I woke up early on the 22nd - it was a huge day of travel. I had an 8:00 am train from Dijon to Paris, where I would meet my mom, who was arriving to CDG airport around 10:00 am. Now I know what you're thinking here. "But Val, you never said anything about your mom coming on this trip!" How right you are. When my friend with whom I planned this trip backed out at the last minute, my mom offered the suggestion that she could come out and join me for a couple of weeks. Now, I should tell you, my mother is not an impulsive person. Deciding to come spend three weeks in Europe on just a couple of weeks notice was a huge decision. But it worked out, and I'm so glad that it did!
Even if my mom hadn't been flying into Paris today, I would have passed through the city because I had planned to take the train from Dijon to Bayonne which, if you look at a map of France, happen to be at opposite ends of the country - so the easiest route was to connect through Paris.
And I have to say, after three weeks in a new, unfamiliar city every few days, it was wonderful to visit a city where I knew the general layout of the town, where things were familiar. When I got off the train at the gare de Lyon and headed down into the metro, it smelled like homecoming. I don't think I could have told you what the metro smelled like, or even that it had a precise odor before that moment, but just that little hint of something familiar was so comforting.
I met my mom at the gare de Montparnasse because our train to Bayonne would be leaving from there in the afternoon. She made it out from the airport without a hitch, and we checked our luggage in an overpriced locker and headed out to see a little of the city. We found a grocery store (that was open on a Sunday!) for some yogurt, and then walked down to the Champ du Mars because my mom wanted to see the Eiffel tower to help prove to herself that she was really there.
During my hour-long train ride to Paris, I spent some time with my pâtisserie guide that was my constant companion in 2008. I discovered there are branches of Pierre Hermé (home of the best macarons on Earth) and Poilâne (perhaps the most famous bakery in France - and that's saying something) in the 15e arrondissement (15th district of Paris, adjacent to the Champ du Mars), not too far out of our way. PH was, sadly, closed for summer vacation - this is why I am so glad that my real time in Paris was in September! - but Poilâne was open, so we stopped in for half a loaf of pain de seigle:
Poilâne is perhaps best known for their sourdough, but I can tell you that their pain de seigle (rye bread) is excellent as well - full of tangy, barely sweet rye flavor, with a moist crumb and a crisp crust. We kept the bread for the train, and stopped in another small boulangerie for a sandwich and a quiche, both of which were decidedly mediocre - but we ate them on a bench on the Avenue de Suffren, just down the street from my old haunt, the BU center, so I wasn't complaining!
After lunch, we stopped in another grocery for some cheese and more yogurt for the train, and then headed back to the gare de Montparnasse to make our way down to Basque country. This was one of my longest train rides - about five hours long on the TGV, the same as my trip from Bruxelles to Avignon. I hadn't taken many pictures from the train throughout this trip, and once my mom arrived, I don't think I took even one more - she was a much more thorough photographer of the countryside we passed through than I ever was. The ride was smooth and easy - though it was such a long ride, we were only the third stop! We ate our bread and cheese and yogurt, and I wrote in my journal and deleted duplicate photographs.
We arrived in Bayonne around 9:00 pm. Luckily, our hotel was a short five-minute walk away from the train station. When we got to our room, we discovered we had the most amazing view out the window over the Adour river and the pont St-Esprit:
The river was incredible. We weren't more than a few miles away from the Atlantic ocean, and river went up and down with the tides each day. I had never seen a tidal river before, and watching the current of the river switch back and forth, so that half of the time the water was rushing upstream, was so unexpected and so cool.
Coming soon: The answer to the age old question, "When do red and green not make Christmas colors?"