Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Parlez-vous français?

First my thoughts on France. We arrived in Pau, France in early October and spent 2 weeks here before heading to Morocco, knowing that we would return again to our same little studio apartment for 3 more weeks in November.

View from apartment of Place
For me Pau was a very comfortable life - small city with easy access to all that we need. At this time of my life it is the most important thing to me - the ability to live without transportation other than my two feet. Of course that could change but right now they are still happy to take me wherever I want to go. I didn't do much the first two weeks as I was recovering from our "camino" but what better place to be.

Place Clemenceau, Pau
I studied French in High School and was/am amazed at how much is in my head but I never got to the point of ability to really string along sentences. I took a few classes here in Pau and found myself falling back on Spanish when not knowing a word, rather than English. The good news for me was that it helped me realize how much Spanish I have learned over the last several years. I do know that if I put my mind to it and were to live in France for longer periods of time I would dedicate time to the language and surely would get better. Studying is not my favorite pastime so it is always a tradeoff for something else I might rather do.
Church in Pau

Fall in Pau
I found the French people friendly on some level but not at all interested in speaking English which made it a bit difficult for communication. I believe they may know some English but they were not wanting to speak it. Richard had it correct - when being friendly and greeting them with "bonjour" they usually were friendly however it took me a while to realize this. They are formal in their ways. I loved walking around and admiring the women and men dressed so very well and Pau is a city of lovely shopping everywhere. The food is their pride and joy and I admit that it is not my favorite part of their culture as it is so different than my way of cooking and eating. Yes, it is possible to be plant based in France but it is not easy nor welcomed by all. (See my vegan food adventure blog at:

4our friends with 4our new scarves
The very best part of the trip was our friends Erin and Philip who lived on the floor below. They are here now for the 4th time and staying for 6 months. They really know France well, have good connections and have been so kind to us. They have a car and took us on many adventures into the Pyrenees for drives, walks, spa, etc. They even took us on a surprise trip this past weekend through a 5 mile bridge from France to Spain where we lunched. Thanks to you both.

We took side trips to Lourdes, Bayonne and Biarritz. Each was an easy train trip from Pau and an opportunity to see different areas. Biarritz is on the Atlantic coast, a beach resort and a possible place to return for a short visit someday on off season.

Now we are on our last few days as we leave on Thanksgiving and arrive in Mexico on Friday. To sum it up - WOW is all I can say. I am grateful to Ricardo and to the "travel gods" for this many month trip. Remember we started in June from Mexico to the USA and then arrived in Europe in mid August. We have been to Berlin, Buxton, Portugal and Spain by foot, France and Morocco. Each leg had its special moments. It was not always easy as I had several physical problems, most of which are resolved but somehow we both managed to enjoy each day to its fullest. I find that the best way to learn about myself is while traveling and experiencing other cultures. I learn what I like and don't and I am always reminded that most people are the same, no matter where I am and that borders are just man made dividers. Language and culture are different and that is the excitement. I shall probably never be content living always in the same place. What vagabond genes I inherited and from whom??
Happy Thanksgiving to all

At this time of  Thanksgiving, I am grateful to our family and friends who continue to support us as cheerleaders on our travels - some of you understand us, some don't but yet you ALL accept us nonetheless. A Happy Day to you all. With love from Susan.

Thoughts from Ricardo

Finally I have checked off another one of my bucket list items. Our time in France to travel and learn the culture and some of the French language has been a total joy.

This is a country of very proud people who thoroughly identify with all there is to be French -  from their food to their language and their customs.
Streets of Pau

The French are very warm and giving people in many ways. To realize this you must begin every encounter with BONJOUR “hello”. They don’t have much patience for people who are aggressive or in a hurry. The French take their time and with accepting this tempo you will be very welcomed indeed.

Their language is difficult for English speakers as English is for the French. I was told that 60 percent of the English language comes from the French though it is spoken differently with sounds and accents that don’t exist in either language.  Many French do know some English but don’t like to use it because of the difficulty with the pronunciation. Spanish is more straightforward as it is spoken like it is spelled compared with French whose spelling is uniquely French with many letters at the end of words that are silent.

We have been living in Pau, France as a place to settle and regroup after our many travels and this was a good choice for us.  Pau is a very clean and has access by foot to all that one would need to live with ease. We have some very close friends Erin and Philip that are living downstairs from us and we appreciate all that they have done for us to make our time in France so enjoyable. We have traveled to the mountains,  some cities and the ocean and have always remarked at how special France is. It is a very modern country and would be a very easy place to settle.  I know that we will return to France in the near future.

Cathedral of Bayonne
My final feelings of being here in France.  In some ways this part of southern France which has a strong Basque and English influence seems like a dream world.  A mixture of old and modern, it is very up to date with technology and services. Everything seems to be very well thought out having a plan not just being put together haphazardly. I see France as a country who is looking ahead and taking care of it's citizens well.  It is a very warm and compassionate place where I have felt very safe and welcomed.

Sending love,

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