US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day Two of My Motor Scooter Trip

The sound of iron wheels and shod hoofs crossing cobble stone streets awakened me. People talked to one another and it took a moment to realize it was in French. The wonderful aroma of baking bread wafted through the window.
Tossing back the feather-filled cover, I placed my feet on the highly polished wooden floor and glanced at my wrist watch. Six a.m.! How could I oversleep like that? I grinned and stretched, rising to walk to the open door onto the balcony.
Pelicans skimmed the water of the bay, often no more than a meter above the gentle waves. About a kilometer to my left, the south, clouds of terns and seagulls swirled in tornadoes of wings against piers where fishing boats tied up to unload their catch. More sails glided into port from the Atlantic.
I padded over to the bathtub and stripped, pleased at the warmth of the water from the hand-held shower head. Not quite as hot as back in the barracks but comfortable. I lathered myself and put a new blade in my razor to remove what little hair grew on my teenage face. After toweling myself, I brushed my teeth before donning my OD boxer shorts and tee shirt. I repacked my handy little shaving kit and put my dirty clothes into the bottom of my backpack.
The one reason for selecting that particular inn, beside the security for my motor scooter, was breakfast. This was my first introduction to a Continental Breakfast. The small room had a half dozen tables covered with snowy white cloths. A sideboard held plates, cups and small dishes. A mother, father and a young boy and girl sat at one table. A couple occupied another.
I sighed with relief when the one man stood and introduced himself – in English [or British] – to welcome me. “Is this your first breakfast like this?” I told him yes and he invited me to join he and his wife, introducing themselves as being on vacation from some town in England. His wife rose and went to the sideboard, returning with a plate holding a croissant, two small pats of butter and a small cup of marmalade, and an egg in a cup clearly designed to hold it.
I had absolutely no idea what to do with the egg. So, the guy demonstrated how one carefully removed the top, showing the soft-boiled interior. I rose and went to the sideboard myself to pour of glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee.
It was delicious! I hadn't had unsalted butter since living on the ranch. The orange juice has as much pulp as juice. The bread had to be less than an hour or so out of the oven.
And the conversation with my table mates was most enjoyable. He had served in the British Army during the Korean War. They were on the first half of their month-long vacation time. The shared their time between the beach and the town's market place.
The breakfast room overlooked the beach front and, as early as it was, people were already out on the sand and even in the sea.
The women then gave me one of probably the best tips I'd received up to then – gratuities in Europe were included in the price. To tip is often an insult and they think you are trying to shove your economic status in their faces.
I had no detailed plan for the day's travel except to cross into Spain and then travel along the southern edge of the Pyrenees. I quickly reached the border where brightly uniformed border guards smiled and waved me through, obviously seeing the US Forces license plate on my scooter.
It was like entering a new world. The people wore colorful clothing. Window boxes overflowed with bright flowers on every balcony. Smiles predominated.
Following Rand and McNally, I turned inland to reach famous Pamplona. I could almost see Papa Hemingway watching the running of the bulls. The mountains to the north began to grow higher as I rode east and I began to worry whether my scooter had enough horsepower to get me over them.
I needn't worry. The well-paved roads kept a reasonable grade, often with awesome switchbacks.

I stopped for a light lunch in Jaca, Spain and found someone who spoke enough English to tell me I could cross the mountains back into France before nightfall. The scooter had a headlamp but I didn't want to find myself in the middle of nowhere in the dark. Besides, I was already having enough trouble concentrating on the highway and the passing vehicles without trying to ride at night.
I think the biggest breath-holder of the trip came when I entered a tunnel that seemed to go on forever. Part of it had those open arches. I pulled into one and got off the scooter to grab hold of the ledge as I gazed out at mountains making me feel puny.

I'm certain this is not the hotel I stayed in in CandanchĂș but it was similar. Again, the person behind the desk greeted me nicely and I found it difficult to believe I was back in France. I had not had a bit of trouble at the border. The village was a winter resort and with little to no snow on the ground, few visitors were there. That's probably why I was treated so nicely. Dinner was quite good and I enjoyed a lentil soup along with a piece of roast beef. And yes, I had a couple of glasses of red wine.
I walked around the town until about nine o'clock, with a stop at one sidewalk café for a glass of wine and to watch the people in the square.
The bed was comfortable and I snuggled into the big featherbed, dropping quickly asleep.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post thanks for sharing totally enjoyed reading it, And Wow! That's one adventurous trip i must say.