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Southern France...and Spain?

Bonjour France et Espagne!

Our journey from Venice to Toulouse was interesting.  We walked to the train station in Venice and caught a bus to the airport; we had an evening flight, so spent the day hanging out at the airport.  When it came time to board our flight, they loaded us onto a bus and drove us out to where the plane was parked.  Odd, but apparently not uncommon.  We had a transfer in Amsterdam. The plane parked, we were bussed to the terminal where we rushed to our next gate only to get back on another bus to drive out to the same parking area where we arrived.  I have to say it didn’t seem like the most efficient process, but apparently Schiphol Airport is expanding so hopefully it won’t always be that way.  All in all, it was a smooth transition it was just a bit of a pain getting on and off all the buses to get to the planes.

We arrived in Toulouse late and spent the night at the airport hotel.  The next day we picked up a rental car, visited the Airbus Museum and then headed out for our first pet sit in France.  Apparently, Toulouse is home to the Airbus factory, and it was pretty cool to wander through the planes and learn the history of Airbus.  They even had the first A380 double decker parked outside for you to walk through.  Probably the only time we’ll ever get close to one.

Once again getting out of the city really gives you a different perspective.  Driving through the French countryside was unreal.  It actually reminded us quite a bit of home.  There were mountains in the distance, stunning trees lining the roads and quintessential French villages all along the way.  We took the long way to Alan, France as our host family didn’t require us until early evening.  We drove down winding back roads and got to bask in the scenery.  Our first week we spent in a large home in Alan with two cats and a dog.  There isn’t much to the village, but it was quaint and beautiful.  We took the opportunity to slow down and just enjoy being still, so we didn’t do very much site seeing.  Aside from driving to neighbouring towns for groceries and taking long walks we didn’t get up to very much. 

Our second week we moved about 45 minutes down the road to our second sit near Escoulis.  We had a day in between, but we were able to stay with the second family.  Since they didn’t need us quite yet, we decided to take the day to drive to Spain because…why not?  We drove to Bagnères-de-Luchon, a beautiful French ski town and then drove over the mountain pass into Spain. 

On the other side of the mountain pass we stopped and toured Bossòst, so we could say we’ve officially been to Spain.  Because the towns we stopped in were just on either side of the border I expected them to be quite similar, but they weren’t at all.  I was really surprised by how different the architecture was when we crossed over into Spain.  It really was like entering an entirely different country…yeah, I know how that sounds.

After our day trip to Spain, we settled into our second pet sit with a cat and a dog.  Once again, we stayed pretty close to home.  We ventured out to take some photos of all the cute towns we’d been driving through.

We took a drive to see Le Mas-d’Azil a French community that contains a prehistoric cave that you can drive or walk through.  You can also take tours further into the smaller caverns or explore the museum that is set up in the cave itself.  It was pretty amazing to see.

After wrapping up our second sit we headed back to Toulouse for the night.  Our train to Paris was booked for the next morning.  We lucked out and were able to check into our hotel early, so we had the afternoon to wander around town.  Toulouse is absolutely beautiful.  There are canals running through the city and amazing old buildings around every corner.  We were kicking ourselves for not making the effort to explore more while we were staying in the area.  Still, we were able to get a pretty good taste walking around all afternoon. 

We followed up our day with a night out.  We rarely eat out because it’s not cost effective, but we were staying just a few blocks away from a restaurant, L' Entrecote, that was highly recommended to us.  They only have one thing on the menu: steak and fries.  You get a salad (lettuce, dressing and walnuts) and bread to start, steak cooked to your liking and bathed in their secret sauce and unlimited fries for your main and they do have a handful of desserts to choose from.  I have to say it did not disappoint.  We had to stand in line half an hour before they opened to get seated in the first sitting for dinner, but it was worth it.

With our time in Southern France coming to an end we are getting ready to head to Paris.  We’ve booked an Airbnb for 9 days and intend to hit the ground running to take in all the sites.  We are feeling rested and ready to jump back into tourist mode; however, we are going to miss the peaceful beauty of the French countryside.


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