I should introduce Marco properly. Marco visited us about a year ago on a trip to NZ. We had never met him before but he is a rugby coach and sports co ordinator in France and was on a trip to find out more about coaching and playing rugby. Someone suggested he visit the Steelers game that was on Friday night and he drove himself there. Meanwhile Lauren was the first of her mates to grab a row of seats at the same game and was watching and waiting for them to arrive when Marco gestures to her…may he sit on the seat that is empty and indeed free beside her. “Oui, she answers, of course.” “How did you know I was French he asks, I never spoke.” “Weellll, she laughed, you just looked French”?
They chatted and both were amazed at how similar their jobs were and Lauren invited him to visit the school where she works. A day or two later Simone had just moved out and I was cleaning out the spare room when Lauren phoned to ask if Marco could stay a night or two. Of course we said, made the bed and so began our friendship. It was inevitable that if we did a trip, it would include France…and Marco. Well he did offer!
We set off today nice and early with Marco and first stop is just ten minutes away at eight year old Theo’s class. His teacher is aware they have visitors and asks if we would like to come and talk to the children. Of course we would! We spend a delightful hour answering questions like, Do you have brothers and sisters? Guess how many says Gilbert…Ummmm two?, no. Three?, no. Four then? No. Hmmm, seven? No. The class is buzzing now. Up or down? Up. Ten? someone yells out. No. Twenty? No…Don’t be crazy! Down some Gilbert says and it takes a awhile but we get there in the end. Some are speaking in English and some in French.
What language do you speak? What clothes do you wear? What sports do you play? And then …why does your flag look like that? What is a commonwealth and how does that come about? (How old are these kids) Gilbert stumbles through that one.
On the map where do you live? What is it like?
Where is the capital? What is special about Wellington? Ummmm, Te Papa and Peter Jackson. Is he related to Michael Jackson? Ah no but have you heard about Le Hobbit?
What nationalities live in NZ? What are you? Can you speak Maori? Ahh no. Shame. Can you say just one word then? Ahhh…Kia Ora.
Do you have tsunamis?, earthquakes, cyclones? What is a kiwi? I say, just a minute, and pull little kiwi out of my bag. Give him a squeeze and that gets them excited and we get a heap of kiwi questions. We bid the children Au Revoir and head on our way.
Back in the car and an hour and a bit goes fast as we solve the problems of the world and enjoy a running commentary about each area as we drive through. The little villages in the countryside are beautiful and reminds us of the South Islands Queenstown as we approach the Pyrenees.
The weather is absolutely stunning. We have coffee before heading off at a leisurely pace and there’s quite a few others walking. Most have hiking sticks, hiking shoes – all the right gear. Marco tells us he would have liked us to be wearing better footwear. We are wearing Teva sandals. These are good I tell him. Good support. No, he’s sorry to say they are not. I am like a goat. I will be fine I say but he’s not so sure. After about a half hour he’d really like us to turn around but we are really enjoying the absolute peace, the warm sun with the sound of the water running over the rocks beside us and the fresh mountain air. The scenery is AMAZING! Marco chuckles every time I say it. It reminds him of his trip to Auckland and the accents.
The Pyrenees are famous to me for the Tour de France. I’ve read Lance Armstrong’s book while we have been on the road and he talks about the stages through here. The part we are at is Le Cirque de Gavarnie. This bit is popular because its not a hard walk and in a couple of hours you get to the base of the huge waterfall that you see roughly in the middle in the pic below. In this part, especially as the sun moves around the sky, the mountains which circle the track change colour with all the subtle colours of the rainbow blended. It’s a lovely wide and well formed track and perfect for beginners and I’m really enjoying the blow out. Marco and Gilbert are taking it easy. Marco says he thinks I am going for the yellow jacket. Hey, he calls. You missed this picture opportunity! I stop and take a few pictures while they pass me smiling.
Gilbert had been feeling a bit car sick as he stupidly told me to sit in front, and he wants to walk further so it’s a good hour and half maybe before we tell Marco we will turn around now. He seems relieved. He tells me if he had known we would be so keen to walk he would have bought a snack and sweets for energy and we should have eaten lunch before heading out. He can’t believe we’re not hungry. We laugh and tell him we don’t need three meals a day. We are fine. I don’t tell him I am busting to go to the loo and my pace quickens as I want to get back. Both him and Gilbert have gone bush along the way but the track is not quiet, nor secluded enough for me. We come across a group who are chatting and as with everywhere else there is always a ‘Bonjour’. One of the men immediately starts to talk to me. Anglais. I tell him as he’s flat out in French, but I don’t need ENGLISH to know he is telling me off soundly for not wearing hiking boots. Then they all join in. Marco tells them we have not walked far and we are tourists so not prepared but they have none of it. He agrees and tells me…if I was to twist my ankle and they call for help the police would be angry to him that he has bought us up here in sandals. I laugh and say ok I will walk carefully, and leave them shaking their heads at us. Hmmmm. I will say no more.
Marco asks me later did it make me angry when they speak to me like that because I hurried off and I tell him smiling, no not at all. I understand that they are worried about me, not angry with me. But I can’t change my shoes and I just have to keep walking so…I walk!
For 25euro we could have hired one of these poor donkeys to carry me up!
We head back to a friend of Marco’s and feast on fresh bread sticks, cheese, salami’s and wine. My kind of lunch! Coffee and cake to follow and it’s been a fantastique day.
Next blog with recipes…Dinner with Sandra cooking!