down to meet them from Lille. It’s about an hour train, but of course my luck was it was delayed…and my family’s  plane happened to be early. Just my luck. So I ended up waiting in the train station for more than an hour at seven in the morning (think five AM wake up to be there on time).

Finally, finally, the train arrived and I was able to board and head in the direction of Paris. Thank heavens for the modern convenience of fast trains. About an hour later, I was safely in the big city, wandering through the large corridors of the Charles de Gaulle airport, eagerly awaiting the sight of the people I hadn’t seen since September. To say I was excited would be an understatement.

Sure enough, I found them still waiting for the rental car, so no harm was done in being late. After lots of hugs and getting our affairs in order, we went to find our cute little orange car and start off on our adventure.

The biggest part to start with was escaping Paris, trying to wind our way out of the congested roads and off towards the countryside. After several long periods of sitting in traffic, we finally made it onto our road and were on our way.

As I said earlier, one of the big obstacles was jetlag. My family was pretty much wiped out after such a long flight. None of them had slept well leading up to the trip, and all of them looked thoroughly exhausted. I at least was adjusted to the time, but had only slept three or four hours the night before in eager anticipation and with such an early morning. So, we ended up keeping it pretty leisurely for the first day.

We started with a quick stop at a grocery store to buy a picnic lunch. Well, picnic in the sense that we ate at little tables in the entryway to the store. It was rainy and gray and no one felt like trying to brave the poor weather to eat outside. So we devoured our food and were on our way once more.

We made a quick stop in Bourges, deciding to stretch our legs for a bit. There was a Christmas market going on as there are in many French towns, so we wandered amongst the booths before heading over to look into the big cathedral there. I thought the stained glass seemed particularly magnificent. Although I have seen hundreds of cathedrals now, I never tire of going into a new one. I can always find something that intrigues me in the grand halls of these beautiful old churches.

After that it was back on the road and towards Brive-la-Guillarde. We arrived late to our hotel. As my father did most of the research for hotels, I’ll list where we stayed, but I should warn readers that as I didn’t do research on lodging I’m not the best person to consult for recommendations. However, the challenge of finding cheap accommodation for four people in France can be difficult. Thankfully my family knows a few ways to keep it more budget. We stayed in a chain called B&B, a convenient “motel” like set up that keeps the prices down by having an automated check in system instead of a person at the desk.

We dropped our things off and went to find food.

So, you’ll notice very soon that I’m not always going to have a magical restaurant recommendation either. That’s because, my family has to find ways to be budget in order to travel. So admittedly, we do a lot of picnics for lunches…and a lot of cafeterias for dinner. So in Brive-La-Guillarde we ate at a local Flunch.

Honestly, it’s really a pretty good deal. For less than 50 euros, all four of us can eat a full meal with vegetables, meat, starches, desserts, and wine. It’s quick and convenient, and some of them are open all seven days of the week which can be very useful in a place like France that often has things closed on Sundays and even Mondays too.

After a filling but maybe not delicious dinner, the family went off to explore the city a little bit, mostly just walking around in the old town. It was very beautiful in the evening, though quite empty on a Thursday. Still, we enjoyed exploring the winding old pathways of the old city. These lamps seemed particularly beautiful to me, a sort of brief glimpse of magic in the empty roads.


So I can’t say a lot about either of these places, but what I will say is that going around and seeing smaller towns and cities can be fun too. They still have their charms, even if they don’t have their famous tourist sites.