April 18th, 2007

(no subject)

Clearly I am not totally oriented in Europe yet. Getting from Spain to France was more unpleasant than I would have liked. Trains in Europe seem to cost a lot. They are comparable or more expensive than flying and often twice the cost of a bus. I decided to use a bus for this leg. I packed up everything, checked out of my hotel in the morning and went to the bus station to get a ticket. I was sated of Barcelona, so I figured I would wait until my bus. The next bus left at 1:40 AM the following the night. I thought I was going to escape, but Barcelona had me trapped. And, it took that time to laugh at my misery. I went to about 15 hotels asking for space before I got the last bed at a giant youth hostel.

I went to the bus station to wait early in the evening. I was done with Barcelona so waiting at the bus station was about as pleasant as doing more tourism. The bus station held many surprises for me. The first was a drunk guy. I found a corner, with wireless, and sat down to do email. A man came up to me and started talking to me. I never figured out what language he was speaking. I couldn't tell what he was trying to tell me, but he seemed insistent about it. I'm guessing he wanted money, but I'm just guessing. Then, he started to touch my laptop screen. He had definitely made my not-friend list at this point. I think he felt that his position on the list was not high enough, so he tried to pick up laptop accessories. I decided that this wasn't the time to play online and started to focus on putting things away. However, I first had to protect all my gizmos. Latching on to anything he reached for and then playing tug of war. When he saw that I was putting the laptop away, he decided that I was no longer interesting and wandered off. I unpacked again and got back online. A few minutes later, someone came by and told me that I need to be very careful. I think his warning was a little late.

At around 11:00, the overhead monitors started to show buses that departed as late as 2:00 in the morning. I'd had 2 days to get grumpy with Barcelona, so when I noticed that my bus didn't show up on the monitor, I assumed that it was Barcelona getting me again. There were four buses at 1:50 AM on the same line as my bus that all went to France. I decided to wait and see (it's not like I could have found a hotel anyway).

At midnight the next surprise showed up, they closed off the wing of the bus station with the bathrooms. At 12:30 they came up with a better surprise: they closed the bus station entirely and let everyone wait outside. Come 1:50, no bus. 2:00, no bus. 2:15, no bus. At 2:30 a bus arrived. It apparently didn't go to Bordeaux, but I learned that there would in fact be a bus to Bordeaux. That bus showed up at 3:00.

France is not what I had expected. I hadn't really been sure what to expect, but I had been warned that the French can be intolerant of outsiders (especially if you don't speak the language) and I'd been told more than once that the French are sexy. My impressions of France couldn't be more unrelated. The first thing I noticed was the kids. The French like to spend time with their kids. I thought, if there are so many French kids why aren't there more French. Then I did some math (to maintain population levels, on average, everyone will have just over one kid each (2 per couple). If we are kids for 10 years and live for 60 years after that, then 1 in 6 adults should have a kid all their own at any given time) and realized that the rest of the world just hides their kids really well. When I walk down the street anyplace else, I don't see 1 in 6 people with a kid. The second thing that stuck out to me was that it was really quiet. I felt like I was in a library. I decided later that the French are simply very polite. That politeness could be the base of why many folk think the French are rude. If one was impolite by French standards, that could be judged against very harshly.

My passport is expiring pretty soon. To renew a US passport, it has be sent to the US. Supposedly, it takes about two weeks. I have three weeks in this leg of my trip and I like Bordeaux a lot by first impression. I decided this was the right time to do it. It took me about two days to figure what I needed to do and how to express mail stuff (in French). If there are delays in the passport renewal, my schedule is going to get painful.

Since then, I've been learning me some French. I'm trying an entirely different language learning tact and will see how it works.