Sunday, 17 April 2011

Hendaye, France

And then I was in France, a country I`ve long revered.

Hendaye, France, to be exact.

As you can see, Hendaye is just a few kilometers outside of Spain.

The Eurorail pass is a strange beast.  All of the countries in Europe have their own, distinct national train company.  So if you are at a train station in Country X, you can not book a follow-on train ticket that originates in Country Y until you are physically at a train station in Country Y (because then you`d be booking with a different train company).  Hence, when I was at the train station in Madrid (Spain) on April 15th, I could not book my train ticket from Hendaye to Paris until I arrived in Hendaye (France).  The reason this sucks is because reservations are compulsory for many trains in Europe, and sometimes if you do not make a reservation a couple of days in advance the train is full. 

Hence, upon arriving in Hendaye at 13:53 on April 16th, I was told that the train to Paris departing at 17:00 that same day was already full and that I would need to take the overnight train arriving at 7:13 on April 17th.  This ate up another "travel day" for me, and my particular Eurorail pass only allotes me 15 travel days in a two month period.  But at least I saved money on a hostel and arrived in Paris all bright eyed and bushy tailed.  I need to add this to my Tips page:  take overnight transportation whenever possible.

   My Eurorail pass.

There isn`t a great deal to do in Hendaye.  I`d only gone to Hendaye because it was cheaper to travel from Madrid to Hendaye and then from Hendaye to Paris than it was to travel directly from Madrid to Paris...  That`s another thing about the Eurorail pass.  Even though you pay for the entire Eurorail pass upfront, there are still small supplementary fees you pay (something in the ballpark of maybe 2 to 20 Euro) when purchasing a train ticket at a train station.

The Eurorail pass comes with a map and handy dandy guidebook.

My first stop in Hendaye was the grocery store.  As I alluded to in a previous post, I`ve morphed into a huge cheapskate in Europe.  So now I`ve officially sworn off restaurants and buy all of my meals at grocery stores and markets.  At this grocery store, I purchased all of my food for lunch, dinner and breakfast for only six Euros!

French grocery store.

I then hightailed it to the nearest park...I mean parc.  It was picnic time.

Parc in Hendaye.

My "kitchen table."  My three favorite men:  cheese, chocolate and bread.

After a most sumptous, 2 Euro meal, I decided to explore Hendaye.

It`s an industrial city...

But it's also a port city (score!)....

There's also some sick Southern Californiaesque architecture going on here...

For the SoCal obsessed like me, does this not remind you of Coronado Island?

Hendaye was significant for me in that I finally felt that the Army was behind me.  It been about seven months since I ETSed (Army lingo for "got out") and I realized that the book has closed, that the slate is clean, that I`m ready (and so very excited) to start my MFA writing program in Roanoke, Virginia this August. 

I realized that there had been a shift in how I labeled myself.  For the first two months of this trip I would inevitably introduce myself as the "girl who'd been in the Active Army for the last five years."  Suddenly, in Hendaye, I realized that I was introducing myself as "the girl who was travelling the world for five months and going to graduate school afterwards."  This was quite a shift for me.  It's why I now see the value in a "Gap Year."   It's why if I ever have kids, I'm going to recommend that they take a "Gap Year" after highschool, college, graduate school, or another major life transition. 

There's this line from Forrest Gump that I was thinking about in Hendaye.  It's the line Forrest uses to justify his three year run across the country after Jenny leaves him:  "My mama always said you have to put the past behind you before you can move on."  The Army had been so much a part of my life and my identity for the past nine years that I think I needed this "Gap Year" to find myself again and to figure out who I really was without the Army.

Seven months later, I know who Armyless me really is. 

I guess you could say I found myself again on the other side of the world...


  1. Such a profound view on life. I love your posts. :)