I am devoting an entire post to the first day of our trip. Because it was so exciting? No, because it seemed to last as long as the entire rest of the vacation!
Traveling is not for the faint-hearted. The friends who went with us, Jim and Nancy, own Quail Ridge Books and are seasoned travelers. My husband and I are not. Even with an engrossing book, I get restless after about one hour crammed into an airplane seat.
Our flights went to London, then to Toulouse, where we were to board the train to Trebes. Unfortunately, we found out with about five seconds to spare that the words "auto car" by our train's departure time meant run your tail off over to the bus terminal where you will be crammed into another very small space for two hours. With an urgent need to urinate. And frankly, the only way we figured this out was that some kind Frenchman saw us looking like the Clampetts at Dollywood and escorted us to the bus.
With no room to spare, a young Japanese man boarded, cheerily begging in broken French/English/Japanese to please make room for him. Three of us were seated at the very rear of the bus, and squeezed over to give him a place to sit. He had very prominent teeth and nervously blinked his eyes a mile a minute as he tried to explain to me that he was late getting to his teacher's house. He glanced at his watch every five seconds. Finally I asked if he would like to use my phone to call his teacher, and after a very loud conversation peppered with lots of hais he settled down. As he exited the bus a few stops before ours, he turned with his toothy grin, waved, and shouted to us, "GOOD RUCK!"
This is how the bus looked from my bleary eyes:
The ride seemed worth it when we boarded a taxi and arrived at the castle where we were staying. It was dark, and all we knew was that we were weaving through very small streets with very tall walls to somewhere. It didn't matter where at this point as long as there was a toilet there. The next day, I took this picture of the castle. Very picturesque.
One of the most memorable moments of the trip occurred that night. Beyond exhaustion after twenty-four hours of travel and no sleep, we walked into a restaurant that was on the premises of the hotel. It was closing but the staff took one look at us, sat us down with wine and San Pelligrino, hot bread and spiced olives, and directed the chef to heat up four bowls of cassoulet.
The observant monsieur who helped us to the bus and the staff of the restaurant were the first of many people who showed us kindness.
Tomorrow: Le Boat